Aha! is a set of practices I’m developing to help pull-workers learn to learn. I’m investigating what it takes for a learner to become self-sufficient, to both learn and design learning experiences. I’d like to make that easier.


My bookshelves groan under more than 200 books on learning and development. (I’ve recycled many to get down to this.) They contain studies of learning from the frameworks of design, teaching, networks, tech, brain science, and positive psychology. How many books look at learning from the point of view of the learner? None that I know of. Nada. It’s time to design some self-help.

As corporations flatten and digitize, millions of people are being handed responsibility for their own learning, by plan or by default. Corporations that decentralize often leave people to sink or swim. Learning — that ultimate competitive advantage in a fast-changing world — is too important to leave to chance any longer. Besides, learning can be a fulfilling, nourishing aspect of work; folks need to know how to make the best of it.

As business grows ever more complex, fast, and confusing, the quality of learning must increase. Learning professionals know a lot about ideal conditions for learning and what blend of things works when. Rarely have they shared this wisdom with the greater enterprise community. Hence, there are a number of opportuities to tweak how people learn that can have profound changes in the level of “working smarter.” It’s virgin territory. Sharing the wisdom surrounding learning with the people who need it. It can be a game changer.


Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been told she’s responsible for her own learning. It’s like the dog that got on the bus: Now what do I do? I want to give her a helping hand and a few directions. (My monkey mind just whispered in my ear: Make it a comic book. Who knows.) I want this person to leverage networks, learn with the work team, and have a personal strategy for acquiring, interpreting, acting on, and storing knowledge.

People are becoming forced to act as their own instructional designers, plotting the best personal knowledge strategies and routines. This requires some of adult learning theory’s secret sauce, which we propose to boil down and include in our kit.

In 1978, I remember seeing my first copy of Training magazine and soon thereafter turning on to the work of instructional pioneers like Robert Mager, Gloria Gery, Malcolm Knowles, Joe Harless, and Ron Zemke. It was all new to me. I wasn’t aware there was an entire training industry. We didn’t deal with this when I went to Business School. Instructional design? Never heard of it. Nor have most business executives, and that’s an obstacle. They don’t yet understand the enormous impact of amping up learning in the workplace.

Before I saw that Training magazine, I’d been designing a large instructional system in the dark: I hadn’t been aware of the vast amount of evidence on learning the instructional design community had assembled. (I was a former computer salesman and Army officer.) I led a team that created 120 hours of interactive exercises to teach business and management skills. Design was 100% gut feel and watching what worked. Out of ignorance, I made a number of things less fun and more arduous than need be. That was a 1.0 curriculum, the adult students loved it, but I still feel negligent just knowing how much more it could have meant to them. A thousand people in the Bay Area took that course in the first 18 months; I’m sorry we could not have helped them learn more. Were I to do something like this again, I’d be able to take an enlightened approach. I want to share that how-to with workers everywhere.

The obscurity of Instructional Design outside of the L&D community compels me to provide a brief orientation to ID and a minimalist take on how to use it as part of building learn-to-learn skills.


I plan to write an eBook on learning for learners. Later this may morph into a playlist of experiential exercises; that generally works a lot better than books. But I have to start by pinning down the subject matter and examples.

This will be a Lean Start-Up. I plan to hammer out version 1.0 of the book mercilessly and a little Gonzo. I’ll price it cheap. If learners, not training departments, buy it, I’ll add research, collect the best examples, take polls, spiff it up, and continuously refresh the book.

What’s with the Aha!? I needed a short name for this project. Aha! is the sound of enlightenment. It’s what I hope to hear from the people who learn to learn.

I am open to collaboration on this project. If you’ve got something that works or suggestions, let’s talk.

Who’s the best at helping their people learn?

Do you know of anybody who has tackled preparing independent learners to master complex subjects?

I’ve opened a community on Google+ for articles and discussion. In the spirit of Working Smarter, I intend to work out loud on Aha! Please join in the shouting.



Staying alive

March 8, 2015

I am working on the old MacBook, the iMac having gone kaput.

A potential project, not that tough really, would be to put together the ultimate short-form learn-to-learn experience for pull learners.

The paternalistic training department has gone the way of the basic employee contract. Training dabbles with new hires, management trainees, compliance, and novices. Botched implementations of eLearning mistakenly removed helpful instructors, reducing training headcount and gutting training staff. Employers turned to outsourced contractors to develop courses instead of insiders. As a means of instruction, courses don’t work well. Little is learned and less is retained.

no contract. sink or swim. pockets of success may bubble up and convert the entire organization to Working Smarter. (which means making best use of social networking for collaboration, practicing sound learning methods continuously).

You watch out for yourself. You must learn how to learn in the manner that works best for you.

You’re already engaged in informal and social learning all the time. We learn from and with others in the course of doing things together. We mimic the high performer or improve our presentation skills by listening to at least one winning sales pitch a day or learned a principle at grandfather’s knee. That’s probably 90% of the way you learn, maybe more. Reflect back on your areas of deep expertise. Bet you didn’t think of something you learned in a classroom.

Science has learned an incredible amount about how people learn. It’s quite flexible. You can tailor your learning to be fun, unobtrusive, and continuous. This is the key to professional development and personal growth. Imagine adopting a few practices and finding yourself with more time and deeper understanding of what’s going on.

As a better learner, you will be more involved in determining your future, shaping your expertise and following your interests as you choose.

Using adult learning theory


For your good and your employer’s good, you need to take charge of your own learning. Safety and survival issue for both of you.

Staking your independence.  (Develop Working Smarter principles)

If it’s the view from the bottom up, I need to talk with some of these people. Mix of digerati and luddite. How learning? But must define learning. Back to Working Smarter. Production focus always. Pragmatic. This world can be shiny and happy but when push comes to shove, it’s business. Business with a capital B.

vid test

March 7, 2007

video test

March 7, 2007

<object width=”400″ height=”300″><param name=”movie” value=”http://internettime.com/images/snowcar.wmv”><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”><embed src=”http://internettime.com/images/snowcar.wmv&#8221; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” wmode=”transparent” width=”400″ height=”300″></object>

Senge, Dance of Change

December 24, 2006

Found here

Timeline of Learning Organization Concepts
If there are events or concepts you think should be included in this timeline, email us. Like “open source” software, the more people contribute to it, the more value it will gain. We’re trying to, as Dance of Change contributor Daniel Kim puts it, “capture the whole story before it becomes completely lost.” Eventually we’ll post the entire timeline here on the web site.
1938 In his book Experience and Education, John Dewey publishes the concept of experiential learning as an ongoing cycle of activity.  
1947s Macys Conferences organized by Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and Lawrence Kubie bring “systems thinking” to the awareness of a cross-disciplinary group of key intellectuals.
1940s Scottish psychologist Kenneth Craik coins the term “mental models,” which later makes its way to MIT through Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert.  
1946 National Training Laboratories co-founder Kurt Lewin proposes idea of “creative tension” between a person’s vision and sense of reality.  
1956 Jay Forrester begins developing “system dynamics”  
Ed Schein’s research on brainwashing in Korea paves way for understanding of process consultation.
1960 The Human Side of Enterprise (Douglas McGregor) is published.  
1961 Industrial Dynamics (Jay Forrester) is published. This first major application of system dynamics to corporations, describes the turbulence of orders in a typical appliance value chain.  
1964 MIT graduate students develop the “beer game” to illustrate Industrial Dynamics, one of the first simulations of systems (conveniently converting toasters to beer)
1969 Urban Dynamics (Jay Forrester) is published, codifying the “Shifting the Burden” archetype  
1970 Chris Argyris and Donald Schön begin their collaboration into “Action Science,” the study of how espoused values clash with the values that underlie real actions.  
1972 Limits to Growth (Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows, et al) is published, applying Forrester’s systems dyuamics to the “world problematique” for the Club of Rome, triggering a furious reaction from economists.  
1973 Learning to Plan and Planning to Learn (Don Michael) is published, a book for policy makers that sets out the idea of organizational learning for the first time.
1971-1975 Erhard training seminars (est) demonstrate the powerful attitude shifts that can come about in a seminar lasting several days.  
1974 Theory in Practice (Chris Argyris, Donald A. Schön) is published.  
1975 “Management change” consultant Charlie Kiefer, Forrester student Peter Senge, and “creative process” researcher/artist Robert Fritz design the “leadership and mastery” seminar that becomes the focal point of their new consulting firm, Innovation Associates.  
1982 Working at Procter & Gamble, and helping them follow up their famously secretive sociotechnical systems work, Forrester alumna and Innovation Associates consultant Jennifer Kemeny, along with Kiefer and Senge, develops the “systems archetypes” — a technique for translating system dynamics complexities into relatively simple conversation-starters.  
Pierre Wack, scenario planner at Royal Dutch/Shell, spends a sabbatical at Harvard Business School, and for the first time writes his article about scenario practice as a learning activity.
1984 Senge, Arie de Geus, Hanover Insurance CEO Bill O’Brien, Analog Devices CEO Ray Stata, and other executive leaders form a learning organization study group, meeting regularly at MIT.  
1985 Action Science (Chris Argyris, Robert Putnam, Diana McLain Smith) is published.  
1987 Drawing on this group’s work, Senge and de Geus begin working on a book together, brokered by Shell networker Napier Collyns, who introduces them to Doubleday editor Harriet Rubin. de Geus publishes his ideas in a key Harvard Business Review article, called “Planning as Learning,” in which he concludes, “The greatest competitive advantage for any organization is its ability to learn.”  
1988 Peter Schwartz, Stewart Brand, Napier Collyns, Jay Ogilvy, and Lawrence Wilkinson form the networked organization Global Business Network, with a charter to foster organizational learning through scenario planning.
1989 Senge and de Geus decide that they should develop separate books. Senge finishes his manuscript, for a book ultimately titled The Fifth Discipline, a few months after his second son is born.  
Oxford University management scholar Bill Isaacs, an associate of quantum physicist David Bohm’s, introduces Senge to Bohm and to the concept of dialogue as a process for building team capability.  
The Center for Organizational Learning is formed at MIT, with Senge as director, and with Ed Schein, Chris Argyris, Arie de Geus, Ray Stata, and Bill O’Brien as key advisors and governors. The research staff of the “learning center,” as it’s called, includes Daniel Kim and systems researcher Janet Gould; later, Bill Isaacs, Fred Kofman, and future “Dance of Change” coauthor George Roth will join the staff.  
Daniel Kim, MIT researcher on the links between learning organization work and the quality movement, cofounds the Sytems Thinker newsletter, the first ongoing publication of “fifth discipline” – related issues with writer/editor Colleen Lannon-Kim. The parent organization, Pegasus Communictions, launches an annual Systems Thinking in Action Conference the following year.  
The Age of Unreason (Charles Handy) is published.  
1990 The Fifth Discipline is published, drawing upon a large body of work: system dynamics, “personal mastery” (based on Fritz’ work and the concept of creative tension), mental models (based on Wack’s and Argyris’ work), shared vision (drawing on the organizational change traditions at Innovation Associates), and team learning (drawing on dialogue and David Bohm’s concepts).
1992 The popularity of the “learning organization” community is recognized when 350 people from around the world gather for four days at a conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.  
1993 Harvard University professor David Garvin publishes an article in the Harvard Business Review on organizational learning, arguing that only learning that can be measured will be useful to managers.  
1994 The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook is published. Its authors include Peter Senge along with longstanding learning organization consultants Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, and Bryan Smith (who is also the president of Innovation Associates of Canada), along with writer Art Kleiner, who becomes editorial director. The “Fieldbook” concept becomes a new management book genre.
Philip J. Carroll becomes CEO of Shell Oil Company, and fosters a four-year “transformation” initiative that will involve Shell Oil deeply with organizational learning.  
The innovation of “learning histories,” a method of using oral history techniques to assess organizational learning, begins at the Center for Organizational Learning.  
1995 The first major visible Organizational Learning Center projects are finished. Many of them have produced remarkable results, but they also have led to disappointing career prospects for the line leaders who invested in them —particularly for the two featured in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, the 1994 Ford Lincoln Continental and the GS Technologies dialogue project.  
The Organizational Learning Center begins a two year process, working with Dee Hock, a founding CEO of VISA, to spring out into a more general international consortium called the Society for Organizational Learning. Peter Senge is named the first chairperson of SoL’s elected governing council.
A series of workshops and sessions take place, building on sessions that started in 1993 at the Learning Center, then at the Society for Organizational Learning, and then sponsored by the Fieldbook authors, to develop a better understanding of the forces that make it difficult to sustain organizational learning (and other change) projects. These lead to an unpublished paper, “The Ecology of Leadership,” by Peter Senge, which develops the idea of innate “challenges of profound change.”  
1996 Arthur D. Little buys Innovation Associates; it is one of several consulting firms (others include Anderson Consulting and Ernst & Young) that invest heavily in building “learning organization” capability.  
The Age of Heretics (Art Kleiner) is published;
Synchronicity (Joe Jaworski) is published.
1997 Jack Welch asserts in the General Electric annual report that GE’s only competitive advantage is its ability to learn.  
The Living Company (Arie de Geus) is published.  
1999 The Dance of Change, built around ten “Challenges of Profound Change,” is published.

Also, the Ten Challenges

The Ten Challenges
System Map: Exclusive to this web site, and not available anywhere else, is a single map of all the “ten challenges” put together. This is a .pdf file. If you don’t have Acrobat 4.0, go to Adobe’s web site for a free download: www.adobe.com.
Challenges of Initiating
These challenges are often sufficient to prevent growth from occurring, almost before it starts. They are consistently encountered at the early stages of significant organizational change. The capabilities to deal with them must be developed under high pressure; but in managing these challenges effectively, organizations develop capabilities much sooner than otherwise for dealing with challenges down the road.
1 Not Enough Time:”We don’t have time for this stuff!”
This is the challenge of control over one’s time. This challenge is represents a valuable opportunity for reframing the way that workplaces are organized, to provide flexibility and time for reflection and innovation.
2 No Help: “We’re like the blind leading the blind!”
Some managers believe that asking for help is a sign of incompetence; others are unaware of the coaching and support they need. Meeting this challenge means building the capabilities for finding the right help, and for mentoring each other to develop successful innovations.
3 Not Relevant: “Why are we doing this stuff?”
A top priority for pilot groups is a clear, compelling case for learning and change. If people are not sufficiently committed to an initiative’s goals, a “commitment gap” develops and they will not take part wholeheartedly. Building relevance depends on candid conversations about the reasons for change and the commitments people can make.
4 “Walking the Talk” – Leadership values
What happens when there is a mismatch between the things the boss says and his or her actual behavior? People do not expect perfection, but they recognize when leaders are not sincere or open. If executive and line leaders do not provide an atmosphere of trust and authenticity, then genuine change cannot move forward.
Challenges of Sustaining Momentum
These challenges occur sometime during the first year or two, when the group has clear goals and has discovered that new methods save more than enough time to put them into practice. Now the pilot group’s real troubles begin. Sustained activity confronts boundaries – between the work of the pilot group and “internal” attitudes and beliefs, and between the pilot group’s needs and the larger-scale company’s values and ways of measuring success.
5 Fear and Anxiety: “This suff is —-“
The blanks represent the fact that everyone expresses their fear and anxiety with a different form of defensiveness.) How do you deal with the concerns of team members about exposure, vulnerability and inadequacy, triggered by the conflicts between increasing levels of candor and openness and low levels of trust? This is one of the most frequently faced challenges and the most difficult to overcome.
6 Assessment and Measurement: “This stuff isn’t working”
How do you deal with the disconnect between the tangible (but unfamiliar) achievements of a pilot group and the organization’s traditional ways of measuring success?
7 Believers and Nonbelievers: “We have the right way!” say pilot group members. “They’re acting like a cult!” say their other colleagues and peers.
Riding on a wave of early success, speaking their own language, the pilot group becomes increasingly isolated from the rest of the organization. Outsiders, meanwhile, are put off and then turned off by the new, unfamiliar approaches and behavior. These misunderstandings easily accelerate into unnecessary, but nearly unavoidable, opposition.
Challenges of Systemwide Redesgin and Rethinking
These challenges appear as a pilot group’s work gains broader credibility and confronts the established internal infrastructure and practices of the organization.
8 Governance: “They won’t give up the power.”
As the pilot group’s capabilities and activities increase, it runs into the priorities and established processes of the rest of the organization. This leads to conflicts over power and autonomy and to a destructive, “us-versus-them” dynamic that nobody wants – and that could be avoided if the capabilities are in place for organizational redesign.
9 Diffusion: “We keep reinventig the wheel!”
Unless organizations learn to recognize and deal with their mysterious, almost unnoticed inability to transfer knowledge across organizational boundaries, people around the system will not build upon each other’s successes.
10 Strategy and Purpose: “Where are we going? and “What are we here for?”
How do you revitalize and rethink the organization’s intended direction for success, its’ contribution to its community and its future identity? How do you improve the processes of conversation that lead people to articulate and refine their aspirations and goals for achieving them?


December 23, 2006

posted in error

down on the corner

December 20, 2006