Sunday, March 29, 2009

Informal learning

In adult learning, the individual learn from various sources - experts, internet, books, magazines, benchmarking and etc. But for most adults, the learning capabilities are mostly coming from mistakes that are due to poor planning, insufficient information resources and limited creativity. Therefore, it is a challenge for HRD profession to instill learning capabilities to the employees. The best solution is to hire those who read and learn well.

The future belongs to who can learn and apply faster and better.
Three essential skills - reading skills, Internet research skills and project management skills are the solution to future challenges.

Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance (Essential Knowledge Resource) (Paperback)

by Jay Cross (Author)

Editorial Reviews

"I was an unlikely candidate to buy into Jay Cross's theory that formal learning is largely ineffective. But my curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself totally engrossed in his out-of-the-ordinary thinking on learning." (T+D Magazine, February 2007)

"I was an unlikely candidate to buy into Jay Cross's theory that formal learning is largely ineffective. But my curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself totally engrossed in his out-of-the-ordinary thinking on learning." (T+D Magazine, February 2007)

"The key to the twenty-first century will be in learning how to leverage informal learning for us all. Jay provides us with an evocative road map to how we can do this."
—John Seely Brown, coauthor, Social Life of Information, and former chief scientist, Xerox Corp.

"Informal learning is the perfect theme for exploring the next wave of our field. Jay Cross continues to push our thinking on the transformational forces of knowledge, learning, and performance. A must read!"
—Elliott Masie, founder, The MASIE Center's Learning CONSORTIUM

"In an outsourced, automated age, informal learning has become the key to high performance and personal fulfillment. And now Jay Cross has written the very best primer on this woefully neglected topic. This is a book for both sides of your brain!"
—Daniel H. Pink, author, A Whole New Mind

"Jay Cross provides an important challenge for us all—to move our focus from the classroom to the workplace, and in doing so, reframe what we do in ways that much more closely reflect how people actually learn and perform on the job. Informal Learning has profound implications for how we—from trainers to chief learning officers and from frontline business managers to executives—must rethink our ideas and practices, not in some distant future, but right now."
—Marc J. Rosenberg, management consultant, and author, Beyond E-Learning

"This book shows how informal learning experiences connect us with information, help us share ideas, and obtain new perspectives, and even help us create new knowledge together."
—Ellen Wagner, director, Worldwide eLearning, Adobe Systems

"The one sentence from this book that hit me like a train: 'Most corporations invest their training budget where it will have the least impact.' Wow. In an era of demanding ROI, shrinking budgets, and the insistence to do more with less, think of the impact that informal learning could have if it could truly focus learning and efforts for maximum impact."
—Mark Oehlert, learning strategy architect, Booz Allen Hamilton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, March 26, 2007
Jay Cross has written an invaluable book here for many reasons.

It can be hard to face up to, but the medieval basis of our education is suddenly and starkly out of touch with the needs of a post-network society. After reading this book, it's hard not to face up to that fact, because we now have a compelling, if nascent, alternative. The web enables a wholly different, but infinitely more effective approach to learning - through self-direction, and peer collaboration, motivated by individual choice, for example. As Jay points out, given the complexity and pace of change of 21st century life, we simply must change. (I have an 8 year -old daughter in school and it pains me to see what she's going through when it will all become obsolete in just a few years.) He outlines a kind of proto-pedagogical alternative, taking 'natural' learning as its starting point. He blends online/offline ideas with ideas from design, motivational psychology, etc, but is careful not to lose sight of learning objectives.

As an educator/trainer of over 20 years myself, I believe the book succeeds. Jay isn't a tremendous stylist, nor are his ideas wildly original, but he does exactly what is needed. He makes the case for alternative approaches to learning in a clear and simple way with plenty of diagrams, and examples. Although his focus is on corporate training, rather than traditional education, the implications reverberate. He brings years of training experience, together with an optimistic outlook to practice what he preaches. Having read his blog o ver the course of severalk months it has left it's makr on my own

The book is almost a metaphor for the kinds of challenge we face: hard to pin down, constantly changing, yet sometimes so obvious that we fail to see the significance. Jay doesn't have all the answers because that is the kind of (medieval) certainty he cautions against. He has brought an important discussion into the light of day. I don't know anyone who wouldn't benefit from this book.

Ken Carroll
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Informality at its best, April 15, 2006
By Jay Cross (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Informal Learning begins with a discussion of how the passage of time is accelerating. The 21st century will see the experience of 20,000 old 20th century years. That said, I'm hardly surprised to find this book on Amazon, eight months before it will be published. (I'm still editing the copy.)

As long as you're here, I'll share what the book is going to be about. People learn how to do their jobs informally - talking, observing others, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal training and workshops account for only 10% to 20% of what people learn at work. Most corporations over-invest in formal training while neglecting more natural, simple ways to learn.

Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work, and in the groups that matter to you. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.

Learning is adaptation. Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word network, to learn is to optimize the quality of one's networks.

Executives don't want learning; they want execution. They want performance. Informal learning is a profit strategy. Companies are using informal learning to:

* Improve knowledge worker productivity 20% - 30%
* Increase sales by Google-izing product knowledge
* Generate fresh ideas and increase innovation
* Transform an organization from disaster to record profits
* Reduce stress, absenteeism, and healthcare costs
* Invest development resources for maximum impact impact
* Increase professionalism and professional growth
* Cut costs and improve responsiveness with self-service learning

Training is something that's pushed on you; learning is something you choose to do. Many a knowledge worker will tell you, "I love to learn but I hate to be trained." Knowledge workers thrive when given the freedom to decide how they will do what they're asked to do. They rise or fall to meet expectations.

Informal Learning is about challenging workers (and executives) to be all they can be.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 Things I Like About This Book, December 16, 2006
First, a bit of context: I'm a seasoned (30+ years) practitioner in the field of leadership development, organizational learning, design and change. I've come to see that the work of transforming our organizations to new levels of consciousness, effectiveness and sustainability rests on our skill as practitioners and leaders in achieving a breakthrough an organization's capacity to learn how to learn--to be responsive to ever-increasing challenges and ever-increasing rates of change.

I've long been aware of the high cost and relative ineffectiveness of conventional "butts-in-seats" approaches to individual and organizational learning. The accelerating emergence of relevant learning strategies, methods, technologies and tools over the past decade has been encouraging--necessary but not sufficient. Jay Cross' wonderfully crafted Informal Learning constitutes a major breakthrough for all who care about transforming the organizations they serve.


1. It does a magnificent job of explaining how we actually learn. It turns much "conventional wisdom" on its head. It provides us a cornucopia of innovative ideas for how to stimulate a culture of learning and innovation throughout an organization.

2. It's clear, clean and creatively written/formatted. I was pulled into and through the book by Jay's open, straight-talking, conversational style. His use of a variety of illustrations and juicy sidebar tidbits kept luring me to go just a bit further. The accessibility of information is superb.

3. It's alive. It's up-to-the minute and it anticipates a future where organizations are becoming increasingly alive and conscious because they've mastered the art of encouraging and nurturing informal learning.

4. Jay has distilled hard-earned wisdom from a rich collection of experts and pioneers--transformation-minded innovators and practitioner-theorists who I deeply respect--infinite players such as John Seely Brown, Etienne Wenger, David Cooperrider, Juanita Brown, David Sibbet, Verna Allee, Bruce Cryer and George Leonard.

5. Informal Learning is extraordinarily comprehensive and discerning. Jay has cast a wide net and presented us with only that which is value-adding. He has separated the wheat from the chaff.

6. It's an out-of-the-box paradigm-shifting book. He shakes up our traditional ways of thinking about learning, training and education in organizations. Informal Learning provides a variety of cures for "hardening of the categories."

7. It challenges and supports HR and Training departments to multiply their effectiveness in promoting and sustaining a vibrant informal learning culture. It provides pragmatic guidance in creative ways of weaving the work of people development throughout the fabric of an organization's operations.

8. It both challenges all organizational leaders to take direct responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment--a "learnscape"--where informal learning will naturally take root and flourish. It then provides a plethora of ideas for how to make that a reality.

9. I can easily visualize a number of generative ways of planting this book in organizations--ways that will cause relevant ideas to germinate, take root, grow and spread.

10. Best of all, Jay has built a strong case for treating an organization's approach to learning as a potential core business strategy. As we move into an era of ever-increasing change, an organization's capacity to learn and to innovate will become increasingly crucial to it's sustainability.

So -- Thank you, Jay Cross! Your book is a great piece of work--a major contribution to the world of organizations, leadership development, organizational design, learning and change. Leaders and practitioners everywhere will gain much by accessing and experimenting with the many ideas and insights you have provided us in this book.
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