Supporting Everyday Workplace Learning

circuit-252880_640Next public online workshop runs:

This 8-week workshop introduces you to some of the key ways to promote and support personal and team learning in the workplace. It will help you understand how to work with managers to foster a culture of continuous learning as well help individuals take responsibility for (and ownership of) their own personal and professional learning. It will also look at how you can help a manager to build a social team so that they can learn together effectively as they work.

The workshop agenda is as follows:

Part A: Personal Learning

  1. How to work with managers to develop a continuous learning mindset
  2. How to help individuals reflect on their daily work experiences
  3. How to help individuals with employee-led learning
  4. How to help individuals with their bespoke learning and performance needs

Part B: Team Learning

  1. Helping a manager understand the benefits and challenges of social collaboration, and how you can work with their team
  2. Helping a team to share effectively, and work out loud
  3. Help a manager understand social engagement
  4. Help a team to make the most of an enterprise social network

All Participants will receive a free copy of the PDF version of the current MWL book (as well as new material from Jane’s upcoming book, MWL: Refresh 2017) and membership of the MWL Association

About this workshop

  1. This is not a traditional course with scheduled classes and tests! It is a social experience hosted in a private Yammer group. Each week you are invited to work on a practical activity (around some readings from my Modern Workplace Learning book) and then share your thoughts and your work with the rest of the group.
  2. Nothing is compulsory, but you will find that the more you “work out loud” with the other participants, the more you will get out of the workshop. And of course, it is also helpful to comment on each others work as well as consider how their ideas might work within your own organisation.
  3. You will probably want to commit a couple of hours a week for this workshop, but once again it is up to you how much time you devote to it, and also when you do the work.


“A big thank you for hosting this workshop Jane and to all the participants who participated. I learned a lot from the activities and I am integrating what I learned into my work with nonprofit organizations. Modern Workplace Learning is such a simple way to convey the continuum of activities, mind sets, models and strategies that make up this work we are doing.”

Workshop fee

£149 – For payment by credit card or PayPal, CLICK HERE and follow the payment instructions below.

If you prefer to pay by invoice and inter-bank transfer, please email Please note this incurs an admin fee of £25, and all payment will need to be made in advance of the workshop date..

Payment instructions

  • Click on the link above, and you will be taken to a page at the PayPal site to pay.
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  • You will then receive an email from us with your joining details.
  • If you do not receive the email within 24 hours, please contact

China is mobile!

I’ve had the fortune to be hear in China speaking on mlearning.  And there are a couple of interesting revelations that I hadn’t really recognized when I did the same last year that I thought I’d share.

For one, while mobile is everywhere like many places, it’s more here.  It seems many people carry more than one phone, for a variety of reasons (one fellow said that he carried another because the battery wouldn’t last all day!).  But they’re all phones, I seem to see few tablets.  They vary in size from phones to phablets, but they’re here.

Which leads to a second recognition.  They are big into mlearning, and elearning. The culture does respect scholarship (no anti-intellectualism here), so they’re quite keen to continue their education. Companies with mlearning courses do well, and the government is investing in educational technology in a big way.  It’s not clear whether their pedagogy is advanced (I can’t read Chinese, I admit), but they do get ‘chunking’ into small bits. And, importantly, the recognition of the value of investment is important.

QuinnovationQRCodeOne other thing struck me as well: QR codes live! They’re everywhere here. They used them during my workshop to run a lottery, and to answer some polling questions on demographics of the audience.  They’re in the restaurants as a start to the payment process. And they’re scattered around on most ads.  They have an advantage that they seem to have mastered the art of having an app that systematically recognizes them (it’s built into the ubiquitous social media app, WeChat).

Establishing the consistent use of a standard can help build a powerful, and valuable, ecosystem.  I can wish that the providers in the US would work and play together a little bit more!  There may be better alternatives, but getting consistently behind one standard makes the investment amortize effectively.

I’m pleased to see that mLearning is taking off, and had fun sharing some of the models that I think provide leverage to rally take advantage.  Here’s to getting going with mobile!

Out of touch

Imagine, for a moment, that you are on a remote site doing work.  To get work done, we are increasingly learning, that means working with others.  Other people, and other information.

So, for example, you might need to find the answer to a question.  It might be work related, or even personal but impacting your effectiveness.  However, at the site, they don’t use the same information tools you do.  So you might not be as effective, or effective at all, in terms of getting the answers you need.

Similarly, what if their social tools are different? Your network might not be accessible, and while received wisdom from a search is one part of the knowledge ecosystem, so is what is in the heads of your colleagues.  The situation might be unique or new enough not to have a recorded answer. The answer might be within a few nodes of connection, but you can’t reach it. Again, if you can’t connect to the shared wisdom, you are limiting your ability to succeed.

For ideas to advance, for innovation to occur, you need access to information and others.  If you filter it or shut it down, you are limiting the chances to improve. While internally you may be very effective, there’s still more outside you could benefit from. You’re missing out on the opportunity to be as agile as increasingly we need to be.

If you’re not connected to the broadest opportunities, you could be missing out on the ‘adjacent possible’ that’s a key component to innovation. Your tools may be even quite good, but they’re still not optimal.  You’re quite literally, out of touch. And, on that note, I’ll be ‘out of touch’ for a few more days, so understand if you haven’t ‘seen’ me around.  Email is best.

Social Learning: August Pick of the Posts

online-942400_640The focus of my August Pick of the Posts is social learning, and these posts all include some great graphics too.

In It’s Not About “Doing” Social  Jane Bozarth (2 August) shows how Pokemon Go gets it right.

“Here’s the thing: People talk about their work all the time. And they’ll find someone to talk to about it. They’ll talk about problems. They’ll talk about solutions. They’ll gripe. Some product experts will emerge. Some will give up and never learn to use the product. They’ll give out wrong information. They’ll help each other out. Maybe it won’t be on the scale of Pokémon Go—few things ever will be—but this is what “social learningis. Conversation happens. Communities emerge. People self-manage. The game company didn’t provide any social features—you can’t chat or “follow” others, for instance—but people found ways to be social nonetheless.

.. It’s not about forcing people to participate and trying to control every bit of conversation. It’s about listening, and finding out how they participate, and what they talk about, and how they prefer to talk about it (screenshots? text comments? audio clips?), and then figuring out how to best support them.”

In other words, social learning is voluntary, collaboration platforms are enablers, as Alexandra Lepercq (23 August) shows in this graphic.

In New roles for L&D: the reality of 70:20:10 

“The ways experiential, social, and structured learning come together to build high performance will vary not only between industries and organisations, but also between job roles, specific task contexts, levels of initial expertise and probably another dozen or so factors. In other words, your own ‘70:20:10’ in any situation is unlikely to be identical to anyone else’s.”

In Implementing networked learning, Harold Jarche (10 August) makes it clear …

“In the network era, developing the skills of a master artisan in every field of work will be critical for success. While getting work done collaboratively will continue to be of importance in all organizations, it will not be enough. New ideas will have to come from our professional networks in order to keep pace with innovation and change in our fields. More importantly, a safe place is needed to connect these new ideas to the work to be done. Communities of practice will continue to grow as knowledge artisans need to integrate their work and learning in a trusted space. As the gig economy dominates, communities of practice can bring some stability to our professional development. These are owned by the practitioners themselves, not an association and not an organization. You know you are in a real community of practice when it changes your practice.

Finally, in Leading and Learning: How to Feed a Community Tanmay Vora (22 August) offers us this graphic.

Here’s a summary of my own blog posts in August 2016

Other updates

Collaborating when it matters

A dear friend and colleague just wrote about his recent (and urgent) chemo and surgery.  I won’t bore you with the details (the odds are you don’t know him), but one thing stuck with me that I do want to share.

As context, he discovered he had a rare and aggressive cancer, and this  ventured into the unknown, with a sense of urgency.   He fortunately had access to arguably the world’s best resources on this, but the ‘rare’ bit means that there wasn’t a lot of data:

“The treatment options were unclear because they didn’t have enough real data to know what was most likely to work..I didn’t know that the lack of data was so profound that intuition and personal experience, not data, would play a central role in the decisions.”

Collaboration was critical.  There were two different domains in play, and they had to work and play well together. An oncologist and a specialist in the location were required to determine a course of action:

“If you’re ever in a situation like this, having world-class experts is so critical! I could see the mental wheels turning, the quick parlay back and forth between the experts, leading to the suggestion…”

And, interestingly, his voice was an important one:

“Amazing how much the decision seemed to also rest with me, not just with the experts.”

They knew they didn’t know, and they wanted to understand his preferences.  He had a voice, instead of being told what to do. If you don’t know, look for preferences.

This is what decision-making looks like when it matters and it’s new: open collaboration. This also reminds me of Jane Bozarth’s story about her husband’s situation, where again expertise and preparation matter.  The details are not trivial, they’re critical.

And these situations are increasing. Whether life-threatening or not, and even with the power of data, we’re going to be facing increasingly challenging decisions.  We need to learn when and how to collaborate.  One person following a script (which should be automated) is increasingly less likely to be the answer. An individual equipped with models, and resources including others, is going to be the minimal necessary solution.

Being Bold and Imagining the Different

Zion Park

Last Thursday 25th August marked the centenary of the US National Parks Service. The natural beauty of these places across the North American continent is unquestionable. They are amongst some of the greatest treasures the USA and the world possess.

But they haven’t always been seen that way.

The father of today’s National Parks was John Muir. Born in Dunbar on the south east coast of Scotland, Muir was the son of a Calvinist who believed anything that distracted from Bible studies was frivolous and punishable. Muir’s father, it’s said, emigrated to the United States because he found the Church of Scotland ‘insufficiently strict in faith and practice’.

John Muir’s response to his father’s view of the world was to turn the Calvinist work ethic he’d grown up with towards his own ‘redwood cathedrals’ with an unsurpassed enthusiasm. His life’s work was to protect the beauty that has become the National Parks. His writings convinced the US Government to protect first Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mount Ranier and later all the other 55 national parks across the USA and its associated territories.

Muir left as his legacy an incredibly pristine natural beauty that everyone can share. Without John Muir much of the beauty that exists in the National Parks would have become utilitarian resources.

What’s the Link with Learning & Development?

Today the world of L&D is a little like the world the young John Muir confronted. This is a world where some good work was taking place to open eyes to new and exciting environments, but where the dominant mindset was constraining even better things from happening.

In Muir’s case the dominant mindset he challenged was the desire to conquer nature and make it useful for man. The view was that if some preservation efforts could be made along the way, then all well-and-good. But the principal mindset and focus of the day was management and control of nature in the service of humans.

The course and programme mindset

We’re in a similar predicament in the L&D world today. Most of L&D’s work in done within the ‘course and programme’ mindset. It’s the natural fit for management and control.

This is understandable because many of today’s learning and development practices emerged during the second half of the 20th century. Following the Second World War the drivers were industrialisation and mass production. The need was perceived for a solid skill base to ‘feed’ the factories and enterprises on the back of building strong economies. The solutions that were developed to help build workforce capability in this context were invariably built on the idea that learning and working were best carried out separately. It was believed that if we removed people from their day-to-day work they could ‘focus on learning’ better. So structured learning interventions became the standard approach. Training became a huge industry.

Structured learning is a relatively easy process to manage and control. It fits with the industrial mindset. Fred Taylor (‘Principles of Scientific Management’) had told us that developing good management practices was simply a process of applying science to management.  So developing good L&D practices for developing managers and others should be the same.

But they’re not.

We now understand that the closer to the point of use that learning occurs, then the more effective and lasting it’s likely to be. Context is critical for effective learning.  Knowledge and skills are not enough. We need to have the understanding to apply knowledge and skills in context to deliver high performance. 

McKinsey’s report on ‘why leadership development programs fail’ clarifies this point very well. The McKinsey study found that four common mistakes, made over and over again, are leading to the waste of a large percentage of the $14 billion spent annually by US organisations alone on improving the capabilities of managers and nurturing new leaders.

The four common mistakes the McKinsey researchers identified are:

  1. Overlooking context
  2. Decoupling reflection from real work
  3. Underestimating mindsets
  4. Failing to measure results

Each of these could be contributed in part to the ‘course and programme’ mindset. If we separate learning from the work, and thus remove most of the context, we are likely to produce sub-optimal solutions. If we don’t adopt new mindsets we will never be able to meet the changing needs for rapid and continuous learning. If we spend our time inventing ‘learning metrics’, rather than simply working with our clients and stakeholders to measure what matters to them, we will never understand whether our solutions are making a difference.

If we’re going to be bold and make Muir-like differences we clearly need to step beyond the course and programme mindset.

It won’t be easy.

Moving the dial

Most of the standard models still used by learning and development professionals, and still taught by many organisation across the world as they prepare people for careers in learning and development, were developed with structured learning away from work in mind. We have refined the planning and structure of the ‘perfect programme’ to the ‘nth degree’ but the question is whether we are aiming our efforts at the right target.

To an extent, I think we are still ‘perfecting the irrelevant’ in a world that has moved on unimaginably over the past 25 years.

Of course all structured development isn’t irrelevant. Sometimes it is vital and the best way to help people improve. But a good deal of structured development has little effect on the participants’ ability to do their jobs better and our continued focus on it to the exclusion of other approaches is leading to many L&D teams being unable to effectively support their organisations. In other words, the course and programme mindset is limiting other opportunities.

Typical offerings to prepare our future professionals reflect the dominance of the course as virtually the only the mechanism to get any attention. As such, they are constraining our ability to deliver real impact by supporting learning in the daily flow of work. These ‘learning separate from work’ models are the antithesis of what my Internet Time Alliance colleague Jane Hart calls ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ and what my 70:20:10 Institute colleagues and I call ‘70:20:10 practices’.

The inertia is strong – effective L&D professional development is critical

The formal training industry is huge and is well embedded in HR practices. The annual performance review and development objective setting process is witnessing some changes, but it is still widespread. Development objectives still predominantly materialise as the need to attend courses or programmes. Of course this is evolving, but the inertia is strong and change is slow.

When we look at the way professionals in this field are themselves developed we can get an idea of the vortex that’s helping to hold fast the course and programme mindset.

HR, L&D and OD development is still predominantly based around training to deliver ‘faster horses’. Even if Henry Ford didn’t utter the famous words when asked what he thought his customers wanted (and there’s no evidence he did), history suggests he thought along those lines. Ford’s genius was was to develop a new mindset about production and delivery. One of L&D’s challenges is that its profession must do the same.

Ara QuoteAlthough a few professional bodies are making some progress (the UK’s CIPD is an example) when we look at the majority of development opportunities for professionals in the learning and development sphere we see preparation for a world that is in the past.

Today’s world requires L&D professionals to be agile and support their ‘customers’ in their workflow. L&D needs to focus on the ‘70’ and ‘20’ – supporting learning as part of work and learning from (and with) others.

However, most professional development offered by commercial companies for L&D practitioners is still rooted in the training paradigm. Even though L&D leadership development is couched in different words (and possibly held in more up-market locations) it is still predominantly structured in the training paradigm. Command and control – even if some role-play and simulations are included.

This type of L&D professional development is typified by the description below of a train-the-trainer course (taken today from a publicly available brochure):

“This lively and interactive course will help delegates develop and hone their skills so they are able to plan and deliver effective training. 
Delegates will learn:
– How to define objectives that meet both business and trainee needs.
– How to plan and design training to gain the trainee’s commitment and enthusiasm – Even reluctant trainees!
– How to recognise the different psychological and sensory learning styles of trainees.
– How to adapt training to meet ALL of these styles
– How to deal with challenging trainees and resistance to training.
– How to deal with trainee concerns about training.
– The pro’s and con’s of different training methods.
– How to ensure training is interactive and participative and not simply a presentation.
– How, why and when to adopt a facilitative or directive training style.
– How to ensure and check that training:
  –  Is really effective
  – That objectives have been met
  – That real learning has occurred
  – What to do before and after training to ensure the best outcome for the business and trainee

This could have appeared in a 1990s brochure – and may have looked dated even then. It’s rooted in the idea of training being something that needs to be presented in a particular way to make it palatable.  And it is typical of thousands upon thousands of ‘course and programme mindset’ offerings still being promoted to develop L&D professionals (and others who want to develop up-to-date L&D skills) around the world.

‘Imagining the different’

If we are going to ‘imagine the different’ there is a requirement to be both bold and focused. We need a galvanising vision to do things differently and better.

We have to take a lesson from John Muir and find a way to break our reliance on the dominant mindset of the day. We must re-think the options we have to both support our stakeholders and clients with solutions that provide learning in the flow of work and, at the same time, think about ways we can help our own profession develop beyond refining training processes. If we don’t step beyond the course and programme mindset we will forever under-deliver on the promise to support high performance in the best ways possible.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”  John Muir in a letter to his wife in July 1888

644px-John_Muir_CaneJohn Muir, American conservationist. Photograph by Professor Francis M. Fritz in 1907
Public Domain

The wonderful Scottish singer Dick Gaughan tells John Muir’s story in ‘Muir and the Master Builder’, written by songwriter Brian McNeill, here.

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‘Cooking up’ some learning

So, I like to cook (not bake, but cook). And possibly the first thing I ever really mastered was enchiladas.   I’d put a chunk of beef in the crockpot, with a can of enchilada sauce and half-to-most of a beer.  (I experimented with making my own sauce for a while, but ultimately the differences weren’t worth it.) After cooking all day, I’d fish the beef out and shred it, grate a bunch of cheese, chop an onion (something my Mom always did), and roll ’em. With some extra across the top.

One of the secrets of my confidence in cooking probably started here.  I never had learned that I couldn’t cook, and some early successes kept me going.  I’ve subsequently had some fairly big disasters, but I’ve got my repertoire down.  And again, while not claiming to be authentic it was considered pretty tasty ;).

Enchilada ingredientsOne of the ongoing barriers, however, was the rolling. Really, you want to dip the tortillas in the sauce before you roll them. Diana Kennedy (early source for Comida Mexicana) says you’re supposed to dip them in sauce and then in hot oil, but it’s too messy and even more work. It really slows things down. The question was, is it necessary?   Diana Kennedy had also talked about some versions used stacked tortillas, and I finally decided to try it out.  I made a batch where I placed the tortillas as a layer, then layered the other ingredients (onions, meet, cheese, and napping with some of the sauce).  (Put some sauce in the bottom to keep the tortillas from sticking.) I broke up the tortillas in a way that made it easy to cover. The kids complained about them not being rolled, but I loved how much faster and easier it was. And they tasted just fine. I was sold.

Fast forward a couple more times, and I realized that I had four tortillas per layer (see how they’re broken up to maximize coverage and minimize overlap), and I happened to have 30+ tortillas (fortunately 32+ as it turned out), resulting in eight layers. I also realized that I could mark out how much of the ingredients for each layer (divide in half, and again, and…).  (You see in the picture I’ve made 3 layers and have just put down the tortillas for a fourth, which I finished before switching to another pan for the remaining 4 layers.) This was important, because one of the earlier problems was getting the right amount of filling into each roll so as to come out with everything used up at the same time! (You can call it enchilada casserole if you want, but I call it dinner!)

I’ve also adapted it, using pork and green enchilada sauce (you could use chicken too). And for quite a while I’d forgotten the beef and just made cheese enchiladas (then you just warm the sauce in a pan), until I was reminded by a previous happy customer!

And the punchline: meta-learning. Experimentation, observation, reflection, and evaluation.  Putting on some music while doing this, and no one else in the kitchen, was what allowed the numerical computation to percolate in the background and sparked the realization.  Even in the well-practiced, there’s space for innovation, as long as there remains curiosity, a safe space and willingness to try (and fail), and time to ponder.  We can create the environment to do so, and increase the likelihood of continual innovation. And we increasingly need that. So here’s to good eating, and good thinking.  Your thoughts?

What it means to transform workplace learning

arrow-945260_640This is a re-work of a previous post.

There is a lot of talk about transforming workplace learning. But what does it actually mean?

A recent Harvard Business Review article, What do you really mean by business “transformation” describes three different “categories of effort, and this is valuable to help us understand workplace learning transformation.

The 3 categories of effort for business transformation are:

 Operational  OPERATIONAL MODEL  strategic transformation
This is the use of new technologies to solve old problems.

Although operational change  can drive business impact, it doesn’t bring about transformation.

This involves doing what you are currently doing in a fundamentally different way.

But this is s still not transformative.

This is about changing the very essence of the company.

Thiis is transformative.

So if we apply this thinking to workplace learning transformation, then

 Operational  OPERATIONAL MODEL  strategic transformation
This is about USING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO SOLVE OLD TRAINING PROBLEMS, e.g. by digitizing training and converting classroom into e-learning, and adding in new technologies (and trends) to the same top-down training activities – whether it be mobile learning, micro learning, gamification, and so on etc.

Whilst this might have some business impact (e.g. be more cost effective) the essence of “learning” doesn’t change in the company; it is still focused on L&D designed activities as the primary way to learn.

This involves CARRYING OUT “TRAINING” (a catch-all phrase to encompass all L&D organised activities0 IN A FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT WAY, so for example, moving from (push) courses to (pull) resources, or setting up learning communities (or communities of practice) are still activities organized and managed by the L&D department. This means CHANGING THE VERY ESSENCE OF WHAT “LEARNING” MEANS IN THE COMPANY – through both a new understanding of how it happens in the workplace (i.e. not just through top-down L&D organised activities (aka training/e-learning)  but as people carry out their daily jobs), as well as how performance problems can be solved in different ways.

It also means that learning and performance improvement is no longer the sole remit of the L&D department, but something that everyone in the organisation – managers and employees alike – has responsibility for.

The HBR article concludes

“Focusing on “today better” operational efforts does nothing more than create parity with the best executors of yesterday’s model. It is a recipe for short-term survival, not long-term sustainability.

Leaders instead should be thinking about how to blend together operational model and strategic transformation to execute what Innosight calls a dual transformation.” 

So once again if we apply this to transformation of workplace learning, the key point is that operational training efforts (ie applying new technologies to old training problems) are only a recipe for short term survival.

For long-term sustainability it will be important to blend together the operational training model and strategic transformation to bring about a  dual transformation of workplace learning. This is what Modern Workplace Learning (MWL) is all about – it means:

doing things differently and doing different things

Want to find out more how you can transform workplace learning in your organisation? then sign up for the MWL Challenge starting Monday 4 September.

Trying out videos

DevLearn, the elearning conference I’ll be attending in November, has suggested adding videos to promote your talks.  I haven’t done much with video (though I did just do this <6 minute one about my proposed learning pedagogy), but I’ve found the ‘narrated presentation’ capability built into Keynote to be of interest, so I’ve been playing with it.  And I thought I’d share.

First, I created this one to promote my talk on eLearning Myths. It’s a fun session with a MythSmasher format (e.g. the possible myth, the appeal, the damage, the method, the results, and what you can do instead if it’s busted) . It’s important, because if you’re supporting the wrong myths you can be wasting money and vulnerable to flawed promotions. Here’s the pitch:

Then, I’m also running an elearning strategy workshop, that’s basically the Revolution roadmap.  In it, we work through the elements of the Performance Ecosystem and not only make the case for, but workshop a personalized roadmap for your organization.  As things move forward, there’s an opportunity for L&D to lead the charge to the adaptive organization!

I welcome hearing your feedback on content or presentation, and of course invite you to attend either or both!

The rise of the MWL Intrapreneur

idea-1019906_640I recently read a powerful blog post by Helen Blunden called Learning & Development need to get their groove back. Helen is the recipient of the inaugural Jay Cross Memorial Award, and has wide experience both of working within L&D and more recently as a external consultant. All of which has led her to the conclusion ..

“the more I’m working and talking with other businesses, professions, and industries outside L&D, it’s becoming painfully obvious that we are falling behind”

She writes too about how she is increasingly going to conferences and events outside L&D, because she is not learning anything new in L&D anymore …

“I’m still seeing and hearing .. the same old and tired discussion on courseware development and design; circular arguments around the validity of the 70-20-10 numbers (frankly, who really cares?!); general fear of the use of social media; a disdain for Enterprise Social Networks such as Yammer (even though they have never used it themselves) and this mistaken belief that the LMS implementation will solve the organisation’s woes as to why their people aren’t collaborating with each other.  (I hate to break it to you but just because your LMS has a discussion forum, it doesn’t necessarily mean your people will use it). 

Helen does, of course, rightly, recognize that there are some out there who are inspiring and leading new workplace learning skills and who are role models, influencers, connectors and who network extensively themselves. She refers to thee people as L&D intrapreneurs.

This concept of an intrapreneur is interesting. Claudia Chan explains it, in The Rise of the Intraprenuer  ..

“This isn’t employees trying to do better at their existing jobs or move up the ladder; this is them wanting to create something new that doesn’t currently exist.”

Alexa Clay, a spokesperson for the League of Intrapreneurs, explains how the movement of intraprenuership has come a long way (my emboldening) …

“It started (seven years ago) almost as Alcoholics Anonymous,” she said. “We would create these safe spaces for intrapreneurs to come together and share their stories about working in the corporate world because they are going against the grain so often.

The article also makes the valid point (again my emboldening) …

“Obviously there have always been go-getters in companies who try to move the needle forward and push the status quo. But never before has there been such a push for employees to take ownership of their own corner of a company. This can mean creating a new division or launching a new initiative like an environmental or women’s leadership campaign.

So what does it mean to be a MWL (Modern Workplace Learning) intrapreneur?

It means breaking out of the box of doing things the way they have always been done where the only valid learning is considered to happen when L&D organise it – notably through some form of (e-)training initiative.

So it doesn’t mean building a little empire in a corporate academy or corporate university – since that simply perpetuates the approach that L&D organised (and managed) learning activities are the only things that are important. It also doesn’t mean tinkering with training – i.e. tarting it up with social media, gamification, or the latest buzzword – and thinking that this is innovative or transformative! And it certainly doesn’t mean acquiring yet another learning platform – in an attempt to capture, track and measure everything everyone learns!

Of course, there is a need to modernize (e-)training, but there is a much, much bigger picture to consider. For instance, how to help individuals get the most out of what they do (and learn) in their everyday working lives, and how to help them work (and learn) effectively alongside one another. And indeed how to empower individuals to take ownership of their professional self-learning –  so that both they and the company benefit from it.

In other words, being a MWL Intrapreneur means building a completely new vision and approach for workplace learning in the organisation and L&D’s role within it. One where the emphasis moves from DOING things to people (and making sure they do it) to SUPPORTING them as they do things for and by themselves.

Breaking out of the old L&D box is hard –  as it is all too easy to fall back into old ways. And there is also a lot of vested interest in maintaining the status quo! For this reason, the most successful MWL intrapreneurs often come from other areas of the business, as they are not hamstrung by traditional L&D notions about where and how learning happens, and the traditional learning technologies they have been told they need to have in place. But anyone with a broad and open mind – who believes there is a fundamental need to support learning and performance in more relevant ways in the modern workplace – can (and is doing) it.

Going against the grain takes strong will and determination to turn around old organisational ideas and thinking –  and there will of course be many companies who want to stay stuck in their comfortable old ways. But MWL intrapreneurs are able to articulate their ideas, and influence a change in attitudes and behaviour.

Being a MWL intrapreneur is therefore not for the faint-hearted. But anyone can take on the role – young or old – as the article (cited above) explains …

“The rise of the intrapreneur is driven in part by a restless, younger workforce eager to make a real impact with their careers … Older generations, perhaps inspired by their younger colleagues, are thinking more about their legacy and launching new projects in the companies they’ve worked for.”

Just like the League of Intrapreneurship, I create “safe spaces” to discuss MWL intrapreneurship, so if you want some help to become an MWL intrapreneur, if want to consider new possibilities, and/or if you want to hear what others are doing or want to do, then join my MWL Challenge where I will also share my own experience of working with MWL intrapreneurs from around the world. If, however, you prefer some bespoke advice, then please do feel free to contact me personally.


I recently wrote about serious comics, and realized there’s a form I hadn’t addressed yet has some valuable insights. The value in looking at other approaches is that it provides lateral insight (I’m currently reading Stephen Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From) that we may be able to transfer.  And the source this time is editorial cartoons.

Editorial cartoons use imagery and text to convey a comment on a current topic.  The best ones portray a poignant insight into an issue of the day, via a twist that emphasizes the point to be made.  They’re usually combined with a distinct visual style from each artist.  They reflect some of the same thoughts that accompany internet memes (the captioned photos) but require more visual talent ;).

The common approach appears to be (and I welcome insight from others) the ability to use another context to exaggerate some viewpoint. It’s a bit metaphorical, but I think the trick is to abstract the structure from the situation to be illuminated, and to map it to another situation that highlights the relationships.  So you could take some recent pop star spat and map it to a political one, or highlight an economic policy as a personal one.

As context, I happened to stumble upon an exhibition of Conrad‘s work in my college art gallery, and as he was the local cartoonist for my home newspaper (The LA Times), I recognized his work.  I had the chance to explore in more detail his award-winning efforts. Agree or disagree, he made powerful comments and I admired his ability.

Now, editorial cartooning is very context-sensitive, in that what is being talked about is very much ‘of the day’. What’s being commented on may not be relevant at a later time, particularly if they conjoin a popular culture event with an issue as they often do.  But the insight, looking for the twist and the way to make the point, is a valuable skill that has a role in learning design too.

In learning design, we want to make the content meaningful.  There’s intrinsic interest in pretty much everything, but it may be hard to find (see: working with SMEs), and also hard to convey.  Yet I believe comics are one way to do this.  You can, for instance, humorously exaggerate the consequences of not having the knowledge.  I’ve done that with content where we introduced each section of a course with a comic (very much like an editorial cartoon) highlighting the topic and necessity.

The point being that we can not only benefit from understanding other media, but we can appropriate their approaches as well. Our learning designs needs to be eclectic to be engaging and effective.  Or, to put it another way, there are lots of ways to get the design implemented, once you have the design right.

The Modern Workplace Learning Challenge

Challenge Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

(or email to organise a private, bespoke challenge for your team)

Modern Workplace Learning doesn’t just mean modernizing training and e-learning, but radically changing the way you think about and support learning in the organisation. It means helping to build the social organisation – so that individuals can learn from one another everyday as they work together, as well as empowering employee-led learning, where individuals take more responsibility for their own learning and development.

The agenda for the 12 week challenge is is as follows. (Note that whilst the 12 weeks gives this Challenge some structure, it is not a finite deadline; you can take as long as you like to work through it.)

    1. Introduction to MWL
    2. Don’t try and do it all
    3. Provide flexible resources
    4. Drip-feed training
    5. Run learning campaigns and challenges
    6. Support continuous social learning
  1. Help groups solve problems collaboratively
  2. Foster connections through networking events
  3. Empower employee-led learning
  4. Develop new professional learning skills
  5. Build new learning mindsets
  6. MWL Challenge Review


This is not a traditional course, where I provide all the content and then test you on it! It is a social experience hosted in a private Yammer group. Each week there will be a short (web-based) briefing followed by a personal Challenge activity, where you are encouraged to share your thoughts and your work with the rest of the group. Note: there are NO synchronous activities, so the Challenge is suitable for any time-zone.

Nothing is compulsory, but you will find that the more you work out loud with the other participants, the more you will get out of the workshop. Even showing ra” examples of your work is valuable for others to see; it doesn’t have to be a perfect product. And of course, it is also helpful to comment on each others work as well as consider how their ideas might work within your own organization.

You will probably want to commit a couple of hours a week for this workshop, but once again it is up to you how much time you devote to it, and also when you do the work. If you would like a Challenge Completion Certificate you will need to complete the final review activity.

All participants will receive a PDF copy of Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning book as part of the Challenge materials plus draft material from the upcoming 2017 edition, Modern Workplace Learning: Refresh 2017


Participants come from all over the world and from all types of organisations where they work as L&D specialists as well as consultants. They therefore offer a wide mix of perspectives and ideas. Here is some feedback from the L&D Challenge that ran earlier in 2016.

“Jane Hart’s L&D challenge takes you through all of the steps for implementing a shift in the role of L&D towards facilitating social and everyday learning, both at personal and organizational levels. I took part in most of the activities, which are relevant and interesting (and fun!) but there is no obligation to participate if something isn’t relevant to your organization or if you don’t have time that week. This takes away the guilt I often feel when I participate late or not at all during a course and so I never lost the motivation to continue working through it. I highly recommend it to everyone – beginners and experts alike.” Carolyn Gregoire

“If you’re in Learning & Development, you know that you need to change. Traditional Training won’t cut it any more. You need to shape and support modern workplace learning – informal, social, beyond the course and LMS. Jane’s Challenge takes this from an abstract, scary task and makes it possible. The interactions with other professionals are invaluable – you realise you’re not alone and everyone’s willing to help each other out with ideas and practical tips. You’ll come through the challenge with a fresh set of insights for reinvigorating your approach to supporting your business. Highly Recommended.” Stephen Walsh

“The Challenge is a unique learning experience. I would recommended it to anyone in L&D who would like to understand not only where the role of the L&D Practitioner is heading but who also wants to be involved in shaping the role too.

I enjoyed experiencing first-hand one of Jane Hart’s modern approaches to learning – the Guided Social Learning Experience – which is the way in which The Challenge is structured. I think it is both an effective (and enjoyable) structure and I learned a huge amount by completing the weekly Challenge activities and by learning with others on Yammer.

I found Jane’s MWL book (provided as a resource in the program) to be thought-provoking and an excellent read and one that I have continuously referred to. I also found the links to the articles, blog posts, tools etc. written and/or provided by Jane for the activities to be both current and of the best quality.

I will definitely miss receiving the weekly Challenge activity. They not only made me think but they also gave me the proverbial ‘kick’ to try out new activities and tools, and to develop new personal and organisational learning skills and habits.” Justine Jardine


£149 – for payment by credit card or PayPal. Follow the payment instructions below

If you prefer to pay by invoice and inter-bank transfer, please email Please note this incurs an admin fee of £25, and all payment will need to be made in advance of the workshop date.

Payment instructions

Once you click on the sign up link below you will be taken to a page at the PayPal site to pay.

  • You can pay in two ways:
    • By credit card: select Pay with a debit or credit card in the right-hand column, and complete the form with your credit card details. You will also receive a payment receipt. Note: our merchant name is Tesserae Ltd, and this is the name that will appear on your credit card statement.
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  • Where there is more than one participant, please provide the name and email address of each participant in the Instructions to Merchant.
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Meaningful and meta

Over the weekend, one of my colleagues posted a rant about MOOCs and critical thinking. And, largely, I think he was right.  There’re several things we need, and MOOCs as they typically are constituted, aren’t going to deliver.  As I talked about yesterday, I think we need a more refined pedagogy.

So the things we need, to me, are two things:

  1. meaningful learning, whereby we have individuals learning skills that are applicable in their lives, and
  2. meta-learning, or learning to learn, so that people can continue to develop their skills in the face of increasing change.

And I don’t think the typical ‘text on screen with a quiz’ that he was ranting about is going to do it. Even with hand-shot videos.  (Though I disagree when he doesn’t like the word ‘engage’, as I obviously believe that we need engagement, but of both heart and mind, not just tarted up quizzes.)  He wanted critical thinking skills, and I agree.

Hence the activity framework. Yes, it depends on your design skills, but when done right, focusing on having learners create products that resemble the outputs that they’ll need to generate in their lives (and this is strongly influenced by the story-centered curriculum/goal-based scenario work of Roger Schank) is fundamentally invoking the skills they need. And having them show the thinking behind it developing their ‘work out loud’ (“show your work”) skills that ideally will carry over.

Ideally, of course, they’re engaging with other learners, commenting on their thinking (so they internalize critiquing as part of their own self-improvement skill set) and even collaborating (as they’ll have to).  And of course there are instructors involved to evaluate those critical skills.

As an aside, that’s why I have problems with AI. It’s not yet advanced enough yet, as far as I know, to practically be able to evaluate the underlying thinking and determine the best intervention.  It may be great when we are there, but for now in this environment, people are better.

The other component is, of course, gradually handing off control of the learning design responsibility to the learners. They should start choosing what product, what reflection, what content, and ultimately what activity.  This is part of developing their ability to take control of their learning as they go forward.  And this means that we’ll have to be scrutable in our learning design, so they can look back, see how we’re choosing to design learning, so they can internalize that meta-level as well.

And we can largely use MOOC technologies (though we need to have sufficient mentors around, which has been a challenge with the ‘Massive’ part).  The point though, is that we need curriculum design that focuses on meaningful skills, and then a pedagogical design that develops them and the associated learning skills.  That’s what I think we should be trying to achieve.  What am I missing?

Activity-Based Learning Walkthrough

I spoke to my activity-based learning model as part of a larger presentation, and someone suggested that it really helped to be walked through it. So this was on my ‘to do’ queue.  And, finally, I created a walkthrough; here you go (about 5 and a half minutes).

I should note that I don’t view this as all that novel; most of these ideas have appeared elsewhere in some form of another.  The contribution, I feel, is twofold:

  1. representing curriculum in a way that makes it hard to think of ‘info dump and knowledge test’ as a learning experience
  2. including explicit ways to develop thinking and learning skills

And it’s very much dependent on the quality of the choice of components: activity, product, reflection, etc.

As I close in the presentation, I welcome your thoughts and comments.