Thursday, September 29, 2011

Read chapters 17 and 20 of Principles of Entrepreneurship. This text is available online from the website.

Entrepreneurship Aids the Economy

Most economists agree that entrepreneurship is essential to any economy

(The following one-page essay is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Entrepreneurship.)

Entrepreneurship Aids the Economy

Most economists agree that entrepreneurship is essential to the vitality of any economy, developed or developing.

Entrepreneurs create new businesses, generating jobs for themselves and those they employ. In many cases, entrepreneurial activity increases competition and, with technological or operational changes, it can increase productivity as well.

In the United States, for example, small businesses provide approximately 75 percent of the net new jobs added to the American economy each year and represent over 99 percent of all U.S. employers. The small businesses in the United States are often ones created by self-employed entrepreneurs. "Entrepreneurs give security to other people; they are the generators of social welfare," Carl J. Schramm, president and chief executive officer of Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, said in February 2007. The foundation is dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship, and Schramm is one of the world's leading experts in this field.

Others agree that the benefits of small businesses go beyond income. Hector V. Baretto, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), explains, "Small businesses broaden the base of participation in society, create jobs, decentralize economic power, and give people a stake in the future."

Entrepreneurs innovate and innovation is a central ingredient in economic growth. As Peter Drucker said, "The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity." Entrepreneurs are responsible for the commercial introduction of many new products and services, and for opening new markets. A look at recent history shows that entrepreneurs were essential to many of the most significant innovations, ones that revolutionized how people live and work. From the automobile to the airplane to personal computers - individuals with dreams and determination developed these commercial advances.

Small firms also are more likely than large companies to produce specialty goods and services and custom-demand items. As Schramm has suggested, entrepreneurs provide consumers with goods and services for needs they didn't even know they had.

Innovations improve the quality of life by multiplying consumers' choices. They enrich people's lives in numerous ways - making life easier, improving communications, providing new forms of entertainment, and improving health care, to name a few.

Small firms in the United States, for instance, innovate far more than large ones do. According to the Small Business Administration, small technology companies produce nearly 13 times more patents per employee than large firms. They represent one-third of all companies in possession of 15 or more patents.

According to the 2006 Summary Results of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) project, "Regardless of the level of development and firm size, entrepreneurial behavior remains a crucial engine of innovation and growth for the economy and for individual companies since, by definition, it implies attention and willingness to take advantage of unexploited opportunities." The GEM project is a multi-country study of entrepreneurship and economic growth. Founded and sponsored by Babson College (USA) and the London Business School in 1999, the study included 42 countries by 2006.

International and regional institutions, such as the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, agree that entrepreneurs can play a crucial role in mobilizing resources and promoting economic growth and socio-economic development. This is particularly true in the developing world, where successful small businesses are primary engines of job creation and poverty reduction.

For all of these reasons, governments may wish to pursue policies that encourage entrepreneurship.

[Author Jeanne Holden is a free-lance writer with expertise in economic issues. She worked as a writer-editor in the U.S. Information Agency for 17 years.]

Entrepreneurship: Glossary of Terms

(The following glossary is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Entrepreneurship.)

Angel investors: Individuals who have capital that they are willing to risk. Angels are often successful entrepreneurs who invest in emerging entrepreneurial ventures, often as a bridge from the self-funded stage to the point in which a business can attract venture capital.

Assets: Items of value owned by a company and shown on the balance sheet, including cash, equipment, inventory, etc.

Balance sheet: Summary statement of a company's financial position at a given point in time, listing assets as well as liabilities.

Breakeven point: Dollar value of sales that will cover, but not exceed, all of the company's costs, both fixed and variable.

Bridge finance: Short-term finance that is expected to be repaid quickly.

Browser: A computer program that enables users to access and navigate the World Wide Web.

Business incubator: This is a form of mentoring in which workspace, coaching, and support services are provided to entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses at a free or reduced cost.

Business plan: A written document detailing a proposed venture, covering current status, expected needs, and projected results for the enterprise. It contains a thorough analysis of the product or service being offered, the market and competition, the marketing strategy, the operating plan, and the management as well as profit, balance sheet, and cash flow projections.

Capital: Cash or goods used to generate income. For entrepreneurs, capital often refers to the funds and other assets invested in the business venture.

Cash flow: The difference between the company's cash receipts and its cash payments in a given period. It refers to the amount of money actually available to make purchases and pay current bills and obligations.

Cash flow statement: A summary of a company's cash flow over a period of time.

Collateral: An asset pledged as security for a loan.

Copyright: Copyright is a form of legal protection for published and unpublished literary, scientific, and artistic works that have been fixed in a tangible or material form. It grants exclusive rights to the work's creator for a specified period of time.

Corporation: A business form that is an entity legally separate from its owners. Its important features include limited liability, easy transfer of ownership, and unlimited life.

Depreciation: The decrease in the value of assets over their expected life by an accepted accounting method, such as allocating the cost of an asset over the years in which it is used.

E-commerce: The sale of products and services over the Internet.

Entrepreneur: A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.

Equity: An ownership interest in a business.

Home-based business: A business, of any size or type, whose primary office is in the owner's home.

Income statement: Also known as a "profit and loss statement," it shows a firm's income and expenses, and the resulting profit or loss over a specified period of time.

Intangible assets: Items of value that have no tangible physical properties, such as ideas.

Internet: The vast network of networks connecting millions of individual and networked computers worldwide.

Inventory: Finished goods, work in process of manufacture, and raw materials owned by a company.

Joint venture: A legal entity created by two or more businesses joining together to conduct a specific business enterprise with both parties sharing profits and losses.

Liabilities: Debts a business owes, including accounts payable, taxes, bank loans, and other obligations. Short-term liabilities are due within a year, while long-term liabilities are due in a period of time greater than a year.

Limited partnership: A business arrangement in which the day-to-day operations are controlled by one or more general partners and funded by limited or silent partners who are legally responsible for losses based on the amount of their investment.

Line of credit: (1) An arrangement between a bank and a customer specifying the maximum amount of unsecured debt the customer can owe the bank at a given point in time. (2) A limit set by a seller on the amount that a purchaser can buy on credit.

Liquidity: The ability of an asset to be converted to cash as quickly as possible and without any price discount.

Marketing: The process of researching, promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service. Marketing covers a broad range of practices, including advertising, publicity, promotion, pricing, and packaging.

Marketing plan: A document describing a firm's potential customers and a comprehensive strategy to sell them goods and services

Networking: (1) Developing business contacts to form business relationships, increase knowledge, expand a business, or serve the community. (2) Linking computers systems together.

Niche marketing: Identifying and targeting markets not adequately served by competitors.

Outsourcing: The practice of using subcontractors or other businesses, rather than paid employees, for standard services such as accounting, payroll, information technology, advertising, etc.

Partnership: Legal form of business in which two or more persons are co-owners, sharing profits and losses. . Patent: A property right granted to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling an invention for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.

Small Business Administration (SBA): Created in 1953, it is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government that aids, counsels, assists, and protects the interests of small business.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): SBA program using university faculty and others to provide management assistance to current and prospective small business owners.

Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE): A non-profit organization dedicated to entrepreneurs' education and the success of small business. It is sponsored by the SBA to provide consulting to small businesses.

Search engine: A computer program that facilitates the location and the retrieval of information over the Internet.

Seed financing: A relatively small amount of money provided to prove a concept; it may involve product development and market research.

Server: A computer system to provide access to information or Web sites.

Social entrepreneur: Someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Social entrepreneurs often work through non-profit organization and citizen groups, but they may also work in the private or governmental sector. Many successful entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, have become social entrepreneurs.

Sole proprietorship: A business form with one owner who is responsible for all of the firm's liabilities.

Start-up financing: Funding provided to companies for use in product development and initial marketing. It is usually funding for firms that have not yet sold their product commercially.

Trademark: A form of legal protection given to a business or individual for words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in business.

Unsecured loan: Short-term source of borrowed capital for which the borrower does not pledge any assets as collateral.

Variable costs: Costs that vary as the amount produced or sold varies.

Venture investors: An institution specializing in the provision of large amounts of long-term capital to enterprises with a limited track record but with the expectation of substantial growth. The venture capitalist also may provide varying degrees of managerial and technical expertise.

World Wide Web: The part of the Internet that enables the use of multimedia text, graphics, audio, and video.

Leadership (4)

Corporate foresight

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Corporate foresight is an ability that includes any structural or cultural element that enables the company to detect discontinuous change early, interpret the consequences for the company, and formulate effective responses to ensure the long-term survival and success of the company.[1]

The motivation to develop the corporate foresight ability has two sources:

  • the high mortality of companies that are faced by external change. For example a study by Arie de Geus of Royal Dutch Shell came to the result that the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company is below 50 years, because most companies are unable to adapt their organization to changes in their environment.[2]
  • the continuous need for companies to explore and develop new business fields, when their current business fields become unprofitable. For this reason companies need to develop specific abilities that allow them to identify new promising business fields and the ability to develop them.[3][4]

Corporate foresight to overcome three major challenges

There are three major challenges that make it so difficult for organizations to respond to external change:[1]

  • a high rate of change that can be seen in (1) shortening of product lifecycles, (2) increased technological change, (3) increased speed of innovation, and (4) increased speed of the diffusion of innovations
  • an inherent ignorance of large organizations that results from (1) a time frame that is too short for corporate strategic-planning cycles to produce a timely response, (2) corporate sensors that fail to detect changes in the periphery of the organizations, (3) an overflow of information that prevents top management to assess the potential impact, (4) the information does not reach the appropriate management level to decide on responses, and (5) information is systematically filtered by middle management that aims to protect their business unit.
  • inertia which is a result from: (1) the complexity of internal structures, (2) the complexity of external structures, such as global supply and value chains, (3) a lack of willingness to cannibalize current business fields, and extensive focus on current technologies that lead to cognitive inertia that inhibits organizations to perceive emerging technological breakthroughs.

Need for corporate foresight

In addition to the need to overcome the barriers to future orientation a need to build corporate foresight abilities might also come from:

  • a certain nature of the corporate strategy, for example aiming to be "agessively growth oriented"
  • a high complexity of the environment
  • a particularly volatile environment

To operationalize the need for "peripheral vision", a concept closely linked to corporate foresight George S. Day and Paul J. H. Schoemaker propose 24 questions.[5]

[edit] The five dimensions of the corporate foresight ability

Based on case study research in 20 multinational companies René Rohrbeck proposes a "Maturity Model for the Future Orientation of a Firm". Its five dimensions are:

  • information usage describes the information which is collected
  • method sophistication describes methods used to interpret the information
  • people & networks describes characteristics of individual employees and networks used by the organization to acquire and disseminate information on change
  • organization describes how information is gathered, interpreted and used in the organization
  • culture describes the extent to which the corporate culture is supportive to the organizational future orientation

To operationalize his model Rohrbeck used 20 elements which have four maturity levels each. These maturity levels are defined and described qualitatively, i.e. by short descriptions that are either true or not true for a given organization.[1]

Read Please read all 5 Responses to What is Organizational Future Orientation (visit each and every response).

What is Organizational Future Orientation

As our first blog entry I would like to introduce Organizational Future Orientation. We define OFO as:

Organizational future orientation (OFO) is the ability to identify and interpret changes in the environment and trigger adequate responses to ensure long-term survival and success.

To tackle the questions how companies become future oriented and thus ensure long-term survival and success, scholars have worked on different levels (see figure below). Some have done research on

  • foresight methods such as scenario technique, delphi analysis, etc., that allow us to explore the future, identify alternative futures or make predictions and
  • others have worked on corporate foresight as a process. These scholars imply that there is a corporate foresight function, possibly also a corporate foresight unit that generates insights into the future and channels these to other corporate functions such as innovation management, strategic management, corporate development, marketing, or controlling.
  • When we talk about organizational future orientation we appreciate that this ability can be build upon a corporate foresight unit, that utilizes foresight methods, but we also include the possibility that a firm builds its future orientation upon other means, such as encouraging all employees to look for external change and empowering them to respond to this change with individual initiative, possibly through corporate venturing schemes.

Are winning companies building future orientation on people or process?

As discussed in our first blog post, we believe that future orientation can be attained both by

  • foresight and strategic management processes and by defining responses top-down and
  • by encouraging all employees to be on the lookout for external change and empower them to take personal initiative to drive change.

In our last blog post we reported on a case study where we a company had a long track record of successfully reinventing itself repeatedly, thus displaying clearly a high future orientation. But this company has very limited corporate foresight capabilities.

In our new poll we would like your opinion on what is the stronger mechanism to build future orientation: (1) structured process or (2) empowered people.

We are looking forward to your view and if you have example we would love to hear about them. Please share them by leaving a comment to this post.

Organizational Future Orientation at the Academy of Management

This years Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Montreal has attracted over 9000 scholars from around the world. Given the size of the conference there were multiple tracks that touched Organizational Future Orientation.

My paper was discussed in the Organizational Development and Change (ODC) track. For presentation of the findings within the round table presentation I was asked to provide a handout which you can download here. It gives a brief overview of our research and shows our Maturity Model on Organizational Future Orientation and the barriers and process model how weak signals are translated in managerial action.

I also want to express my gratitude to the ODC division for honoring our research with the Rupe Chisholm Best Theory to Practice Paper Award.

Theoretical foundation: Dynamic Capabilities

The dynamic-capabilities theory has been introduced by David J. Teece as an extension of the resource-based view of the theory of the firm. The resource-based view proposes that the ability of a firm to create and maintain a competitive advantage is based on a certain set of strategically relevant resources, which are (1) valuable, (2) rare, (3) difficult (if not impossible) to imitate and (4) non substitutable. Teece observed that in changing environmental conditions, like for example a technological disruption, companies will have to adapt their portfolio of resources.

Take the example of Kodak which was clearly the dominant firm in the imaging market when the market was still based on chemical processes rather than digital image processing. With the change to digital photography Kodak was still well equipped with the needed resources to create a competitive advantage when competing on selling film or processing the printing of images on paper. In the digital world however different resources were needed to provide the customer with a superior imaging experience.

Technologically wise there was the need to develop sensors to translate an image into a digital signal, write software that allows treating digital images and create digital photo albums so that customers can store, share and show their images.

Most likely the needed resources for the digital world would also have included managerial abilities such as forming and managing alliances with partners that can contribute complementary assets, such as software companies or companies that can play complementary roles in the new value chain.

Teece proposes that companies that are in a situation similar to Kodak’s need to have the:

(non-imitable) capacity [...] to shape, reshape, configure, and reconfigure assets (resources) so as to respond to changing technologies and markets[...]

In our view of organizational future orientation we agree with this assumption and add a particular emphasis on the role of the manager to enable and sustain the dynamic capabilities of a firm. As we pointed out in our post on technology scouting the success can only be assured if individuals drive the process that combines intelligence gathering and acting (for example acquiring the needed technologies).

Likewise we do not believe that the process steps of dynamic capabilities proposed by Helfat et al. (2007): (1) search & selection, (2) decision making, (3) configuration & deployment, and (4) implementation can be judged or managed independently, but rather propose that they have to be driven by committed and capable individuals along the whole process.

We therefore propose that for advancing the future orientation of a firm we have to study closer the role of the manager – a view also advocated by strategy-as-practice scholars – who should be able to:

  • identify external environmental change
  • integrate and interpret different perspectives
  • recognize the need to reconfigure the portfolio of strategic resources of the firm
  • take action, orchestrate and drive the renewal of the resource portfolio

For further reading we have assembled a collection of relevant literature in our reader for underlying theories in our bibliography (click here to go to dynamic capabilities literature).

For further reading we also recommend an Interview with Jeffrey Martin, author of the highly cited article: “Dynamic Capabilities: What are they?

Theoretical foundation: Strategy as Practice

In our last post on theoretical foundations we described dynamic capabilities. While the dynamic capability perspective can be regarded as the main-stream view in strategic management research, we want to present today an emerging stream: strategy as practice.

The dynamic-capabilities perspective deals with resources and capabilities that organizations have. The strategy-as-practice perspective deals with what actors within organizations do, it deals with rationality, action, interaction and habituation. Strategy as practice is also more open about the outcome. While the traditional strategic management research is ultimately always after organizational performance the strategy-as-practice view recognizes also other achievements such as creation of common goals or change of mental models as outcomes in their own right.

We therefore think that strategy-as-practice view could be more appropriate for research on organizational future orientation and also produce insights that are more actionable and that have higher practical relevance.

For further reading we have extended our reader of underlying theories with a section on conceptural and empirical work with a strategy-as-practice perspective.

Strategic Issue Management – an ability of Organizational Future Orientation

Ansoff introduced the concept of “Strategic Issue Management” in 1980. A strategic issue is “…a forthcoming development, either inside or outside of the organization, which is likely to have an important impact on the ability of the enterprise to meet its objectives.” (Ansoff, 1980). As he adds, an issue can be an emerging opportunity in the organization’s environment or an internal strength, as well as an external threat or an internal weakness, respectively.

A Strategic Issue Management system is described as “…a systematic procedure for early identification and fast response to important trends and events both inside and outside an enterprise” (Liebl, 2003)
Liebl (2003) identifies four functions of a Strategic Issue Management system:

  • Early detection of trends and issues in the environment
  • Understanding the discontinuities which are imminent because of the trends and issues
  • Assessment of the resulting strategic implications
  • Taking measures

While Environmental Scanning primarily deals with the identification of issues, the concept of Strategic Issues Management puts more emphasis on monitoring issues and reacting to them. The issue life cycle was introduced by Downs as a model for the development of an issue throughout time (Downs, 1972). A common visualization of the issue life cycle is shown in the figure below, which characterizes the issue from its emergence until its disappearance.

Issue Life CycleFigure 1: Issue Life Cycle (Liebl, 2000)

It is shown that the opportunity for an organization to react upon an issue (freedom of action) decreases throughout time in several aspects:

  • time pressure for effective communication or strategic realignment increases.
  • the range of possible activities for influencing the events at hand – a legislative procedure, for instance – decreases.

At the same time, the organization’s costs of responding increases over time (Liebl, 2000) In addition a interest curve can be defined that reflects public interest in an issue. The rapid increase of the curve is due to the fast dessimination of information and opinion through the various media channels. The public attention than puts pressure on policy makers to take actions such as launching legislative initiatives. However the attention also decreases rather fast as public interest is difficult to maintain for long over time (Liebl, 2003)

For Organizational Future Orientation we hypothesis that issue management inside an organization follows a similar sequence. That could mean that corporate foresight activities would help to detect the emergence of an issue early. But at the same time corporate foresight needs also to interprete the impact of the issue and propose an adequate response to it while the attention of internal stakeholders is still high. If the attention is already starting to drop the risk is that no action will be taken.

This blog article builds on the master thesis of Sebastian Knab.

Re-visit your questions that followed reading the Masi Center Learning Perspectives- part 1 and part 2 in unit 3 (full document was attached). You studied the strategic learning approaches described throughout the two chapters of the Masi book and now is the time to assess how can answering the questions you posed help you in achieving a corporate insight. One example of such a question that you could copy from the text was: What problem were we trying to solve? An example of a question that you might have wanted to pose was: What were we trying to avoid? What other questions did you ask? What are your responses now?

Re- visit and choose one company (Mac Donalds, for instance) and list at least three corporate foresights based on Forbes analysis (provided or at least eluded to in the text).

Special Report

The World's Leading Companies

Scott DeCarlo, 04.21.10, 06:00 PM EDT

This comprehensive report analyzes the world's biggest companies and the best-performing of these titans.

The Forbes Global 2000 are the biggest, most powerful listed companies in the world. These global giants usually reorder themselves at a glacial pace, but sometimes--as with the volatile financial sector of late--with more abruptness.

Extreme vagaries of business or poor performance can take them off the list entirely. In any case, our composite ranking is the best snapshot of just how these titans compare. As we show, the corporate dominance of the developed nations is steadily receding. With respect not just to size but to what investors care most about, see our Global High Performers, an elite list of companies that set the pace in their respective industries.

Video: The Biggest Names In Business

Forbes' ranking of the world's biggest companies departs from lopsided lists based on a single metric, like sales. Instead we use an equal weighting of sales, profits, assets and market value to rank companies according to size. This year's list reveals the dynamism of global business. The rankings span 62 countries, with the U.S. (515 members) and Japan (210 members) still dominating the list, but with a combined 33 fewer entries.

In Pictures: The Top 25

Interactive World Map: An Atlas Of The World's Biggest Companies

This year, the following countries gained the most ground: mainland China (113 members), India (56 members) and Canada (62 members). Even Oman and Lebanon are now Global 2000 members. Also gaining a significant presence on our list this year are corporations from Ireland, South Africa and Sweden.

In total the Global 2000 companies now account for $30 trillion in revenues, $1.4 trillion in profits, $124 trillion in assets and $31 trillion in market value. All metrics are down from last year, except for market value, which rose 61%.

Related Story: The World's Leading Companies, By The Numbers

An analysis of the Global 2000 shows that despite the turmoil in the financial sector, banks still dominate, with 308 companies in the 2000 lineup, thanks in large measure to their asset totals. The oil and gas industry, with 115 companies, scores high in sales, profits and stock-market value, yet these sectors were not the leaders in growth over the past year. Insurance companies (up 27%) led all sectors in sales growth, while the leaders in profit growth were drugs and biotech firms (up 20%).

Our full list is rich with industry leaders who are making strategic moves to help navigate through these tough economic times. Among them you will find Taiwan's Acer, aiming to become the biggest seller of laptops and netbooks by 2011, and Danish biotech Novozymes, finding new uses for enzymes.

For the past few years we have also identified an important subset of the Global 2000: big companies that also have exceptional growth rates. To qualify as a Global High Performer, a company must stand out from its industry peers in growth, return to investors and future prospects. Most of the 130 Global High Performers have been expanding their earnings at 28% a year and 20% annualized gains to shareholders over the past five years.

Both Acer and Novozymes are on our Global High Performers list, and 77 of the 130 companies on this select list have headquarters outside the U.S. Our list includes global brand names, such as Belgium's Anheuser-Busch Inbev ( BUD - news - people ), H&M ( HNNMY - news - people ) (Sweden) and Honda Motor ( HMC - news - people )(Japan), as well as foreign companies with lower profiles, such as Australian drug company CSL ( CMXHF.PK - news - people ).

Among notable U.S. Global High Performers are Apple ( AAPL - news - people ), Google ( GOOG - news - people ), McDonald's ( MCD - news - people ) and Nike ( NKE - news - people ).

To find these global superstars, we analyzed 26 industries of the Global 2000 (we excluded trading companies) and gave each company respective scores for long-term and short-term sales and profit growth; return on capital; debt-to-capital (the lower the better); and total return over five years. Other requirements for the global high performers list: shares traded in the U.S. or Depositary Receipts, positive equity and sales of at least $1 billion.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Entrepreneurship (3)

Chapter 13

The Entrepreneur's Need for Capital

New businesses rarely show a profit in the early months of operation

(The following one-page essay is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Entrepreneurship.)

The Entrepreneur's Need for Capital

New businesses rarely show a profit in the early months of operation. Generating sales takes time, and receipts are not usually sufficient to offset start-up costs and monthly expenses. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to estimate how much money they need and then raise that amount to transform their dream into a reality.

It doesn't necessarily take a lot of cash to create a successful business. In the mid-1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer by selling a Volkswagen microbus and a Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator to raise $1,300 – enough for a makeshift production line. In 1997, Bill Martin and Greg Wright used the free Internet connections in their college dorm rooms and $175 – $75 for a New Jersey partnership fee, $70 to register their Web domain name, and $30 for a month's hosting fee – to start, which is now a successful financial Web site.

Many entrepreneurs start businesses with $5,000 or less, just enough to establish the business, invest in some inventory, and create some advertising materials. There are many ways to reduce expenses: for instance, by initially working out of one's home rather than leasing an office or leasing office equipment rather than buying it.

However, all entrepreneurs need to estimate how much cash they need to cover expenses until the business begins to make a profit. For this task, the best financial tools are the income statement and cash flow statement. Cash flow refers to the amount of money actually available to make purchases and pay current bills and obligations. It is the difference between cash receipts (money taken in) and cash disbursements (money spent) over a specific time period.

It is important to attach notes to these forecasts to explain any unusual expenses or assumptions used in the calculations.

• An income statement sets out all of the entrepreneur's projected revenues and expenses (including depreciation and mortgages) to determine a venture's profits per month and year. Depreciation is a method to account for assets whose value is considered to decrease over time.

• A cash flow statement estimates anticipated cash sales as well as anticipated cash payments of bills. This estimate can be done on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, but experts recommend that it be done at least once every month for the first year or two of a new business. This forecast is used to project the money required to finance the operation annually. By calculating this forecast on a cumulative basis, the entrepreneur can forecast his company's overall capital needs at start up.

The monthly net cash flow shows how much an entrepreneur's cash receipts exceed or fall short of monthly cash expenditures. For most of the first year, the monthly expenditures are likely to exceed the receipts. In many cases, goods are shipped out before payment is received. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur still has to pay his bills. Therefore, the cumulative cash flow, which adds each month's total to that of previous months, will result in a growing negative amount.

A critical point for a new business occurs when monthly sales receipts are enough to cover monthly expenses. At this point, the negative cumulative cash flow will begin to decrease and move toward a positive one. The cumulative cash flow amount reached just before it reverses direction indicates approximately how much capital the new business will need.

Financial projections are inevitably somewhat inaccurate simply because every contingency cannot be predicted. For this reason, experts recommend that entrepreneurs add at least 20 percent to the financial needs calculated in the cash flow statement to create a safety net for unforeseen events.

With these estimates, the entrepreneur can seek funding and concentrate more clearly on launching the new business.

[Author Jeanne Holden is a free-lance writer with expertise in economic issues. She worked as a writer-editor in the U.S. Information Agency for 17 years.]

Chapter 14

Sources of Financing

Entrepreneurs have several financial options to start-up a business

(The following one-page essay is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Entrepreneurship.)

Sources of Financing

Many entrepreneurs struggle to find the capital to start a new business. There are many sources to consider, so it is important for an entrepreneur to fully explore all financing options. He also should apply for funds from a wide variety of sources.

Personal savings: Experts agree that the best source of capital for any new business is the entrepreneur's own money. It is easy to use, quick to access, has no payback terms, and requires no transfer of equity (ownership). Also, it demonstrates to potential investors that the entrepreneur is willing to risk his own funds and will persevere during hard times.

Friends and family: These people believe in the entrepreneur, and they are the second easiest source of funds to access. They do not usually require the paperwork that other lenders require. However, these funds should be documented and treated like loans. Neither part ownership nor a decision-making position should be given to these lenders, unless they have expertise to provide. The main disadvantage of these funds is that, if the business fails and money goes lost, a valuable relationship may be jeopardized.

Credit cards: The entrepreneur's personal credit cards are an easy source of funds to access, especially for acquiring business equipment such as photocopiers, personal computers, and printers. These items can usually be obtained with little or no money paid up front and with small monthly payments. The main disadvantage is the high rate of interest charged on credit card balances that are not paid off in full each month.

Banks: Banks are very conservative lenders. As successful entrepreneur Phil Holland explains, "Many prospective business owners are disappointed to learn that banks do not make loans to start-up businesses unless there are outside assets to pledge against borrowing." Many entrepreneurs simply do not have enough assets to get a secured loan from a lending institution.

However, if an entrepreneur has money in a bank savings account, she can usually borrow against that money. If an entrepreneur has good credit, it is also relatively easy to get a personal loan from a bank. These loans tend to be short-term and not as large as business loans.

Venture investors: This is a major source of funding for start-ups that have a strong potential for growth. However, venture investors insist on retaining part ownership in new businesses that they fund.

• Formal institutional venture funds are usually limited partnerships in which passive limited partners, such as retirement funds, supply most of the money. These funds have large amounts of money to invest. However, the process of obtaining venture capital is very slow. Several books, such as Galante's Venture Capital & Private Equity Directory, give detailed information on these funds.

• Corporate venture funds are large corporations with funds for investing in new ventures. These often provide technical and management expertise in addition to large monetary investments. However, these funds are slow to access compared to other sources of funds. Also, they often seek to gain control of new businesses.

• Angel investors tend to be successful entrepreneurs who have capital that they are willing to risk. They often insist on being active advisers to businesses they support. Angel funds are quicker to access than corporate venture funds, and they are more likely to be invested in a start-up operation. But they may make smaller individual investments and have fewer contacts in the banking community.

Government programs: Many national and regional governments offer programs to encourage small- and medium-sized businesses. In the United States, the Small Business Administration (SBA) assists small firms by acting as a guarantor of loans made by private institutions for borrowers who may not otherwise qualify for a commercial loan.

[Author Jeanne Holden is a free-lance writer with expertise in economic issues. She worked as a writer-editor in the U.S. Information Agency for 17 years.]

Leadership (3)

Leadership (3)

Part I: New Learning Frameworks
Learning National Park, Needs Rangers!
Getting to Know Bob
Allison Anderson, Intel Corporation
Four years ago, Intel was starting to shift its learning footprint from
traditional, formal learning into something new and different. During this
time, we used the (now-overused) phrase “Learning Ecosystem.” It is an
apt phrase, fitting the collaborative, symbiotic world in which many
corporate employees operate.
Talking with colleagues and trying to influence learning leaders across
the company, we would often talk about “Bob.” Bob’s story was about a
somewhat typical Intel employee. Bob’s was not a story about learning; it
was a tale of getting the job done by finding people and resources,
finding and consuming expertise, collaborating, mentoring, helping
others and so on. We didn’t use the word “learning.” We talked about
how Bob was going to finish a project at work, and how he contributed
his own helpful hints to a common repository of information.
The story of Bob felt natural to people. We saw people nodding their
heads while they listened. Bob’s story could be their own. We found that
this simple tale provided a good starting point to provoke a deeper
Why “Bob?” The idea was to slip past the expectations people have when
they hear words like “strategy” and “learning”, particularly when they are
used together, as in “learning strategy.” Using the phrase “learning
strategy” shuts people’s minds down and puts them squarely back in the
classroom. They wait for a specific, linear look at how many classes will
be held in the coming year. For them, the formula is clear:
Learning = courses + strategy (well planned + linear)
What is the end result? A linear forecast of what and how many
classroom and e-Learning courses we will offer next year.
This didn’t add up for us. So, with the intent of breaking through the
established mindsets and preconceived notions about learning, we
developed a story that didn’t use either “strategy” or “learning”.
We wanted people to see that we were not talking about NEW learning;
rather, we were talking about a natural way of learning the skills needed
for their roles. We were talking about making that natural process better
for our employees. We looked for ways that we could describe that
natural process in a manner that would resonate with our employees, our
managers and, above all, the learning groups. Even though it was a
natural process, it was a change that made the learning organization
Another quick example often helped people imagine the world we were
describing. Anyone that works in a “cube farm” knows what it looks like
when heads pop up over cube walls. In our organization, we call this
“Prairie Dogging.” (We might have called it “Meerkatting”, but that
doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.) Prairie Dogging is an immediate
way to gather crucial information from those around you.
Let’s say you are sitting at your desk and, suddenly, your network
connection drops. What’s your first impulse? You pop up, put your head
over the cube wall and ask your neighbor if they are having the same
problem. Have a question about your departmental budget forecasting
spreadsheet? Pop your head up and ask those around you how to enter
in the requested information. Prairie Dogging is a way of life. It’s a critical
channel for immediate communication and feedback. It is our first line of
inquiry when we encounter a learning need.
But in today’s world, particularly in a large, global organization, the
Prairie Dog channel has very limited usefulness. You may not sit near
anyone on your team. You may need that information from someone
you’ve never met or at a time when no one is in the office. In fact, the
best answer could be miles or continents away. What we need to facilitate
these days is “Global Prairie Dogging.”
Back to Bob. The more we talked about Bob, the more we came to realize
that our storyline was too narrow. There IS no Bob: no single prototype of
the “standard” employee. In a world with four generations in the
workplace, in a company with locations in so many unique cultures, in a
place with such diversity of job roles, our story about Bob was much too
So what story could possibly help us describe this complex world?
The answer came during a lively session at Learning 2007. One of my
esteemed colleagues – and an all-around smart guy – raised his hand to
comment and said, “You know, you could look at Bob’s learning
ecosystem as kind of a national park.” That colleague was Jonathan
Kayes, then working as the CLO for the CIA. I understand he enjoyed a
good hike now and again, appreciated nature and loved to visit
America’s national parks. He and I sat down for a longer discussion once
the conference session was over and, as we drilled deeper into the
metaphor, the story unfolded.
So, let us take a short vacation to Learning National Park.
Learning National Park
National Parks may seem an odd subject for a book on learning, but
much the same way that “Bob” helped people put aside their
preconceived notions about a learning strategy, Learning National Park
gives us a manageable way of seeing the enormity and complexity of
learning. New learning-speak is to say that learning is “a process, not an
event.” This is very true. But we might also say learning is a journey and
those we serve are travelers.
Real life travelers are all different and each one has a unique trip: what they
notice, who they stop to talk with, what they write home about and the photos
they take. They have sites they want to see and places of interest that they
stumble upon that take them in directions they did not anticipate. Travelers to
Learning National Park are just as unique. Each one has a specific need and
a unique path they will take.
Some visitors will show up with little more than an idea to “see the park.” For
example, they may have an end goal of visiting Career Development Canyon
but have little idea how they will get there. Other visitors arrive with a
detailed, hour-by-hour plan for their trip. They spend months planning their
journey, studying maps and planning each day. They stick to this predetermined
tour of specific spots. In much the same way, our employees vary
greatly in their approach to learning.
Many learners want a detailed plan that is built for them, suggested by the
learning organization or based upon some specific criteria. They want the
structure of a course or curriculum. Other travelers take a different approach.
They don’t come with a detailed plan, nor do they want one. They may “arrive” at
learning simply because they need help with a specific task. They may not want
the structure of a detailed learning plan prefer to explore a topic or idea through
many different formats and options.
Like many National Parks, Learning National Park is huge – seemingly infinite
in size. There are multiple entrances. There are paved roads, which are
officially placed and maintained. There are the rougher hiking trails and foot
paths, also provided by the park. Often, people find their own way and make
new paths. They discover a shortcut to a river. Their long, scenic route takes
them past a hidden meadow or a camp site created by a previous traveler. If it
is a particularly good path (or, in our case, a particularly good learning
resource or experience), others will begin to follow that path to the river.
Some show up and ask the Park Rangers for their recommendations. They
want to know from the “official source” what roads to take, what sites to see
and where to eat. Other travelers show up having done extensive research on
the web, reading what previous park visitors have to say about this vista or
that activity.
How did we even know to visit Learning National Park? Perhaps we had
lunch with a friend and they suggested a good fishing spot. Maybe we looked
at maps and photos online or reviewed the campgrounds. Learners seek out
recommended resources and, in turn, (we hope) they contribute some of their
knowledge when others need help.
Other parts of Learning National Park that we might consider:
Learning National Park has vistas: areas specially marked for fantastic views
and photo opportunities. Signage helps people dig a little deeper into a
certain spot. Trail markers help people navigate through rough terrain. There
are Visitors’ Centers – gathering places for travelers to experience the park
together – and, of course, there are Park Rangers to help travelers get the
most out of their trip.
That is my new role. I am a park ranger. I keep an eye out – from my ranger
station, which doubles as my lookout tower – and I have a view of the whole
park. I see the new trails that visitors have made and the shortcuts to the falls
that go right by the hidden meadow. I am looking to see which of those
visitor-made paths we may put on future maps and vs. the ones that are
actually taking people through large batches of poison oak.
My role as a ranger of Learning National Park should be to know the park as
well as anyone possibly can and to know what other visitors have liked most
– and least – about the park. I need to understand how things are working,
what new paths and sights our learning travelers have found (or, better yet,
created), what trail damage needs to be repaired, etc. We continue to worry
about the dangers of open content. Why then don’t we get involved in the
open content? Why don’t we take our ranger roles seriously and get out on
those “dangerous blogs” to contribute information? Why don’t we get
involved in how people experience Learning National Park?
I want to greet them when they arrive at one of our designated gathering
places and help them when they need directions. I want to connect them to
fellow travelers with similar interests or needs. Above all, I want to get out of
their way when they choose to travel on their own.
We need to change our vistas. We need to see the larger landscape of the
park. When we can see Learning National Park for what it is – an infinite
number of paths, sites, discoveries and experiences – we can begin to
recognize challenges and roles that we may not have attended to before.
So, I am a Learning National Park ranger: one of many in my organization.
Our travelers are employees, who have needs ranging from repairing tools
on the manufacturing floor to developing better communication styles to
preparing to sell new products. My role as a ranger is to think about the ways
that we can guide employees and help them take their desired journeys while
taking the trip that they need. I am a moderator of conversation, a connector
of people and a purveyor of content. I will sit around the campfire and tell
stories of early settlers, take people on tours and point out new trails that
visitors before them have made. I will keep designated areas clean and free
of litter. I will get out of visitors’ way, let them have a good time and help
them (when I can) truly experience their journeys.
One last point, and this is important: this is not about Bob. It is about Bob,
Louise, Raj, Changmu, Azita and Eduardo. It’s about the factory worker, the
marketing project manager and the technical supervisor, to name a few. My
role is ranger of Learning INTER-National Park. Even the phrase we’ve used
above – “National Park” – is misleading. We are really talking about a park
as large as the world itself and learning across the globe and many cultures;
we are talking about being global prairie dogs.
I am very grateful to Jonathan for sharing that idea and helping me on my
own learning journey. You can learn a lot from your fellow travelers; even
park rangers are forever continuing their own journeys!
Allison Anderson is a Learning Innovation Strategist at Intel Corporation,
and thought leader on the topic of social and collaborative learning in
the corporate environment.
What Problem are We Really Trying to Solve?
Julie Clow, Google
New technology is often inspired by the goal of optimizing or improving
existing products or processes. For example, early adoption and use of
computers was largely driven by word processing: a revolutionary
improvement over the typewriter for getting text to paper. But, as we all
know, technology becomes magic when it creates entirely new ways of
interacting with the world. The Internet fundamentally shifted computers
from tools for typing to entry points to the world and its information.
We are at this turning point in the realm of learning. e-Learning served to
provide a scalable alternative to classrooms for training delivery but - let’s
face it – it is still pretty much the same thing. The time is ripe for us to
revisit exactly what it is that we are trying to do in the learning space and
to use technology in entirely new ways to accomplish this.
What if carpenters were called hammerers instead? It would be mighty
hard to expand beyond the simple work of creating structures through
wood, hammers and nails. We have been blinded by our particular
hammer. We have chosen to name our profession with the name of our
tool: training. Not surprisingly, we automatically jump to classrooms or e-
Learning – traditional training solutions – any time someone needs to
learn new information. But if we step back for just a second, we should be
asking, “What is the problem that we are really trying to solve?”
This is how I see it: as learning professionals, our ultimate role is to facilitate
the transfer of repeatable information and skills from those who have learned
it to those who need to learn it, at scale. If you read that a few times and
squint your eyes just a tad, you will start to see that there are many solutions
to this problem and we have only started to scratch the surface. I will throw
out a few to get the ball rolling. Then, it’s up to you!
New Ideas for Learning’s Future
Remember, our goal is to transfer the learning process of one person to
many people. What if, instead of capturing all of the information from
our experts’ heads to translate it back to learners, we simply empowered
the experts to directly share the paths they took to learn something? I like
to think of this as crowd-sourced learning paths. We’re starting to see
tools to help in this process. For example, Google Bookmarks
can serve as a social bookmarking
tool, similar to delicious . But, Google
Bookmarks has an additional and little-known feature called “Lists” that
enables users to create a related set of bookmarks, which can include
comments and subsections: everything an expert would need to create a
learning path for a specific topic.
An expert can simply string together the path of resources they used to
learn, in the order they used them, perhaps with a short comment for
each to provide context. The barrier to creating a learning path is far
lower than that of creating a presentation or a class, but it still solves our
learning problem statement. The learning paths could easily be
distributed to a wide number of potential learners through a search on
keywords (pull) or as a link in a course catalogue (push).
If we took this learning path notion one step further, we can think about
automating the capture of learning paths. Web analytics have come a
long way in enabling us to understand the paths people take through a
website and around the web in general. (Side note: If you’ve never
explored the power of Analytics to
understand how users are actually navigating through your e-Learning
courses or learning websites, this is an endlessly entertaining exercise –
well worth the 30 minutes or so to set up an account and embed the code
on your web pages.) We could start by understanding the “intent” of
users. For example, users searching on “web design 101” might all
presumably want to learn basic principles about web design. We could
then aggregate the videos, articles, sites, images and other resources
these users access, arranged in optimal order: the most typical or most
well-worn path through these resources as captured by analytics tools. As
a learner, you would find this auto-generated learning path extremely
informative and much more efficient than staggering down your own path
through dead ends, bad resources, SPAM-filled web pages and
inaccurate information.
We can also think about social media through our learning problem lens.
Social media can serve as a useful window into other people’s worlds: what
they are reading, what they find interesting, what they are blogging about,
what they are recommending. Let us say, for example, that I am fresh out of
college and starting a new job in marketing. I might find great value in
reading the Twitter stream of marketing gurus. Twitter Lists (yes – more lists!)
make this an easy prospect
by enabling you to subscribe to (or create) an organized list of Tweeters.
Rather than following a group of marketing gurus one by one, Twitter Lists
make it easy to follow them all at once, which also makes it easier to see the
patterns emerging from their tweets and links over time. You might think of
this as scaled mentoring: you get first-hand access to their words of wisdom
and insights throughout the day, every day.
Think about the potential application of something like Twitter Lists within
your organization. If I am a front-line manager aspiring to become a
director, I would want to know what information directors are paying
attention to. I would want to know what articles they are reading, what
training classes they have attended, what publications they subscribe to, etc.
Their perspectives, in aggregate, would serve to teach me how to think at a
higher strategic level. This kind of nuanced information transfer is something
we could not begin to capture through traditional learning formats.
Taking a different turn with technology, another interesting development is in
the realm of music. The advent of Pandora and Apple’s Genius feature in
iTunes are both examples of “music discovery.” These tools go well beyond
the Amazon-like recommendation engines (even those provide some
interesting ideas for our LMS!). Music discovery tools use algorithms to find
the connections between music I like and music I have never heard but that,
in all probability, is akin to my musical tastes. If we use these models to think
about learning discovery, some interesting things emerge. As the saying
goes, you do not know what you do not know. What if a learning algorithm
could suggest new topics or skills that would be complementary to a skill you
are learning? You would get exposed to new concepts and topics you had no
idea even existed! This is the kind of learning that can drive innovation within
organizations. Exposure to new topics and concepts spawns ideas simply
through combinatorial factors. Perhaps we could create emergent learning.
Learning Solutions that Won’t Change (well, maybe a little…)
Classrooms, e-Learning, mentoring and job aids/reference tools will continue
to play roles in solving the learning problems of our organizations. They will
never be fully displaced by new learning solutions and, in many cases, they
will remain the best tools for the job. But we have made a few assertions
about these methods that I think should be challenged.
First, we are very careful to create a barrier between “subject matter experts”
and our learners. We are deathly afraid of the possibility that our experts
might bore people, talk over their heads and otherwise corrupt the learning
experience. So we painstakingly extract the information from our experts for
sanitizing, smoothing and polishing, feeding it back to our learners in ever-so18
carefully-measured doses. In our zeal to treat learners with the utmost respect
and handle them with kid gloves, we are also spending a huge amount of time
and potentially robbing the learners of color and nuance that only the experts
can convey.
At Google, we have actually made the conscious decision to tear down the
boundaries between our experts and learners. First of all, we cannot possibly
provide classes, courses, resources and other learning deliverables to cover all
of the information, tools, technologies and skills that our employees need in
order to be successful. Secondly, we intentionally hire smart people, who have
a lot to teach to other smart people. Our learning teams have created highly
successful programs to encourage Googlers to teach other Googlers. Anyone
and everyone is an expert at something and our goal is to create a pathway
into the learning opportunities that Googlers are creating for others.
Our course management system, CloudCourse (open sourced and available
for any organization to use), enables any Googler to create and publicize a
learning activity and then find their own audience. We do not place any
controls on the process but we create transparency around course survey scores
so that teachers are naturally incentivized to deliver quality learning
experiences. In our culture, when Googlers see a void, they fill it. So we can rely
on our employees to know exactly the information that others need to be
successful in their jobs and to pitch in to share the knowledge.
Another assertion that we have made about our learning experiences is that
they must look a certain way. We spend a great deal of time designing
participant guides, workbooks and handouts, formatting slides, editing video,
creating slick and standard interface designs (down to the little buttons!) and
otherwise tying pretty little ribbons around our training experiences. I personally
wrote a 100+ page style guide to govern the look, feel and style for a largescale
e-Learning initiative for the Navy, and I was proud of it! (Although I hate
to admit it, I still am!) I never even stopped for a second to consider that maybe
learners do not care about this. Furthermore, the ROI for all of this effort does
not result in a significantly better learning experience for our users!
We tested this hypothesis in creating a leadership program for early-career
Googlers. We did not have the time, budget or resources to develop a highfidelity,
polished leadership program. We needed something quickly, but we
needed to reach lots of people: a few thousand Googlers spread across the
We made an early decision to tap into the vast treasure trove of leadership
resources that are freely available on the web, such as Harvard’s leadership
videos on YouTube, articles on leadership from the best of the best leadership
thinkers, even movies that show leadership concepts in action. We felt that it
was utterly unnecessary to suck up all this content, re-process it and package it
into a traditional course. Instead, we drafted a series of simple emails.
Throughout the span of 4 weeks, participants received a few emails each week
that provided some basic context around leadership themes along with links to
the various leadership content pieces. Each email required only a few minutes
of time to read an article, watch a video or answer a few questions: they
provided micro learning chunks, so to speak.
We engaged our audience through some interactive exercises using simple
Google Forms. We asked them to think critically about what they learned,
share back a story or an idea using the form, and upon submitting their
assignment, they were exposed to the answers from all of the other
participants. We kept participants on track by holding virtual, synchronous
debrief sessions at the end of each week, which also built a sense of
community within the cohort. Our learning design required little more than
sourcing the content, sequencing it and drafting the emails to provide the
context, objectives and big picture of the leadership concepts. We used no
fancy binders or shiny interfaces.
So did it work? We think so! The program, which has been running for
almost two years, consistently receives course feedback scores in line with our
“high fidelity” leadership programs. Our learners are engaged! Participation
and completion scores for each cohort fall in the 80% - 90% range: far
higher than typical e-Learning completion rates! Demand for the program is
strong, which is a sure sign of success and acceptance by Googlers. (Bad
reputations kill things quickly in our culture.)
The Key Challenge for a New Vision
Fantasizing about cool technologies and new learning solutions is fun, but I
concur with the conjecture that we are not in any position to deliver on these
ideas in today’s Learning and Development organizations. We simply do not
have the right people on our teams. If we aspire to create a whole new world
for learning, we need to think about the roles and skills we would need in our
staff to pull this off.
We are instructional designers, trainers and project managers. We are
optimized to create traditional learning solutions, and we do that well. But we
stutter and stammer and are slow on the uptake with new technologies
because this is simply not our strength. If we were to envision a new learning
organization, here are the kinds of people I would hire:
• Strong innovators: the people who are really good at generating
ideas, thinking outside the box, prototyping/experimenting and
pushing for innovation. We all know who those people are. I bet
you can rattle off a few names in your organization, who may or
may not be in the learning organization. I recommend the book 10
Faces of Innovation to learn more about innovator roles. We need
them in Learning and Development.
• Software engineers to turn ideas into actual tools and products to
aggregate and filter learning content, and develop algorithms to
simulate the learning process.
• Analytics gurus to extract valuable insights out of the mountains of
data available that provide perspective on the learning needs of the
• Instructional Design coaches: people who understand learning and
are strong in coaching and developing others. They can consult with
employees and teams, empowering them to create and deliver high
quality content.
• User experience experts to design applications that engage learners
and encourage participation in the learning culture as both
contributors and users.
• Behavior analysts to craft an environment with built-in incentives,
motivators and reinforcements that encourage active participation in
the learning process throughout the organization.
We have the opportunity to completely rethink what we do as learning
professionals and usher in a grand new model for organizational
learning. We need to remember to step back and think at the meta-level
about the problems we are trying to solve and how technology can
address these in exciting and scalable ways. Innovation demands that we
loosen our grip on our favorite tools and add a few new ones to our tool
belt. This could lead to an exciting future that is just around the corner.
Julie Clow is a co-lead at Google for non-technical learning and
development programs for Google Engineers
An Idea Whose Time has Come
Deb Tees, Lockheed Martin
From Idea to Reality
Is the Washington, D.C. area Dulles Metrorail a great new way to help
minimize traffic? Is it an innovation derived within the last few years? Is it a
new study of transportation dynamics produced by Harvard Business School?
No – it is simply an idea whose time has come, 47 years following its initial
The Dulles Metrorail case study has implications regarding the future state of
learning. A frequent topic causing consternation in our field relates to how
we should prepare ourselves for the uncertain future. How can we anticipate
what will be new and different? How will our lives change? What measures
should we take now that will help us keep pace with these changes? I believe
that all of these questions are valid, but perhaps we are looking in the wrong
places to find the answers. The next “big thing” won’t appear from thin air; it
will simply be a manifestation of an idea whose time has come.
So let’s further explore the Dulles Metrorail project. Construction is currently
underway for a 23-mile transit system in the rapidly growing Dulles Corridor
in Virginia (to include the Dulles International Airport). The railway system will
result in travel time savings between the corridor and downtown D.C.,
expand the reach of the existing regional rail system, offer a viable alternative
to automobile travel and support future development along the corridor.
Although many residents in the area believe the Metrorail project started in
2009, when ground was broken and construction began, the idea for this
project was proposed in the early 1960s. The vision has long been to enable
more direct access to key locations throughout the region, thus providing
greater freedom of movement and a broader range of options related to
work and home locales. More than 40 years ago, visionaries knew the
benefits that this type of expansion would bring. Despite this enlightened
point of view, it has only been through a consistent evolution of ideas,
technology, research, funding and political landscape transformations that
this project has begun to materialize. So, although the development of the
railway system will perhaps have its most significant visible impact in the
implementation stages, the real effort, in fact, began over 40 years ago.
Evolution of the Idea
There are no new ideas (well, very few). Take movies for example. How many
times have we seen iterations of the movie Robinhood? Dracula? Cinderella?
In fact, Cinderella is one of the most remade movies of all time. The classics
do not die; they are simply recast into a new time and place with increased
relevance, re-imagined for a new era and a new generation. It is the seed of
an idea that is critically important, as well as the ability to see it through and
make it meaningful in the current context.
Manifestations of learning over the next 10-15 years will likely resemble the
evolutionary concepts illustrated by classic movies and the Dulles Metrorail. It
may, therefore, be useful to look at ideas that have surfaced throughout the
history of modern learning to understand the ways in which they might come
to light in a future context.
Evolution of Learning
Think about the concept of social networking and user generated content.
Social theory has been around for ages. Studies of human and animal
relationships date back to the earliest psychological and anthropological
studies regarding attachment, learning and social networks. Man has always
been a social creature. Even in pre-historic times, humankind was sharing
ideas, passing along information primarily through pictures and the spoken
word. These are not new concepts, but they have been revisited in the context
of our new environment. Instead of cave walls, our canvas is the Internet. In
addition to sharing knowledge within the traditional family structure, we now
have far reaching social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The
question is not necessarily what new ideas will arise, but how existing realities
will be placed into new context and culture.
Assuming that the notion of recontextualizing ideas is valid, what might the future
hold for a day in the life of a typical learner? I believe one key difference from our
current learning environment will be that learning tools and technology will cease
to be a series of independent, incongruent resources. They will instead become
part of an interwoven fabric of learning. Apple provides a great example of this.
The user has only to hold an instrument of technology in his or her hands (e.g.
iPhone, iPad), and the rest is a seamless, intuitive experience. That experience is
almost completely guided by the user’s imagination. The concept of “apps” even
further empowers the user to fill perceived gaps by creating and adding to the
already vast library of tools. In combination, these elements allow the user to
create something that is unique and “just for me”.
In the organizational context, it becomes a bit more complex: legacy systems,
outdated technology, security issues and firewalls require special attention,
and finances are usually in short supply. It will take ingenuity and partnership
behind the scenes to create the “Apple experience”, but we can almost taste
A Day in the Life
Imagine…as a learner, I log into my computer at work and I can see all my
customized web parts on the screen (for those not familiar, web parts enable
end users to modify the content, appearance and behavior of Web pages
directly from a browser). These web parts provide critical bits of information
that equip me for my busy day. Throughout that day, the interface changes to
reflect the work that I am doing and the knowledge critical for my success is
present at each moment. I decide that I need support on one of my tasks and
a world of experts is at my fingertips, ready to jump at the chance to answer
my question. In the process of IM and threaded discussions with one such
expert, we discover a new application for critical knowledge that leads to an
innovative product line, which, of course, gets shared with executive
leadership through the innovation and collaboration forum available on the
Intranet. As I take a well-deserved 20-minute lunch break, I watch a
streaming video about the keys to success in leadership and interact with
three other co-workers online who happen to be watching the same video. I
add some of my newfound knowledge to the Leadership Wiki, and then I
return to my work, leaving my desk for an important meeting. A colleague in
the meeting is wondering about the best way to facilitate our discussion, so
we call up the virtual facilitator available through the company’s online
resource center. Once our productive meeting has concluded, we part ways
and contemplate how many more hours remain until we might leave the
office - that is, for those of us who are in a brick and mortar Dilbert-style
office. In the remaining hours, system performance support tools guide me
through mundane tasks that I only need to complete every other month,
thereby conserving my precious brain space for other important things in life.
Finally, I wrap up my day with a virtual meeting with 10 colleagues from
across the globe. As they fly around the room in Teleplace, we watch videos
and post notes on walls to brainstorm the best approach for our upcoming
team event. Ahhh…another day in learner paradise…
So what’s different? The activities of the day described above are not so
drastically different from our current experience, and all of the technologies
mentioned exist in some form or fashion today. What is different is the
absence of a separation between work and life. There is no mention of an
LMS, an LCMS, textbooks or tests. There is no mention of instructional design,
although learning professionals can architect all of the experiences described.
There is no time wasted searching for information, only to be defeated by the
endless sea of words and websites. Learning is integrated into everything. The
bottom line? Learning is not an activity to be held separate and apart from
work, nor, for that matter, from the personal experience of life. Learning is
about how we live and work.
Learning Environments
In order to build an integrated future, we should consider a few key elements.
The first of these is the current landscape of your particular organization.
In order to explore the concept, we can look to the common practice of
benchmarking. Think about how frequently companies share best practices
with each other. At first glance, that practice might seem to create a
competitive disadvantage for the company sharing its core knowledge with
another organization. Why are colleagues from different companies so
willing to benchmark with each other, especially in the learning industry? In
part, it is because we know that success is as much about implementation as
it is about the idea itself. Boilerplate solutions don’t work: success is
dependent upon what works in your environment.
Consider the world of horticulture. Climate and soil conditions are the
primary dictators of which plants will thrive in particular locations. It is quite
difficult to grow tropical plants in arctic climates; the plants reject the
environment and ultimately die. Plant selections must be tailored based on
which ones are most likely to flourish in the given location. Similarly, you
need to choose your learning infrastructure, tools and approach according to
your company’s climate. There is no prescription. We cannot definitively say
that we will move to corporate universities, centralized or decentralized
models, specific technologies, standards of collaboration, etc. Of course,
there will be trends, popular ideas and rebranding or reiterations of existing
constructs. Ultimately, however, we may be asking the wrong questions if we
try to anticipate the future without first considering the readiness of our own
Other Key Elements
Three other key elements can smooth the pathway for an enhanced future
state of learning. These elements transcend individual organizations, are
available today and allow us to increase readiness. They are relevance,
research and cross-functional partnerships, all three of which are necessary
for advancement in the world of learning.
• Relevance
Visions of the future that fail to speak to a specific company’s weaknesses
and pain points will usually fall on deaf ears. Relevance of thought, behavior
and ideas will capture the attention of the corporate executive. A discussion of
how a new approach, tool or initiative will alleviate a current or impending
problem will open the door (and pocketbook) for forward progress.
• Research
Few companies are willing to live on the bleeding edge. So, in the majority of
organizations that are at best cutting edge, sound research and
benchmarking studies provide stepping stones. Documentation from multiple
sources about what has been done before, both in similar and different
markets, provides important insights. Why have others succeeded? Failed? Is
it possible to pilot a new idea and measure both cultural fit and impact prior
to pitching it to executive leadership? Data and relevance coupled with a
context-appropriate approach can be a powerful duo.
• Cross-functional Partnerships
Finally, the power of collaboration cannot be underestimated. For example,
one of the most critical partners for the learning professional is the CIO of an
organization. Creating a shared vision related to available technology, risk
tolerance and future possibilities can provide the keys to the kingdom. One
has only to look to examples of success or failure related to LMS
implementations to know this is true. Other cross-functional partnerships are
also vital to enable learning integration. Building a coalition of leaders who
believe that learning and development can alleviate their business pain
provides a springboard for actualization of those long-simmering ideas.
What is the Role of the Learning Professional?
So, how will the role of the learning professional transform? What is
changing that will allow us to reinvigorate those brilliant ideas from the
days of yore? In these times of growing uncertainty in the business
climate, the readiness of organizations to tap on the shoulders of learning
professionals will steadily increase. As the pace of change accelerates
and information flows at record speed across the globe, knowledge
optimization and learning agility have become even more essential for
organizational survival. In addition, John Seeley Brown points out that the
half-life of a given skill is constantly shrinking, and it has become even
more difficult to predict future needs. Skills required for success in
business and leadership have evolved and will continue to do so at
record rates. “Human capital strategy” and “capability development” are
buzz words that dominate executive leadership seminars and corporate
offsite events.
What better profession to serve organizations in this time of need than the
one that has long prided itself on preparing people for a new future?
Those learning professionals who have dreamed of the day when
business leaders would leverage their collective wisdom will see that
dream become reality. It is our time to seize the opportunity and live up to
our potential. Just as the visionary promise of an expanded Dulles
Metrorail will soon transform that region, so too will our ability to
transform the landscape of modern life through the power of learning
position us as the profession whose time has come.
Dr. Deb Tees is Director, Learning and Capability Development at
Lockheed Martin.
The Power of Deep Expertise!
Raj Ramachandran, Accenture
The state of the economy is potential cause for consternation for most of
today’s global workforce. Major causes for concern may be described as
business climate related (globalization, recession and regulation) and
involve changes in the workforce (multiple generations, teamwork and
retiring workers), organizational dynamics (restructuring,
mergers/acquisitions and leadership changes) and technology (the
proliferation of mobile devices and social networking technologies).
Research done in collaboration with Accenture’s High Performance
Institute began to demonstrate certain potentially disruptive forces in the
evolution of learning functions themselves due to these business changes.
These include a growing recognition of the importance of informal
learning in organizations and the influence of new learning 2.0
technologies that both deepen and accelerate the surge of information
across organizations. Also included are the changing learning needs and
expectations of new generations of employees, along with the need for
employees with deeper skills and specialized knowledge.
These disruptive forces call for transformative change in the learning
function itself. We believe the learning function must adapt and help the
organization continue to build and sustain a competitive advantage. In
this article, we will describe why we believe that deep expertise is at the
core of this competitive advantage and what organizations can do to help
develop a culture of deep expertise within their organizations.
Setting the Stage: The History of Expertise and Expert
Our research on expertise revealed that this is not a new concept. It is
actually an ancient concept that goes back to the time of the Greeks. It
was carried forward through the medieval times through the
apprenticeship model: a notion that an individual gains expertise through
the stages of apprentice, journeyman, expert and master. Today,
expertise appears to be considered as a phenomenon, meaning it
appears to be more of a novel concept and something that only a few
people can achieve. In order for organizations to truly tap into the best of
all their people, the learning function should cultivate learning
environments where deep expertise is nurtured and rewarded.
Leading researchers in this field, like Florida State University’s Anders
Ericsson, define expertise as the knowledge, skills and characteristics that
distinguish experts from less experienced people. This is an important
distinction, because Ericsson defines expertise as a relative concept. It
could be argued that “experience leads to expert performances of
representative tasks that capture the essence of the respective domain”
(Ericsson, 2006). So how does one obtain the requisite experience to
attain expert performance?
According to research, extensive experience in a given domain is
necessary to attain superior expert performance. For all the wide-ranging
theories on expertise and expert development, almost everyone agrees
that anyone who seeks to become an expert must get firsthand
experience; they must seek out challenging assignments, work for more
experienced individuals and learn as much as possible (Thomas, 2008).
In fact, Ericsson states, “there is surprisingly little hard evidence that
anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without
spending a lot of time perfecting it” (Ericsson, 2006). But, as Bob Thomas
of Accenture’s High Performance Institute professes, “experience by itself
guarantees nothing” (Thomas, 2008). Extensive experience is shown to be
a prerequisite to obtain a stable level of performance, but only specific
types of domain-related experiences are shown to lead to performance
Ericsson and his co-authors noticed another theme that emerged in
research on top-level performers: no matter who they were, it always took
them many years to become excellent (Ericsson, 2006). Apparently, the
relationship between experience and expert performance is that many
thousands of hours of specific types of practice and training are required
to reach the highest levels of performance. According to Zimmerman’s
research, one can describe the development of expert performance as a
function of age and years of experience (Zimmerman, 2006).
Furthermore, it is arguable that peak performance of experts is nearly
always attained in adulthood, many years after initial exposure to the
domain (Ericsson, 2006). Even the most talented individuals require ten
years (or 10,000 hours) of experience in a specific domain in order to
become an expert (Gladwell, 2008).
Developing Individual Expertise: The Four Elements of
Deliberate Practice
In study after study of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice
skaters, concert pianists and chess players, this number comes up again and
again, but this fact “does not address why some people get more out of their
practice sessions than others do; yet, no one has found a case in which
world-class expertise was accomplished in less time" (Gladwell, 2008).
Arguably, not all experiences lead to perfection. One needs a particular kind
of experience – deliberate practice – to develop and maintain this level of
expertise (Ericsson, 2006). What are the elements of deliberate practice?
FIGURE 1: Elements and Definitions of Deliberate Practice
4 Elements of
Deliberate Practice
Grasp of method …a place to start, fundamentals or
foundational knowledge of the concept,
mind you that it can be taught, in fact it must
be taught
…requires a lot of opportunities to practice
in your domain of expertise (10,000 hours)
Requires feedback
…need a qualified teacher, coach, mentor to
constantly guide you through it
Personal motivation
or ambition
…because it is difficult, you need a high
degree of motivation to sustain the levels
necessary to become an expert
According to research, “four ingredients are essential for progressing from
novice to expert: thorough grasp of method, repeatable instruction, feedback
and ambition” (Thomas, 2008). The grasp of method relies on the notion
that individuals with great native talent will progress only so far without
mastering the fundamental methods that define domain expertise. Essentially,
the practice that one must do to become an expert must continuously stretch
an individual just beyond his/her current abilities; this requires someone to
specifically design the activities required to improve performance. According
to Thomas, "without grasp of method, students may well spend precious time
inventing tools and approaches that already exist and risk blunting their
ambition in the frustration of trial and error" (Thomas, 2008).
The second key element is repeated instruction. These deliberate activities
must be repeated frequently. Participants must be given multiple opportunities
to practice their trade. According to research, high repetition is the most
important distinction between deliberate practice and simply going through
the motions. What make look easy takes a great deal of practice for
someone to get to that level of performance.
A third element that can accelerate performance is instructive feedback.
People who achieve expertise routinely seek out the best teachers they can
find because "a great teacher or coach can bring a wealth of experience, an
objective eye and an ability to match instruction and pace to the personality
and learning style of the performer" (Kegan, 1982). The feedback should be
immediate and continuously available. Again, this requires either a teacher, a
coach or some other mechanisms to quickly collect the feedback and present
it back to the individual so that he/she can improve. According to Thomas,
"feedback, especially immediate feedback, is vital to anyone who ventures
into the world of expert performance” (Thomas, 2008). Despite the current
plethora of performance management mechanisms - 360 degree
assessments, employee surveys and balanced scorecards - there is no
substitute for immediate feedback.
Ambition, the fourth and final element, is perhaps the most critical. According
to Champy and Nohria, ambition is defined as "the spirit of success, of striving
for something worth achieving" (2001). Deliberate practice is essentially difficult
to sustain and therefore requires a high-degree of motivation (Colvin, 2008). In
conclusion, without ambition, one’s desire to improve may not be high enough
to drive him/her to continue the repetitive grind.
Developing Organizational Expertise: How does an organization
develop a culture of deep expertise?
The four elements of deliberate practice can help describe what an individual
can do to help develop expertise, but what can a learning function do to help
drive expertise throughout an organization? We believe that learning
functions should take five considerations into account when developing a
culture of expertise to help make expertise a competitive advantage for the
entire organization.
First, while leveraging the concepts of deliberate practice and working in
collaboration with HR and the business, the learning function should help
define organizational expertise and what expertise development could look like
for its employees. In addition, for those employees who are looking to become
experts in their given domains, they should understand that this process has no
end-point and is a journey to continuously hone their areas of expertise.
Some learning functions believe that classroom learning environments can be
replaced by informal learning. In our analysis, we believe that this should not
be the case. Our second consideration is to emphasize that formal,
classroom-based instruction should continue at higher proficiency levels.
Blended learning environments should be in place to augment the classroom
learning experience through virtual learning experiences, even at the higher
proficiency levels.
A third consideration for implementing a culture of expertise should be around
clearly defining success criteria for your expert audience. Based on our
research, these success criteria should be aligned to organizational leadership
dimensions as published expert articles, customer feedback, the creation of
expert knowledge assets, teaching and coaching. There should also be a
greater emphasis on specific metrics that would measure how these experts
contribute to the organization and how they continue to grow their expertise.
A fourth consideration should be around developing a culture for immediate
feedback in the organization. One of our key findings was that organizations
believe existing feedback mechanisms are sufficient for the development of
expertise; however, according to our research findings, frequent and candid
feedback is vital to anyone who wishes to sustain expert performance. In
addition, there should be a greater emphasis on the source of this feedback.
A powerful tool with great potential to help increase immediate feedback for
experts is the U.S. Army’s after-action review process (AAR) (Colvin, 2008).
The concept is simple: after any significant action, project members get
together immediately to discuss what worked, what could be improved and
what they would do differently. Part of the AAR’s strength is that it yields
candid feedback. When people understand what happened, they are keen to
try to do it better. Implemented properly, this process reinforces the principles
of immediate feedback and deliberate practice.
A fifth consideration is to strike a proper balance between intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation factors for employees who are interested in becoming
experts. Research in this area suggests that some people believe extrinsic
motivational criteria, like compensation and recognition, are more important
to attract and retain experts in the organization; however, based on our
research, we believe that experts at higher proficiency levels are often
motivated by more than just extrinsic factors. Having the ability to develop
other experts, practice expertise, hone skills and work in continuous learning
environments also provides great motivation.
Case Example: Developing Deep Expertise @ Accenture
Deep expertise is what drives Accenture’s overall competitive advantage.
Accenture’s CLO Don Vanthournout puts it this way: “If a company is to
leverage its workforce to create a distinct competitive advantage, it must
develop a strategic talent management function that can advance its
employees faster and more reliably along a clearly defined path” (2010).
Accenture believes in its CLO’s statement, including for novice-level
capabilities to more advanced levels characterized by deeper and more
specialized expertise. For that to happen, however, we must bring more
structure and rigor to bear on a host of activities - from mentoring to on-thejob
experience to collaboration - that take the organization and its people
well beyond the boundaries of traditional, formal training.
Accenture’s Capability Development group has created a “deep skills” and
“specialization” strategy, especially for customer-facing and first line
management roles. Capability Development is leading a program that will
have all Accenture consultants assessed and mapped to five levels of
proficiency among hundreds of key skills – what Accenture calls a “deep
specialization roadmap.”
Advancing toward more specialized skills and capabilities is not the same
thing as advancing up the career ladder. Typically, employees’ skills grow
and become increasingly specialized at one level of their careers, but when
they take the next step up the ladder, they may become beginners again.
Overall, the five-step path to specialization is generic. Accenture’s internal
learning function works with the business stakeholders to flesh out this
scaffolding into a specific “roadmap.” This defines what the various levels
mean for a given job, putting in place the enablers that can most effectively
advance workers toward those levels and accurately assessing when a worker
has achieved a new level of specialization.
The roadmap provides an Accenture employee with ongoing developmental
guidance that includes specific programs and activities. Capability
Development further works with organizational leadership to define the body
of knowledge and sources of expertise that are considered part of the canon
for a given specialty. They also define the skills, competencies and expected
levels of mastery for that area. This resulting skills model for workforces and
workgroups (see Figure 2 below) creates a basic framework that
encompasses the core, functional and specialized skills needed by every
Accenture employee across the enterprise.
FIGURE 2: Expertise Development Activities (Detailed) by Proficiency Level
Expertise Development Activities
Formal Learning
P0 - Trained
Having some prior project
or client experience in the
specific domain of
Participating in jobshadow
programs in the
specific domain of
Attending virtual or selfpaced
web-based training
sessions in a given
domain of expertise
Completing independent
study activities such as
reading business books,
reviews, and summaries
in a given domain of
Subscribing to internal
discussion forums and
Communities of Practice (CoP’s)
in a given domain of expertise
Completing internal profile
page, external profile pages (i.e.
Linked In, Facebook)
P1 – Novice
Creating the deliverables
for projects in a given
domain of expertise
Fostering a strong
relationship with your
project team and
implementing feedback
on your deliverables
Attending internal training
(online) in domain of
expertise (i.e. virtual boot
Actively participating in internal
discussion forums, CoP’s and
Wiki’s in a given domain of
Seeking a mentor (internal) in a
given domain of expertise
P2 - Proficient
Completing projects in a
given domain multiple
Reviewing and providing
feedback on deliverables
in a given domain of
expertise created by
members of your team
Attending internal
classroom training in a
given domain of expertise
Posting key deliverables or
assets to internal discussion
forums, CoP’s and Wiki’s in a
given domain of expertise
Coaching others in a given
domain of expertise
Attending a conference in a
given domain of expertise
Seeking a mentor (external) in a
given domain of expertise
Joining professional
organizations in a given
domain of expertise
34 P3 -
Getting involved in the
sales process/solution
architecting of solutions in
a given domain of
Ensuring the team is
following all appropriate
methods in a given
domain of expertise
Teaching an online
session or classroom
course on a topic in a
given domain of expertise
Getting certification in a
given domain of expertise
Leading internal discussion
forums, CoP’s and Wiki’s in a
given domain of expertise
Coaching others in a Becoming
an (internal) mentor in a given
domain of expertise
Contributing to professional
organizations (external) in a
given domain of expertise
P4 – Expert
Shaping and architecting
complex and large
solutions in a given
domain of expertise
connection points to apply
broader footprint to
solution in a given
domain of expertise
Focusing on developing
new tools and new assets
in a given domain of
Leading faculty for a
course or subject matter
expert for the topic
Getting an advanced
degree in a given domain
of expertise
Managing/governing internal
discussion forums, CoP’s and
Wiki’s in a given domain of
Leading internal assets and
methods development in a
given domain of expertise
Speaking at an external
conference in a given domain
of expertise
Employees can access their specialized Accenture Skills Profile from their
myLearning portal to see which skills they have, which skills they need to
acquire and which learning and development activities will get them
closer to the goal of deep specialization. Going forward, the team is
working to create more complex and multifaceted definitions of “mastery”
and “excellence” to build out the skills model in a rich and powerful way.
These definitions will go beyond skills to encompass behaviors,
experiences, connections, networks to find information, and patterns of
By focusing on deep expertise, Accenture is merging development and
knowledge management in an exciting way. Ultimately, organizations will
be judged on their level of expert knowledge (and how quickly they can
bring key staff up to that level). Already, Accenture is successfully merging
performance, skills, deep expertise and learning to develop a sustainable,
competitive advantage that positions the business for a bright future.
Dr. Raj Ramachandran is a Senior Manager with Accenture’s Talent &
Organizational Performance Management Consulting practice.
Learning Organizations: People Power?
Nigel Paine, The Learning CONSORTIUM
IBM once had a neat way of describing the future direction of IT systems.
It was called “autonomic computing” and referred to computers and
networks that had four distinct features: they were self-configuring, selfhealing,
self-optimizing and self-protecting. It may be that this glimpse
into the future of computing shines a light on the future direction of the
very best and most successful companies. Does that mean that we are all
going to become like computer chips in the vast corporate circuit board
that will be modern working life? I hope not. In fact, it will be very
different from that.
It is a simple truth that the ubiquitous “knowledge worker” cannot be forced
to be productive. He or she decides every morning whether to check their
brain at the reception desk or take it with them for the day. The old
“command and control” model that dominated employment structures will
not invigorate a modern organization where most of what we make cannot
be held, boxed-up or dropped on someone’s foot.
You get the best out of people by creating an environment where they feel
autonomous, empowered and connected - where they can network like
crazy -which is hardly command and control! But, if you ask the simple
question, “Do you feel that your employer is getting the best out of you?”
the number of employees answering an enthusiastic “yes” is well below
50%, and anything less than 80% - 90% means you are wasting your
human resources: pouring money down the drain and making people
feel lousy to boot.
In knowledge industries, you would think that learning is at the heart of
what makes them tick, but while many claim to be learning organizations
(and it was Drucker who first coined that term a decade or more ago),
under close scrutiny, very few actually fit that description. We have the
seeds of new possibilities still being constrained inside old ideas and
models. If we want really productive people, do not treat them like
machines. Spend a bit more time on the “people side” of things.
Lew Platt, the celebrated former head of Hewlett Packard, once said,
“If HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times as profitable.” And if
you substitute HP for virtually any company - whether public or private
sector, government department or charity - that still holds good: three times
as profitable, three times as effective or three times as creative. You pick.
Most of us do not even know that we do not really have a clue about what
our staff knows! We can count pennies precisely, but we have very little idea
of what is in our collective brain bank.
Learning organizations have a much clearer picture of that bank and
build structures that reward knowledge sharing, making it easier to find
out what employees already know (before embarking on something new).
Learning organizations trust that staff members will seek out information
and fix problems without being prodded to do so. They do not slice up
their learning budgets at the first sign of trouble on the horizon. On the
contrary, they increase their learning investments to drive staff productivity
and resilience.
Learning organizations display a number of distinct characteristics. The
first is they respect learning. Second, they learn from within and from
outside their organizations. Third, they share knowledge quickly among
staff, key stakeholders and customers (these are quite leaky places!).
Finally, they create environments where ideas and creativity are at a
premium and where failure is seen as a necessary, intrinsic part of
success. You cannot pick just one of those characteristics for your learning
organization: you must aspire to have all five!
It is not enough to tell your staff that they are your greatest asset if the line
manager is shouting at them for being late back from your pep talk or if
junior staff cannot be trusted to say the right thing outside the company
without prior permission to speak. Nor should your “greatest assets” feel
unchallenged, bored and unable to remember when they last learned
something at work!
A move to become a learning organization is more than a development
plan on the company intranet: it impacts the way you think and the way
you do everything. That is why these plans are so difficult to fully
implement. The rewards, however, are truly staggering, which takes us
back to IBM’s vision. It is possible to have a business that can work out
what is wrong and put it right (without recourse affecting consultants’ and
senior management vacation time). Why? Because your staff will be fired
up and look forward to coming to work to actively tackle those challenges
every day. Knowledge will spin continuously around the four corners of
the company and new ideas will be sucked in from the outside and
pushed out to partners and suppliers.
Learning is the killer “app” for the next iteration of work. It does and will
continue to differentiate between winning businesses and honorable
mentions. For the very first time, the tag line “learning organization”
might well be the welcome card to the future and organizational survival.
Not a bad prospect indeed.
Nigel Paine runs his own company, specializing in leadership, learning
and technology and works with The MASIE Center as their Learning

Part II: Under 30 Perspectives

Learning: Converting the Crash Dieters
to Lifelong Healthy Eaters
Liz Scott, ZS Associates
As a whole, western learning, much like western medicine, is reactive instead of
proactive. Rather than a generative, organic experience, learning is at times a
knee-jerk solution to an immediate need or discomfort. In its most ego-driven
form, learning becomes an antidote to a disease rather than a daily ritual of
A high school student who hasn’t implemented learning into the daily routine,
who seeks out a tutor the night before a test as a last ditch effort to pass a course;
a development team scurrying to patch up an on-site training audit that exposes
incompliant training courses; an under-performing school that pushes curriculum
focusing on passing standardized tests rather than teaching content. These are
all symptoms of a systemic weakness in the body of our learning doctrine.
How do you teach people to learn? How do you convert chronic crash dieters to
lifelong healthy eaters?
Because learning starts with a moment of need, planting that moment is critical to
reducing the necessity of reactive learning. Identifying viable learning delivery
modes, carving out time to exercise learning, and developing consistency in a
learning routine is what converts crash learners into lifelong learners.
Once the infrastructure of learning is in place, the opportunities – however
fleeting they may appear to be – can be more readily taken advantage of when
they arise. Failure to create a fertile environment for learning can turn it into a
grueling task for all (developers, instructors, learners) involved.
In order to shift our learning paradigm to an active experience, we need to
champion learning. No amount of intricately designed curricula or elaborate
instructional design can make up for the lack of a positive, healthful leader.
As a young learning professional, I see evidence of reactive learning occurring all
around me and find it disheartening. Those who have an MBA or who have
achieved early in their careers find that they can discontinue learning or internal
training since they have paid their dues. They treat learning as an achievement in
and of itself rather than an active way of life.
Think of your coordinators, designers, and instructors as personal trainers and
nutritionists rather than emergency surgeons. Learning is a lifestyle, not crash
course. Take it in stride.
Inspiration and eLearning
Linda Backo, PPL
Geek by day, guitarist by night -- I find inspiration in the craziest of places. Take
this reflection paper, for example. Originally, I wrote a dry, white paper about
all of the technical speak surrounding inspiration and eLearning. Trust me, you
wouldn’t have been inspired. You probably would have skimmed it and kept
on going to the next article.
Then, on the drive in to work this morning, I heard a song that changed it all.
Why this change? Two reasons:
1. It changed my mood and set my day off with a bang.
2. This is the first time I’ve heard the song and I can’t get those lyrics out
of my head.
I’m not sure this was the greatest song I’ve ever heard, but it hit me in the right
way, at the right time. Sounds a little like Just in Time Training, doesn’t it?
Maybe inspiration in eLearning is as easy as writing a good hook. We need
something to pique the interest of the learner, something grabby. My co-worker
calls this shock value. I’m not into shock, so for my purposes, we can call it
There have been dozens of books written on the subject. In my experience, this
can take the form of a personal testimonial from someone who is affected if the
job is done incorrectly or unsafely, or an insightful message from a worker who
had a near-miss.
Perhaps this is my marketing undergrad coming to the surface, but if I have to
reflect upon the state of eLearning today, I think we need to breathe the life
back into most of it. We have to really sell it and leave them wanting more. We
have to make them walk away humming our tune and carrying our message
back to apply on the job. Not only that, we have to make them inspire others.
Make them want to share that message, contribute to that discussion board,
pass on that mix tape.
And let’s face it, although we are a strong medium, we could always use more
Do I have you inspired? Want to learn more? Can’t live without knowing what
that song was? Come find me in Florida!
Access and Opportunities
Ben Betts, HT2 Ltd
Mobile access to the Internet is growing at twice the rate than desktop
access ever has. The human race spends more than three billion hours a
week playing online computer games. One in ten people in the world
has a Facebook account. I believe that trends in Internet technology like
mobile, gaming and social media are way more than just fads. These
emergent technologies have taken a fascinating grip on society because
they hook into the visceral emotions that underpin our very motivation to
create new meaning.
I believe author Dan Pink summarized it best when he highlighted the
three keys to our enduring motivation as Autonomy, Mastery and
Purpose. Let me expand a little more on these terms.
Pink tells us that Autonomy is fundamental to our engagement in a given
environment. He’s not alone in his thinking! When Traci Sitzmann
investigated the role of ‘control’ in Web-Based Instruction, she found
online learning to be more effective when learners had a higher degree
of control of the content, pace and sequence of content. But Autonomy
goes deeper than this. When Professor Ellen Langer gave care home
patients more control over their daily routine, not only did their happiness
improve but they actually lived longer than their nursed counterparts.
Control can make you live longer, that’s how important it is.
Mastery is something which we all desire says Pink; we have a drive to get
better at something that matters. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi showed us the
path to Mastery with his theory of Flow; the concept of being “in the
zone”. Jane McGonigal tells us that games have the power to create epic
moments; events that are so overwhelmingly positive as to have never
even been thought possible to achieve by the player. The ability to
engage people in a flow-like state to achieve great things is exactly what
game designers play off in order to create best selling titles, which absorb
us for hours, days and weeks.
Finally, Pink believes that the pursuit of Purpose is our destiny, our reason
for being. Abraham Maslow told us that whatever a man can be, he
must be. To become fulfilled people must reach higher, give back to
others and influence beyond their given boundaries. Tom Malone added
to this saying that we also seek Glory; that others might see us doing
good and associate us with that deed.
For me, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are synonymous with Mobile,
Gaming and Social. Mobile internet gives us the ultimate control over
our learning. Games allow us to get better and better at something that
matters. And Social Media gives us the opportunity to seek out Purpose,
to contribute back and to be recognized for doing so.
These technologies are here to stay because they represent so much more
than the ability to phone, to score points and to poke. We must embrace
them in our efforts to help others learn more effectively because, for once,
the research tells us that these things work!
It’s Curtains for the LMS
Joe Beaudry, Verizon Wireless
As non-traditional forms of learning take center stage, the Learning
Management System (LMS) will need to exit stage-right and make a quick
wardrobe change. On-Demand access to valuable self-directed learning is
more accessible than ever. Social networks, videos, blogs, podcasts, forums
and wikis are now our first stop for enlightenment; the LMS must adapt.
One major reason a company chooses to use an LMS is to track the learning
and development of its employees. More and more, this learning and
development is taking place outside of dedicated learning applications. The
LMS of the future will be tasked with tracking multiple data points across
disparate systems to provide a concise report far beyond course completion
Much like the web has evolved from simple hit counters to deep contextual
analysis with campaigns inside Google Analytics, so too will the LMS of the
future face a similar evolution. More meaningful analytics much like those
that Google collects would greatly benefit training organizations. To
effectively track the learning and development of employees, the LMS of the
future will provide a big picture view of employee activity across all
knowledge transfer systems, traditional and non-traditional. The simplistic
reporting features of most Learning Management Systems will be replaced by
visual representations of the various data points in a more useful way.
Training organizations will be able to create learning campaigns on anything
from products and services to policies and procedures. The analytics
provided on these learning campaigns will provide a way to identify
knowledge gaps and training opportunities. For example, the learning
campaign of a new process might identify employees who scored high on
formal training and those who are constantly answering questions in a Q&A
forum. By aggregating this data, an updated training module could be
released using the newly identified subject matter experts to provide real
world insight on the process.
There is one additional major change on the horizon for the LMS. Learners
will no longer interact directly with archaic LMS user interfaces designed
without aesthetics or ease of use in mind. Training and learning events will
be deployed when and where they are needed. An e-learning course might
be launched directly from a company intranet news article or a mobile
learning course might be launched from a smartphone or tablet at a job site.
Gone will be the days of logging in to a Learning Management System to
access your training. Traditional and non-traditional training will seamlessly
blend into the tools and resources already in use.
The LMS of the future will become invisible to the learner while providing a
more relevant analytical overview to the training organization. It will also
provide contextual analysis and a complete view across all knowledge
transfer data points. The next act has begun and the crowd is waiting. Let’s
hope the actors know their places.
Engaging Learners Through Gaming
Lacey Grande, Ogilvy & Mather
Advancements in technology have not only changed the way people
communicate with one another, but also how they learn. Companies quickly
adopt the latest trends in eLearning and social networking to try to create
virtual learning experiences that we think will engage and excite our
employees (guilty as charged), but are we using these tools to the best of their
capabilities? Are we too quickly trying to step away from traditional methods
of learning in order to embrace social media that we neglect other forms of
engaging with learners? The one area we should be focus on for the future
of learning is the use of gaming in eLearning design.
Virtual learning in any format is a powerful tool, especially when it gives the
learner full control over when and how they learn. That kind of control
allows for flexibility, convenience and limited distractions that serve to
enhance their learning experience. More often than not I notice instructional
designers revert to synching lectures to PowerPoints, add in a quick
interaction and push it live. Realistically, how much information is a person
retaining when they’re watching PowerPoint slides that automatically
advance? How can we virtually push learners beyond familiarizing
themselves with the content just so they can pass the quiz at the end of the
module and move on to the next?
The answer: the adoption of gaming techniques in eLearning instructional
design. We’ve all created game-like activities in a live classroom setting, and
school teachers have been using games to teach children for years. Why
then wouldn’t we strive to create similar activities online? While often
overlooked because of a few negative stereotypes, the online gaming industry
has had it right all along. Gaming creates a virtual action-learning
environment that challenges players to take risks and make discoveries on
their own.
To reach a level of proficiency and unconscious competence of a skill or new
information, a learner must reach a desired outcome without realizing how
they got there. What better way to do this than through game-like
experiences where learners are repeatedly rewarded by successfully
completing challenges? I challenge instructional designers (myself included)
to start experimenting with the use of gaming techniques in the design of
eLearning courses, so we can find best in-class practices to teach through
entertaining our learners.
Learning Together To Change the World
Elizabeth Musar, InsideNGO
To me, learning is social. If I don’t learn something from another person,
then I can’t wait to teach it to another person. There’s a moment of
communication where information becomes knowledge, and knowledge can
launch a movement.
From my seat in the international, non-profit world, I’m excited about how we in
the learning profession can create the environment to empower that
communication that can change the world. I’ve been lucky enough to see the
huge impacts of small-scale, locally-based initiatives on the day-to-day lives of
community members. From microfinance, ecotourism projects to community
health initiatives, the leaders of the movements are eager to share their successes,
challenges, and tactics with the larger global community. They want to shout
from the rooftops, hoping for a reply, an answer, or just a new perspective from
the big, wide world – they want to know they’re not alone. But unless that rooftop
is connected to the right website, network, or listserv, they’re just shouting into the
wind, and we miss another opportunity to move forward.
If the Digital Age was about the democratization of information, then let’s
make this the Learning Age and the birth of the democratization of
education. We’ve been steadily laying the groundwork for a global network
of learning and collaboration – we have wikis and Facebook walls and
Google searches aplenty. The online tools exist to gather the crowd and start
the sharing, but we are still missing something. We’re missing the universally
empowering call to arms, the open invitation to share and learn with the one
goal of progress. We’re missing the equal access and acceptance for every
learner to come as they are and seek their own path. The learning
community can help create this shift, though.
When gazing into the crystal ball of global change, I’m excited about the
idea of designing the tools that create a space for conversation and then
opening the floor to anyone who wants to speak. Let’s share ideas,
concerns, results, and failures in a classroom that isn’t just connected by wires
or walls, but instead by motivation and mission. The conversation will
happen because we’ve empowered local communities to think of themselves
as global teachers with the right to a global classroom. More importantly, we
all have the right to a global education – in the Learning Age, we have the
right, the expectation, and the means to learn from one another, regardless
of borders and barriers. Once we can tap into that human desire to share
and connect, I’m hopeful that all we, the learning professionals, need to do is
open the door and then get out of the way.
Learning is social, so let’s start the conversation and change the world.
Underemployed or Unprepared?
Kaylea Howarth, Alliance Pipeline
Born into a world infused with technology, Generation Y has been anticipated
as creative, adaptive, and eager. We live and breathe technologies, and as a
result: we read and write differently; we learn differently; we interact differently.
But as the first wave of digital natives to enter the workforce, the impact of our
technology-dependent development is revealing itself under the fluorescent
lights of the modern American office. In fact, many employers are seeing the
esteemed technological fluency of our generation as the one bright spot
among a sea of deficiencies.
Today's high school and university graduates are being ushered into an
economy boasting the worst youth unemployment in decades. Yet the economy
isn't the only one closing doors – employers expect young people to arrive in
the workplace with a set of basic and applied skills, and research shows our
generation is simply not living up to the expectations.
According to a study performed by Corporate Voices for Working Families,
employers are reporting that entry-level employees, ranging from high school
graduates to those holding bachelor's degrees, are drastically unprepared to
operate in the modern workforce, lacking the soft skills required for them to
succeed. Particular sore spots include oral and written communications,
professionalism, work ethic, and self-direction.
Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. We learned to take shortcuts at the
same time we learned 'the long way of doing things.’ Our preferred method of
communication at a developmental age was disjointed and expedient, and it
has hindered our ability to construct cohesive written communications. Our
dependence on text-based communication is so extreme that many kids today
can hardly hold eye contact, let alone harbor the skills to succeed in face-toface
or telephone interviews. As a generation, we struggle with professionalism,
work ethic, and self-direction because our (well-meaning) baby boomer
parents have worked to remove every obstacle from our lives of convenience,
protecting us from the struggles and responsibilities they faced as children. As a
result, we've missed out on fundamental situational learning experiences that
may have cultivated these skills.
In the face of the current skills gap, the business and education communities
need to partner to close the gap with recent graduates and give successive
generations a fighting chance by introducing sustainable learning opportunities
to students at a younger age. Where students are failing to develop the
necessary skills in our modern society, we need to ensure they’ve at least been
given the right tools. Employers could provide remedial skills training as part of
a new employee's onboarding as well as arrange on-the-job mentorship where
necessary. At a younger age, the importance of written and oral
communications, including effective business writing, needs to be reinforced.
Necessary behavioral applied skills transcend the walls of just one classroom,
but a business and education partnership could produce a series of relevant
interdisciplinary projects, after-school programs, work experience
arrangements, and seminars.
With much of the workforce nearing retirement, it’s crucial that we harness this
knowledge and use it to equip future employees with the necessary academic
and behavioral tools to not only succeed in the workplace but to revolutionize it.
Conscious Incompetence
Doug Livas, Moss Adams, LLP
They say if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. And if
what they say is true, then I am just another “part” of what I see as the
Every year near the end of September, I find myself in a similar mood. The
same bittersweet taste in my mouth and aching in my legs. The summer “busy
season” behind me, which entails (among other things) the coordination and
delivery of numerous multi-day, live classroom instructor-led conferences that
reach 500+ total attendees and the use of 25+ practicing professionals who
take time away from their “day job” and billable hours to facilitate.
Of course there is a certain sense of accomplishment and relief after having
delivered the conferences on schedule, within budget and with what is viewed
as “good and relevant content.” I’ve even learned to laugh at the evaluation
results that focus on the “uncomfortable chairs,” “terrible food” and “cold
classrooms.” But I can’t help but to ask myself, are all the time and resources
that we invest in the development of the presentations and/or activities for the
classroom really worth it? Or what kinds of simple and effective “support”
could we supplement the classroom event with, both prior to and afterwards,
that would make that investment yield that much more?! And for that matter,
how can I evaluate the yield on the investment at all?!
Whether it’s Knowles’ theory of adult learning, the 6 D’s of Breakthrough
Learning or Kirkpatrick’s model of learning evaluation, etc, EVERYONE
READING THIS ARTICLE knows that there is so much more to an effective
learning experience and changing behavior than what happens in a
classroom. And in my observations, the most effective learning doesn’t even
require a classroom at all! It happens on the job, it happens during team
work/planning sessions, it happens through mentoring/coaching, it happens
through trial, error and thoughtful feedback.
But if everyone reading this knows this, why do we constantly put resources into
classrooms instead of taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture?
How can we get the learner’s manager/supervisor involved in support of the
training? What “content” can we take out of the classroom and provide via
some other delivery method so that the time in the classroom is spent on more
meaningful things than “death by PowerPoint?” At what level are attendees
performing at prior to the training event and at what level are they performing
after the training event? How do we as a learning organization and/or a
company as a whole define a successful training event - is it an average of 4.5
out of 5 in our Level I evaluations?
I’m afraid I’ve raised more questions in this article than answers. But remember
I’m just as culpable as any of you. If while reading this article you said to
yourself “he must be talking to someone else,” please look me up because I’d
love to hear and learn from your story!
Exciting the Learner
Aviva Leebow, Pacesetter Steel Service, Inc.
Boring ¨ Lecture ¨ Classroom ¨ Power Point ¨ Books ¨ Waste of Time ¨
Irrelevant ¨ Pointless ¨ Extra Work ¨ No Rewards
These are the initial impressions that come to mind when training, education,
and development are mentioned to someone outside the world of learning.
These are the obstacles that we as learning professionals must overcome for
our programs to be successful. We are not just educators, but more
importantly we are motivators. We motivate others to look at themselves and
see room for continual growth and improvement through exciting new
challenges. It is all about the perspective and attitude that we as learning
leaders must provide to those we serve.
One might say that you can’t change attitudes or people. To some extent that
is true. Nobody will change, if they do not want to change. But we can provide
people with reasons to see things differently. Our challenge as learning
leaders is to change the perception of learning in general. We want the first
words to come to mind after you say training or education to be:
Exciting ¨ Fun ¨ Creative ¨ Innovative ¨ Challenging ¨ Engaging ¨ Interactive ¨
Growth ¨ Opportunity ¨ Future ¨ Dreams ¨ Endless Possibilities
So how do we get from boring to fun and exciting?
From no rewards to endless possibilities?
We show people that learning is not what they remember from middle school,
high school or college. People shutter at the idea of new educational
experiences because they remember sitting in the classroom listening to
teachers while the material went in one ear and out the other. They had to
memorize things for the sake of memorizing. They had to learn things that had
no practical use in their lives. It was boring. But because it was does not mean
it needs to continue to be.
We need to give people a reason to change their ATTITUDES.
We need to MOTIVATE them. We must show them that learning is FUN.
All learning experiences should be relevant to a purpose. They should be
delivered in fun and innovative ways. Games, activities, interactive classrooms,
discussions, hands on practical applications, etc. are all extremely useful tools.
They engage the learner and keep them interested on a more personal level.
They give the learner a role in their learning experience, which empowers
We must remind others that learning surrounds us. Education does not solely
happen in a classroom or a formalized activity. It happens through everyday
interactions. Discussions with others, mistakes we make, things we read or
hear, etc. Learning is a continual process, if we embrace it. Every moment
includes something to be gained. However, it’s easy to take moments for
granted and pass up on amazing opportunities to follow our dreams. If we
can send the message that learning is about personal growth, that it does not
have to be formalized, and that it can be exciting and fun, we can fight those
initial impressions.
“Question? Try Twitter!”
My Take on Social Networking
Rachel Donley, BGSU Student
Social networking in the workplace has become a hot topic recently, with most
organizations and employees having a strong opinion either for or against its
use. Certainly every organization needs to evaluate the benefits and risks, but
let me add my opinion in favor of social networking as an educational tool.
More specifically, I believe the need for Learning on Demand is increasing, and
social networking is a powerful tool available to deliver this as part of a
blended learning environment.
Even the most effective learning leaders cannot deliver training for every
situation an employee will encounter, and Learning on Demand provides a
solution to cover those gaps. It generally consists of electronic resources, such
as databases, eLearning Modules, and video clips, that employees can access
when needed. But what if the answer is not in the database? Many of us would
try to find someone who is knowledgeable about the topic and may have the
answer. Often, the best source of information is another employee, and that's
what makes social networking such a powerful tool.
Social networking provides almost unlimited connection potential to knowledge
sources. It also provides a tool for groups of colleagues to discuss and share
their ideas and findings, allowing new solutions to be invented and distributed.
Imagine tweeting a question regarding a particularly difficult problem and
having the CEO respond with his/her opinion! Social networking breaks down
traditional boundaries, allowing information and knowledge sharing to occur
across departments, countries, and levels within an organization.
Many organizations are hesitant to allow open access to social networking
based on valid concerns. Foremost among them are privacy and security risks.
Employees must be careful not to disclose proprietary or confidential
information on an open social network, including links to such content. A clear
policy should be in place to provide guidelines and, in certain industries, it may
be advisable to utilize a company-specific social networking site to eliminate
outside access. Additionally, information accuracy is a concern. Similar to
consulting a co-worker, the source of the information needs to be considered.
Employees should utilize social networking as a tool for communication and
collaboration, but critically evaluate all information before taking action.
With guidelines in place, appropriate use of social networking can be a
valuable tool for learning and development. Most individuals are already
utilizing some form of social networking for personal and/or professional
development and this will only increase as younger workers graduate and enter
the workforce. The shift to utilizing social networking for Learning on Demand
would, for most, be an easy one, and may indeed be a natural evolution of
Web 2.0 technology. As we look to adopt new technological tools, my hope is
organizations will keep an open mind regarding social networking and its
benefits as a learning tool.
Learning by Falling
Jen Vetter, TorranceLearning
I love learning. I love watching others learn even more. I especially love when
those learners are five years old or younger.
No, I don’t teach five-year-olds about sales or policies and procedures. In my
spare time, I coach a Learn to Play Hockey program at the local ice rink, and
my learners are…well, you guessed it: five years old.
There’s something incredible about watching a child learn, especially when it’s
a physical skill you can see. When a young player (let’s be honest, or an older
player) is learning how to skate, there’s a lot of falling. A lot. Imagine: you
step out onto a cold, glistening sheet of ice in boots with steel blades, along
with equipment covering your body (it weighs as much as you do)… and then
you fall. Most of the time, there are a lot of tears involved.
But the beautiful part is that you get back up. And that time that you spent on
your backside? It’s already in the past, because now you know that leaning
backwards in your skates is never a good idea. So, you keep moving. Fall,
learn, get up…Fall, learn, get up… Before you know it, you’re zooming around
on the ice. And each time someone falls, or collides with another player,
everyone involved learns something from the mistake.
I find it a little strange that this method of learning seems to fade as we get
older. As adults, we see this in exams or evaluations where you have one shot
to show what you can do. We are expected to learn at a moment’s notice, with
little or no ability to “fall” and then learn from the choices we made. But isn’t
this exactly how we discovered so much at such a young age? I remember
hearing so many adages growing up that reinforced this idea (these sayings
normally involved falling off horses or bicycles). What changed?
My favorite type of course to build or take is one that gives the learner an
opportunity to fail first. What’s the harm? As trainers, it’s our job to create a
safe environment where our learners feel comfortable to jump in feet first. In
my mind, it’s what learning is all about. Otherwise, how would we ever know
what the consequence of a bad decision is? At my work, we’ve implemented
this idea in eLearning courses just by using quiz feedback that is focused on the
why, and not necessarily the right or wrong answer. It’s okay if the learner gets
the question wrong.
As a trainer, you can give your learners the power to take their education into
their own hands, and learn from their mistakes. Learners can receive so much
more than just instruction. This way, they have the opportunity to achieve and
discover more than they ever would if they were never allowed to fall off the
horse…or the bike…or the skates…
What Happened to OJT?
Michelle Thompson, Poole and Associates
With the big push in organizations to “e-ify” everything, many learning
methodologies are getting pushed aside for the latest and greatest new
technologies that deliver training. But, does new always equal better? How
does this affect the segment of the workforce that is not technically literate or
does not have access to these technologies in their line of work? How does this
affect learners with various learning styles or learning disabilities?
Since the beginning of time, on-the-job training has been an integral part of
preparing the next generation of workers. A father teaching his son how to
plow the earth, so he can learn to farm. Apprentices learning trades like
blacksmithing or woodworking. On-the-job training is effective, cheap, and
easy to implement. So, why are so many companies turning their back on this
tried and true method? Is the allure of flashing graphics, text, and videos too
much? E-Learning is a powerful and effective tool to train learners anywhere,
anytime, and any place, but it is not the only learning tool we have available.
As learning professionals, it is important to keep an objective eye and make
sure we are implementing a holistic approach to learning. This means
developing a complete learning package that takes advantage of all the
learning methodologies and accommodates the various learning styles, so that
each person is effectively trained for their job. Learners readily have access to
their peers on the job so it is just as easy and advantageous to use the
knowledge these workers, who have been there and done that in their job and
can transfer their knowledge to the next wave of learners.
Incorporating a standardized (which is key to ensure every learner is getting a
similar learning experience) on-the-job training initiative is not only beneficial to
the learners, but is also a way to actively engage all of your workers in the
learning process. Who knows, perhaps the teacher will learn something from
the student as they exchange their knowledge and skills. This would benefit the
organization as a whole, not only from the exchange of knowledge, but also
the teambuilding that occurs.
Ultimately at the end of the day, they just need to know how to do their job
effectively. Whether they learn it from sparkly buttons and fireworks or the
office sage, they just need to know it.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:
Developing Training for the Learner
Emily Fearnside, General Mills
Is there anything worse than sitting through a class in which the trainer simply
reads the on-screen bullet points verbatim to the audience? Have you ever
regretted the arrival of eLearning more than you do when feverishly clicking
through one hundred slides just to answer one multiple choice question at the
end? While we may have all answered “no” to these questions, we continue to
deliver exactly those types of trainings.
Too frequently as trainers, we choose whichever delivery format creates the
least amount of work for us, whether it’s eLearning (to eliminate interaction with
our learners) or an abundance of bullet points on a slide (so we don’t have to
rehearse what we intend to say). If we are uncomfortable with technology, we
choose standard classroom training. Conversely, if we feel out of place
standing in front of an audience, we may be tempted to create online learning
to avoid our fears.
While eLearning may be an excellent tool for raising general awareness
around a certain subject matter, we need to proceed with extreme caution to be
sure that we are developing eLearning for the right reasons and not just
because it’s the newest tool available. As members of Generation Y, we are
often tempted to create a massive library of eLearning on various subject
matters. Who can argue against the benefit of training that is available on
demand, in the learner’s moment of need? However, we should consider what
stands to be lost if all training is online: being in a classroom with other
learners who can add to a rich discussion, offer their own subject matter
expertise and provide real-life examples of concept application.
Classroom training is one of the most effective methods of delivery that we
have available to us, and yet we refuse to give it the attention it deserves.
Rather than spending a significant amount of time practicing our “pitches,” we
wait until the last minute to put our thoughts into an organized list of bullet
points and then rely heavily on what appears on-screen to remind us what it is
we need to be teaching. I am challenging you to instead use your bullet points
in the “notes” section as memory joggers and dedicate your valuable visual
space to images, graphics or video clips; anything that will create a mental
image for your learners to grasp and apply what you’re teaching them when
they’re back in their daily jobs.
In order to deliver training that captures our learners’ attention, allows them to
actively demonstrate changed behaviors on the job, and stands out in their
minds as “the best training I’ve ever received,” let us put the needs of our
learners ahead of our need for convenience and comfort.
Just Ask
Katie Mack, Westinghouse Electric Company
Recently while I was instructing a conflict resolution course I was struggling to
explain the rationale behind the “yielding” option during a conflict. I tried
explaining how I would apply this principle but it was not resonating with my
learner. All of the sudden, advice that a very wise person (my mother) once
told me popped into my head, if you take the time to ask questions and listen
to the responses, you’ll be successful.
Snapping back to the classroom, I thought “why not?” and I started asking
questions: “what might the benefits of yielding be?”; “why yielding might a
goodwill gesture?” As we worked through the answers it was fantastic to see the
moment when the learner heard his response to my questions and “got it.” I
was able to navigate the learner to my ultimate end goal (recognizing the
benefits of yielding) but rather than forcing the issue, he was able to self identify
the benefits by listening to his responses to my questions.
Looking back on this experience, I am amazed at the way a series of simple
questions really opened up the discussion between me and the learner. It would
have been very easy to for me to continue the lecture or put forth my own
opinions but by involving the learner I was able to gain commitment for the rest
of the session. For the rest of the day this individual was willing to share ideas,
perspectives and ask me questions. I’m convinced that this was due to his
experience in answering my questions and my willingness to listen to the
responses. This learner was able to teach himself why this concept was
important and because of this, I believe his motivation to learn was increased
because he was able to put learning into his own words. The best part about
this experience was that this questioning and engagement was contagious,
once the rest of the class saw the “ah ha” moment of the one learner, they
became more questioning and engaged themselves.
So many of the learners that I have in the classroom are constantly being
pulled in a million different directions by BlackBerrys, email, Instant Messager,
managers’ demands, and the list goes on. So how can I capture their
attention and focus? After this experience, I’ve used questioning as a way to
pull the learners into the material and consistently it works. There is nothing
better than watching as someone gets it, or figures out how he or she is going
to apply these skills or knowledge on the job.
Too often I believe we as learning professionals get so caught up with staying
on time, following the lesson plan and covering the topics in the order
presented, that we lose focus of our learners. By focusing on one of the
fundamental instructor skills, asking questions, we are better able to engage
and guide them to achievement of our end results, the application of
knowledge and skills. Doesn’t it seem worthwhile to question?
Passion for Learning
Sarah Carr, Google
It is time for us to drastically change the way we approach education. Our
current educational infrastructure is still modeled after the factory-style
education of the Industrial Revolution. Experts dispense pieces of content;
students absorb the information. This is a gross oversimplification to prove my
point, but there must be a dramatic shift of philosophy and practices to reach
the next generation of learners. I don’t want to discredit changes that have
taken place, but it’s neither fast enough nor extreme enough.
The necessary change is this: Our teachers must become facilitators. Our
students must become learners. We must stop teaching and training and start
It is not the specific words that I’m attached to -- it’s the philosophy. You can
use whatever educational buzzword that tickles you. No, I am much more
passionate about creating an educational environment that supports the way
many of us already learn.
Gone are the days when teachers are the definitive subject-matter expert.
We’ve been inundated with content, overwhelmed with words and images,
movies and diagrams, so much so that we’re swimming in a flood of data.
Today’s teacher must develop the ability to facilitate discovery and bring
meaning to the glut of information.
Facilitators can help learners determine which sources are useful. They make
connections to other disciplines, contexts, and thoughts, helping a learner fit
content into the complex mental maps he is building. But, most importantly,
the facilitator helps the learner evaluate how he learns and where gaps exists in
his knowledge.
Shifting our attention to the learner, it is this self-reflective process of examining
what you know and what you don’t know, called metacognition, that separates
the learner from the student. A learner is empowered to seek information and
expertise. Instead of relying on someone to provide the answers, he expects
questions and guidance along the path to discovery.
Imagine the power the learner has gained; he is the master of his educational
destiny! No longer must he wait for someone to teach him. Instead, he
communicates what he wants to know and how he wants to learn it to anyone
willing to listen. I think William Butler Yeats said it best: “Education is not the
filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Too many students struggle to
connect what they learn to their everyday lives and our teachers fail to make the
necessary connections. It is this passion and excitement for learning that will
revitalize education in this country, for children and adults alike.
And while shifting to these new roles is a positive start, the flexibility to move
between these roles is absolutely critical. The best facilitators are often the best
learners, and vice versa. It is only in creating a collaborative environment
where each person has the opportunity to learn from another that we’ll
You’re here because you’re passionate about learning. Then ask yourself this -
- what have you done lately to cultivate a fire in your learners? What could you
do tomorrow?
Gamifying Learning with Social Gaming
Enzo Silva, Oracle Corporation
“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a
time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection
between them.” - Leo F. Buscaglia
A simple definition of a game is “a series of enjoyable yet challenging
meaningful choices” a player makes throughout the experience. This concept
also relates to learning design in general: educators help learners make several
choices throughout their learning experience as they move from one
challenging task to the next and through problem solving, reach the goals
which are clearly stated at the beginning of the experience. Experts in Education
have a growing interest in adopting game design principles and mechanics in
the design of instruction.
Even though video games have come a long way in the past decades with the
advent of new technologies, a current trend in gaming seems to be going back
to the basic underlying principle of creating a fun experience: the fact that the
nature of play is social. It is the expansion of social gaming. Some examples of
services with social gaming experiences are social check-in services such as
Foursquare and Gowalla and real-time simulation games such as FarmVille
and GodFinger.
These services share a set of common elements based on basic behavioral
psychology which could be applied to learning experiences in order to “gamify”
them, increasing motivation and engagement.
• Customization: On FarmVille and GodFinger, for instance, players
can customize their own world/farm. Customization can create a
higher sense of attachment between the player and the environment,
increasing the changes of long-term engagement.
• Community interaction: Players interact not only with the
environment as they progress through tasks and challenges but also
with other players. It is common to have a form of market amongst
friends in the game which lets players request services from other
players for a reward.
• Leaderboards: In the case of Mafia Wars which is a highly textbased
social game played on Facebook, players compete against
friends and people they know. Competition is a great motivational
factor present in several game genres.
• Rewards and collecting: In Gowalla, for instance, players can
collect items at certain locations. Items are left behind by players who
want to become founders of a venue. Also, badges are a common
way of rewarding players for achievements, allowing players to
express those achievements to others in the community.
• Location-awareness: Mobile platform-based social games and
applications can gather data from the players’ surroundings, making
it possible for them to check-in and interact with other players around
them as well as retrieve contextual information specific to that
location. This can lead to community formation and knowledge
• Mobility: Several social games are available on an array of mobile
platforms, having players’ profiles and achievements shared across
Designers and developers in the learning field should pay close attention to
how social games are structured so that similar principles of player motivation,
retention and sense of achievement
Incorporating the Human Touch in Online
Jessica Sanderson, Cleveland Clinic
Building relationships is a key part of learning. Often in online education
learners and educators feel a disconnect from one another more so than in
face to face education. In a classroom you can see body language, facial
expressions and different personalities, but those characteristics are sometimes
not as evident online.
Incorporating the human touch into online education is key to engaging your
learners and filling that disconnect learners and educators often feel. Using
discussion boards, videos, images and other multimedia can help close this
disconnect and bring your online education to life.
Discussion boards are a great way to communicate and share thoughts with
one another. So often learns believe that there is robot somewhere grading
papers, and not considering the educator or peers on the other end. Creating a
forum, or a question and answer area within a online environment will help
show there is a real person on the other end providing feedback. As the
communications continue and relationships build, you start to paint a picture of
the people you’ve been communicating with.
Adding a profile picture or sharing family photos is another way to bring the
human touch into online education. Often I hear “It’s so nice to put a face to
the name” when I’ve been communicating with someone online. Providing a
space where learners and educators can share photographs will take the
guessing out of painting that picture.
Words on a screen and photographs sometimes are not enough to fully
remove the disconnect. Part of the classroom experience is hearing the teachers
voice and watching their mannerisms as they instruct. Videos are frequently
used to bring content to life, but we can also use them to bring ourselves to
life. Adding video introductions or summations into your online environment
can help to fully close that disconnect learners and educators often feel.
So ask yourself, as an educator how can I incorporate my human touch into
online education? As a learner, what disconnects do I feel between my peers
and educator? Answering these questions will help you fill the disconnect in
your organization.
The changing expectations of learners
and the LMS
Connor Gormley, FM Global
Where would you go learn how to install a wireless network in your home?
How about finding ways to fix a leaky roof? If you are like most people, you
will likely go to Google, YouTube, or a similar resource. The whole process
to find the desired knowledge will likely only take a few clicks. Now think
about how you would find information from online training available within
your organization’s LMS. You will possibility navigate internal web pages,
login to the LMS, browse the training offerings, and then locate the piece of
the training you need within a course. Locating and navigating to learning
assets within an LMS is typically many more clicks than other technologies
that we use every day.
The ease of access to knowledge has become an expectation of learners that
needs to be recognized by organizations. Web 2.0 technologies are moving
learning to new places, mostly outside of the LMS, and we need to make sure
that this shift doesn’t result in the LMS layers decreasing access to learning.
Most organizations are so focused on uploading online courses to their LMS
that they may not consider the changing technology expectations of learners.
While there are criticisms for learning management systems, I don’t discredit
the successes they have enabled in the education and training industries.
Students in rural school districts can participate in courses through an LMS
that they would never have the opportunity to participate in otherwise.
Corporations are providing consistent and cost-effective training to a global
audience through learning management systems. Most importantly, the LMS
provides us with functionality today that we can’t get by using a decentralized
learning strategy of stand-alone web 2.0 tools. The LMS helps us organize,
measure, and track learners and learning initiatives which is critical for
assessing student progress or analyzing ROI. Yes, providing ROI data is
critical to ensuring support for the growth of distance learning, but how much
data is enough? As we keep layering access to our learning content,
utilization is unlikely to reach peak.
Does the LMS limit learning today because of the learner’s changing
technology expectations? I would say it is starting to, and is becoming
increasingly limiting every day. The LMS needs to adapt to system capability
expectations that we as learners gain from the other technology we use
throughout our day. If I can search content on Google to go directly to the
knowledge I need, I expect to be able to search the content of online courses
in my LMS.
The gap between learner’s technology expectations and the functionality of
learning management systems can result in frustration, which discourages
learners from getting to content. There is not a single solution to this
problem, but we need to take steps toward making on-demand learning
assets easily accessible. As learning professionals, we need to strategically
plan for the changing technology expectations of learners. The role and
functionality of the LMS will need to change.
Getting Beyond the Formal Classroom
Grant Velie, Farmers Insurance
Learning is more about what happens outside the classroom or virtual session
than it is about the actual training. This leaves Learning and Development
needing to adjust our methods to become true business partners that not only
facilitate events, but contribute to performance improvement. While there are
many formal and invasive mechanisms used to try and accomplish this (think
organizational structure changes), there are actions L&D professionals can take
on a daily basis to harness informal learning.
Management Participation (Not Just Approval)
All too often, management participation is used to describe situations where the
management team “signed-off” on a given project. While necessary, going the
next step and getting them involved is the key. Having the leadership team
participating from the beginning not only ensures we are focusing on the
correct knowledge, skills, and attitudes to generate positive business outcomes,
but also puts the leadership team in a position to take what is accomplished in
the classroom and provide the right mix of incentives, coaching, and
performance management to allow these behaviors to flourish.
Peer Mentoring
Who better to have as a resource than someone the management team has
selected as an exemplary employee? Throughout the onboarding process,
connecting a new employee with a peer mentor gives that individual an
additional outlet for questions and an opportunity to hone the new skills they
acquired. This is a win-win situation – the new employee gains another
resource and the tenured employee gains experience coaching (something
useful when new leaders are needed in the organization). Having a peer to
lean on builds the confidence of new employees and decreases the time it takes
them to get up-to-speed and producing business results. This also encourages
team building and generates a stronger, more self-sufficient team.
Social Learning
For every organization, the topic of how to handle social networking and social
learning is rising to the forefront. Some organizations have embraced it,
adopting new tools and online platforms to promote it. Others have been
resistant to these new techniques due in part to the perceived fear surrounding
loss of control. Whether they want it to or not, however, social learning is
taking place. The successful organizations and L&D departments are those that
are able to integrate new social learning solutions (wikis, blogs, discussion
boards, etc.) within their existing learning infrastructure to enable individuals to
more effectively and efficiently manage change. There is a wealth of
knowledge within our subject matter experts, and finding ways to tap into this
expertise in an informal and collaborative manner is crucial.
The bottom line is that Learning and Development needs to branch out beyond
the classroom and partner with leadership teams to harness the learning that
takes place on the job. While these are three techniques that worked in my
world, I challenge you to look at your organizations and identify what will work
in yours.
Establishing a Training Culture – Moving
from Data Deluge to Learning
Jennifer Wright, Alstom Power
My transition was far too easy. What struck my colleagues as a significant fork
in my career-path turned out to be a smaller diversion than even I expected.
On the surface, the business world seemed a vast departure for a foreign
language teacher but I soon discovered the corporate classroom environment
was eerily similar to the High School French room I had left behind. Students
were just as distracted, just as ambivalent and only slightly better behaved than
their teenage counterparts.
Soon I encountered a far more disturbing revelation: the “trainers” were equally
disaffected. No one had the motivation to establish a true learning environment
since training was viewed as an interruption from “real” work. This needed to
change and some key people within the organization knew it, but they also
knew it would not be easy. I was hired to work as part of a group tasked with
replacing the company’s casual “data deluge” training with a more cohesive
learning program.
When I arrived, the approach to training was somewhat haphazard - simply an
information transfer exercise. Managers would ask widget experts (or whoever
was available and knew a lot about widgets) to train the new recruits. The
trainer would then book a room and present the slides he had whipped-up:
usually an extremely detailed slide deck documenting everything there is to
know about widgets. Trainees would leave – usually overwhelmed – hoping
they correctly identified the important parts (since remembering everything was
out of the question).
That was it. There were no assessments or evaluations, no classroom activities,
no tracking or objectives. To be fair, I wouldn’t expect such formalities since
most training was impromptu. Someone thinks, “There’s bound to be a lot of
questions when we roll out this new system. We should have a training
session…Bill you seem to have a good handle on it. Why don’t you lead it?”
This informality was deeply ingrained in the corporate culture because it was
what most employees had come to expect. The best way to change the culture
is to change the expectations of what training should be. If trainees leave an
engaging session feeling confident in the material, it begins to shift their ideas
of what training ought to be. And if we work with subject matter experts to
establish learning objectives and application exercises, they are more likely to
see the results of a well-equipped work force. This works to further erode the
belief that the recipe for training is 1 room, 1 expert, add students, and stir.
Our goal is to make our training group jump to mind whenever a training
opportunity arises and the more success we see, the more that happens
Since I started, we have had more success each year. Management supports
our efforts and we’re continuing to train trainers, develop interactive learning
experiences (both classroom and e-learning), and evaluate the training we’ve
implemented. I can see the progress we’re making and our full training
portfolio is evidence that the culture is changing.
“Y” not Mentor?
Danielle Sagstetter, Capella University / PACT
Behind every successful person, there is one elementary truth. Somewhere,
some way, someone cared about their growth and development.
Mentoring is a topic I feel passionately about because somewhere, someone
cared and invested in my development. And I would like to share my
experience in hopes that you and your organization find it advantageous.
While there are benefits to each type/style of mentoring, I have found that the
richest ideas and superior critical thinking have occurred when I have partnered
with a colleague or mentor.
Mentoring is a development relationship focused on the intentional transferring
of knowledge or a skill set from a mentor to a mentee. The most common type
of mentoring is traditional or upward, meaning that a more experienced, upper
level mentor shares the desired skill set with a less experienced, usually
younger, mentee. The benefits of this are limitless to the participants and the
Reverse mentoring is becoming more popular as Baby Boomers recognize that
Gen X/Y'ers have skill sets that some Baby Boomers lack. This type of
downward mentoring is fundamentally similar to traditional. However, the
mentor is younger, less experienced or has a lower employment status than the
mentee. Through this, the younger mentor inevitably develops their
communication and leadership skills. And as a trainer, you are already aware
that you don't really know about something until you have to teach it to
someone else. An example of this type of relationship was best demonstrated
when a colleague shared that she was going to create an all new LinkedIn
account because she received a new position. Although she had more working
experience and was older than myself, I was able to partner with her to show
her how to professionally leverage social networks by creating a personal
brand and virally marketing herself.
While both traditional and reverse mentoring can be hugely impactful, I would
suggest building a peer to peer mentoring relationship that is based on desired
skill sets despite age or status. For example, I reached out to a colleague that
was new to our organization but had more working experience than myself. I
wanted to gain access to her fresh perspective and wealth of experience. In
exchange, I was able to help her develop her technical skills specifically related
to eLearning. The downside to this type of mentoring is that often times more
work needs to be done before the relationship is initiated. Both parties may find
it beneficial to take skills assessments and talk through the guidelines of their
In conclusion, I have been both a mentor and a mentee in all three of the
above mentioned mentoring styles and have found that each one serves its
purpose. But if you truly want a relationship teeming with fresh ideas and
different perspectives, the relationship should neither be upward or downward,
but instead a partnership of shared needs between colleagues despite age or
Common Constraints
Meg Hunter, CFA Institute
Through research I’ve realized that the constraints trainers face at my
organization are not at all unique; many learning professionals must work with
or work around the same issues. But something I’ve wondered as a novice
trainer is, “Why does it have to be this way?” It’s hard for me to read about the
challenges many companies and organizations grapple with – which affect
workplace efficiency as well as the emotions and motivation of employees –
and sense that no permanent solution is in sight. As Seth R. Silver relates in his
article, “Transforming Professional Relationships”:
For all of our supposed progress over the past 40 years on
participative management, quality of work life, situational leadership,
TQM, diversity, empowerment, customer first, seven habits, good to
great, employee engagement, and more, we still have a long way to
go before our workplaces are truly characterized by “dignity,
meaning, and community” (ASTD Training + Development
magazine, December 2008, page 64).
But why? Why do we still have such a long way to go?
I don’t have any formal education in instructional design and I had minimal
training experience when I was promoted last year to my current position as
training and development specialist for a customer service center. However,
my professional priority the last several years has always been to foster healthy,
positive relationships with my colleagues where open, sincere communication is
key, and I make an effort to grow from constructive criticism and feedback so I
can serve my team better. Consequently, the staff members I train are
confident that I have their best interests in mind, and they are more open and
willing to learn with me.
Because this strategy has produced good results, I’ve wondered if a lack of
prioritizing healthy workplace relationships contributes more than we realize to
workplace dysfunction. Silver has reassured me that others are making similar
In effect, workplace relationships are like the threads of the fabric we
call organizational life. They are everywhere: interwoven and stitched
into what we do, and for whom we do it. For better or worse,
workplace relationships greatly influence how we feel about our work,
and how effective we are at that work (page 64).
In an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world, anything my employer can
do to minimize stress and increase stability, as well as anything I can do
likewise for my colleagues, should help increase trust and emotional wellness
among employees. I suspect that healthy workplace relationships can play a
significant role in achieving these goals. However, the key is not only getting
staff at all levels on board with this idea but getting them to practice it
consistently as well.
What I’ve discovered about learning professionals is that we genuinely care
about people and want to help others succeed, and we make an effort to
understand the dynamics and relationships across the groups that we support.
Therefore, maybe it’s us who are best-positioned to model how we work on a
larger scale and start influencing workplace culture.
Students have a say too!
Joshua Smith, Department of Veterans Affairs
I once had a college professor that told my class, “If this was a perfect world I
would be teaching this class from my house and you would only be there if you
really were interested in the topic.” Most of the training that we take in our work
life, we only take because we are forced or required to take it. Most of the
training that I completed in the past year I volunteered to take to further my
workplace knowledge. Talking with some of the other participants in these
classes, I learn that most of them don’t want to be there but their boss is
making them attend.
It’s never nice to just identify a problem and not offer any kind of solution. I
don’t have a solution for this problem but I have a few ideas on how we can
start creating one. My favorite psychology test that I read about in my
undergraduate program was Pavlov’s dog. I wonder if it is possible to associate
mandatory training with a desirable reinforcement. Just off the top of my head,
that might work for the late Gen Xers and Gen Yers, is to offer them a day off
to take all of their mandatory training from the comfort of their home. If my
peers are anything like me, they would take their day on a Monday or Friday,
sleep in then do a marathon of training events just to enjoy the rest of the day
to themselves. Other option to the day off is to make it a staff retreat that
incorporates the training. The idea is to get the staff out of the office.
Another thought to rant about is for the ability for learners to have a bigger say
in the planning phase of their learning curriculum. Having the students develop
their day-to-day schedules based on the overall content will not only get the
student’s buy-in, but also prevents the all too often drowsy feeling everyone
feels listen to someone drone on about a topic they stopped caring about hours
prior. Learner’s buy-in will drive the desire to participate which will (hopefully)
enhance their retention rate of the material and make them want to attend the
class. This would, hopefully, solve my original rant which brings everything
back to a full circle.
Learning That Makes a Difference
Julie Thompson, Xcel Energy
There is something to be said about experience. Think about all the
experiences you’ve had in your life. Which ones stand out? Why do they
stand out?
The experiences that stand out in my life are those that are directly related
to the things that excite me, that I’m passionate about, feel strongly
about, are deeply rooted in my core values, and that I believe I can and
have made a difference in.
The value of learning comes from just that – excitement, passion, is based
on our values, and driven by our legacy or life purpose. Our unique
talents are what drive us to feel excitement and passion, to inspire and to
be inspired. It draws us to look at what’s really important.
With that said, I feel that today’s culture of learning is moving in the right
direction. The right questions are being asked, the right people are
asking those questions, and companies – both large and small – are
recognizing the value and importance in learning that makes a
difference, rather than implementing training and calling it learning.
So the question is, “What is learning that makes a difference?” In my
experience, learning that makes a difference encompasses the following:
• Motivates you to make a change
• Memorable – not easily forgotten
• Frequently useful
• Available – something you can go back to and reference, share
with others, customize to fit your needs
It’s not practical to create a one-size-fits-all solution. I believe the answer
lies in the variety of methods and avenues in which people learn. By
giving managers and employees several learning options to choose from
and showing them how everything is aligned and links back to the
corporate values and strategy, employees will not only be able to choose
how they learn, but will hopefully be able to make a difference in their
work based on what they’ve learned.
I think about when I have most effectively learned something new. I
learned how to facilitate training in front of a group of employees and be
an effective facilitator. Instead of attending a class, I learned from
experiences – both past and current. Another example was when I
learned how to milk cows. Yes, I grew up on a dairy farm in west-central
Minnesota. The first time my dad had me milk the cows alone, I had a lot
of questions like, “How do I hook up the milking unit?” “How does he
carry this thing so he’s not tripping over the hoses?” “How does he know
which cow to milk next since it doesn’t just go in order?” My dad taught
me a really valuable lesson throughout this experience. When he knew I
could do it myself, he left me alone to do it myself. He enabled me to do
it; he trusted me to do it.
I think the key for everyone about learning is that we need to enable and
trust learning so that it can and will make a difference.

To see an example of a clear mission-vision-values statement of an organization that uses a learngin approach but is not in the field of learnign, please read:

CIA Vision, Mission & Values

One Agency. One Community. An Agency unmatched in its core capabilities, functioning as one team, fully integrated into the Intelligence Community.


We are the nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We carry out our mission by:

* Collecting information that reveals the plans, intentions and capabilities of our adversaries and provides the basis for decision and action.

* Producing timely analysis that provides insight, warning and opportunity to the President and decisionmakers charged with protecting and advancing America’s interests.

* Conducting covert action at the direction of the President to preempt threats or achieve US policy objectives.

Core Values

* Service. We put Country first and Agency before self. Quiet patriotism is our hallmark. We are dedicated to the mission, and we pride ourselves on our extraordinary responsiveness to the needs of our customers.

* Integrity. We uphold the highest standards of conduct. We seek and speak the truth—to our colleagues and to our customers. We honor those Agency officers who have come before us and we honor the colleagues with whom we work today.

* Excellence. We hold ourselves—and each other—to the highest standards. We embrace personal accountability. We reflect on our performance and learn from that reflection.

To see what could happen when mission, vision and values are well aligned, please visit and read about leading companies. What lessons could be learned from these examples?

Special Report
The World's Leading Companies
Scott DeCarlo, 04.21.10, 06:00 PM EDT
This comprehensive report analyzes the world's biggest companies and the best-performing of these titans.

The Forbes Global 2000 are the biggest, most powerful listed companies in the world. These global giants usually reorder themselves at a glacial pace, but sometimes--as with the volatile financial sector of late--with more abruptness.

Extreme vagaries of business or poor performance can take them off the list entirely. In any case, our composite ranking is the best snapshot of just how these titans compare. As we show, the corporate dominance of the developed nations is steadily receding. With respect not just to size but to what investors care most about, see our Global High Performers, an elite list of companies that set the pace in their respective industries.

Video: The Biggest Names In Business

Forbes' ranking of the world's biggest companies departs from lopsided lists based on a single metric, like sales. Instead we use an equal weighting of sales, profits, assets and market value to rank companies according to size. This year's list reveals the dynamism of global business. The rankings span 62 countries, with the U.S. (515 members) and Japan (210 members) still dominating the list, but with a combined 33 fewer entries.

In Pictures: The Top 25

Interactive World Map: An Atlas Of The World's Biggest Companies
The World's Leading Companies

* Biggest: The Complete 2000 List

* Best: Global High Performers

* In Pictures

* Top 25

* Standouts

* Profit Swings

* Featured Companies

* Acer

* Novozymes

* Map

* Headquarters Inc.


This year, the following countries gained the most ground: mainland China (113 members), India (56 members) and Canada (62 members). Even Oman and Lebanon are now Global 2000 members. Also gaining a significant presence on our list this year are corporations from Ireland, South Africa and Sweden.

In total the Global 2000 companies now account for $30 trillion in revenues, $1.4 trillion in profits, $124 trillion in assets and $31 trillion in market value. All metrics are down from last year, except for market value, which rose 61%.

Related Story: The World's Leading Companies, By The Numbers

An analysis of the Global 2000 shows that despite the turmoil in the financial sector, banks still dominate, with 308 companies in the 2000 lineup, thanks in large measure to their asset totals. The oil and gas industry, with 115 companies, scores high in sales, profits and stock-market value, yet these sectors were not the leaders in growth over the past year. Insurance companies (up 27%) led all sectors in sales growth, while the leaders in profit growth were drugs and biotech firms (up 20%).

Our full list is rich with industry leaders who are making strategic moves to help navigate through these tough economic times. Among them you will find Taiwan's Acer, aiming to become the biggest seller of laptops and netbooks by 2011, and Danish biotech Novozymes, finding new uses for enzymes.

Special Report
The World's Leading Companies
Scott DeCarlo, 04.21.10, 06:00 PM EDT
Page 2 of 2

For the past few years we have also identified an important subset of the Global 2000: big companies that also have exceptional growth rates. To qualify as a Global High Performer, a company must stand out from its industry peers in growth, return to investors and future prospects. Most of the 130 Global High Performers have been expanding their earnings at 28% a year and 20% annualized gains to shareholders over the past five years.

Both Acer and Novozymes are on our Global High Performers list, and 77 of the 130 companies on this select list have headquarters outside the U.S. Our list includes global brand names, such as Belgium's Anheuser-Busch Inbev ( BUD - news - people ), H&M ( HNNMY - news - people ) (Sweden) and Honda Motor ( HMC - news - people )(Japan), as well as foreign companies with lower profiles, such as Australian drug company CSL ( CMXHF.PK - news - people ).

Among notable U.S. Global High Performers are Apple ( AAPL - news - people ), Google ( GOOG - news - people ), McDonald's ( MCD - news - people ) and Nike ( NKE - news - people ).

To find these global superstars, we analyzed 26 industries of the Global 2000 (we excluded trading companies) and gave each company respective scores for long-term and short-term sales and profit growth; return on capital; debt-to-capital (the lower the better); and total return over five years. Other requirements for the global high performers list: shares traded in the U.S. or Depositary Receipts, positive equity and sales of at least $1 billion.