Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Everything Flows – Jay Cross CEO Internet Time Group

The theme of the conference was based around – Driving workforce performance through learning and development – which looked at the what, the how, and the why of learning and development in this day and age using technologies. The conference kicked-off with Jay Cross, an e-learning guru, and is (I learned later in other session) well regarded and revered by other prominent figures in the community. Jay’s name and work was continuously referred to in other lecturers, I got a feeling of Jay being a sort of patron figure in the LT community.

Jay’s address was slow paced, albeit with lots of interesting information and thoughts. Jay started off by explaining his first slide and his afterthought of changing the title from Learning: All change to Everything Flows.

In summary, Jay spoke about the rampant pace at which technology is moving, and the unpredictable nature of it impeding planning ahead. Seventy-Five percent of organisations think that their existing training provisions are inadequate to maintain a knowledgeable and competitive workforce. Coupled with a budding young workforce who have no time for training, the only way organisations will thrive in the future is to perpetually rethink how employees should learn and develop.

Jay went on to say that he thought there are some advantages of the Internet that will tie things back to learning and development, and how we can exploit these to our advantage. He further highlighted “Take Instant Messaging which makes networks in silos internally without restriction of hierarchy”. Some ‘Beta’ Web 2.0 and Open Source services empower users to use software for free however reclaim feedback and development as payment. Jay encouraged the crowd to adapt the free services that are available, “Microsoft wants you to think that Open Source is made by hippies on a beach who’ve had too much to smoke”.

Jay continued by defining 3 characteristics of successful learning to take place: Comprehension, Conversation, and Collaboration. These 3 things can be supported with various ‘free’ web tools for the benefit of an organisation.
  • For instance to set meetings use Doodle
  • Share info through podcasts using Audacity, a mic, and a podcatcher
  • Set-up Blogs and Wikis (Blogger and Wordpress) for process, procedures, and activities
  • Use RSS feeds to alert and send messages
  • Facebook for profiles
  • Ning to start your own community around an interest
  • Del.icio.us for bookmarks.
And don’t ban people from accessing the Internet!

Jay then shared some very insightful examples of Blue chip companies and the US Military using these new technologies to disseminate message and display transparent communication:

Tootsie Rolls and the US Military

Tootsie Rolls are chocolate flavoured sweets that have become somewhat of an American cultural icon. The US military would occasionally airdrop to servicemen as a treat to increase morale. However, the noise in unwrapping the sweet was detrimental to the servicemen who were constantly being targeted by snipers. Somebody blogged about this and within a little time news spread like wildfire, to the benefit of the military. Jay added “Now you can’t imagine the National Defence Manual mentioning this little tip would you!”

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO Sun Microsystems

Jonathan Schwartz CEO for Sun Microsystems frequently speaks directly to his workforce directly though his blog. So everybody gets the message at once. Jay added that Jonathan’s style of writing was such that it made him feel that Jonathan was really speaking to him.

I remembered another quote from a speaker in a different session that is related to Jay’s account of Jonathan Schwartz; “How many times in a year does your CEO speak to you?” asked the speaker, “Even if you do get a couple of annual address, they speak to you collectively in a lecture theatre”. A CEO’s blog is a leader’s personal voice to a worker, and many times to associated businesses too.

For example when Sun Microsystems decided on acquiring MYSQL, Jonathan knew that there will be much buzz and a little rumour flying here and there, so what better way to address this and keep confidence of his workforce and to contain the newly acquired company nerves by videoing the executive’s conversation around a picnic table basking in some sun. OK so there’s chances of it being staged but the comment section on the same post bears testimony to the success of this strategy.

Sun Microsystems and mySQL Excecutives have a chat and video it for the workforce

Intel Wiki

Josh Bancroft thought of the idea a repository to store a myriad of acronyms that flow around Intel Corp. in a wiki. There were 13 million hits in one year and they were all internal!

Jay then finished off the session by taking some questions from the audience.

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