Informal Learning Center

by Jay Cross on December 27, 2013


People acquire the skills they use at work informally — talking, observing others, trial-and-error, and simply working with people in the know. Formal training and workshops account for only 5% to 20% of what people learn from experience and interactions.

Order the Informal Learning book or read a summary or download the Informal Learning Poster.


What is Informal Learning? Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route. The cyclist can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or help a fellow rider.

Most corporations over-invest in formal training while leaving the more natural, simple ways we learn to chance. This is foolish, for there are many ways to encourage informal learning and they boost the bottom line.

Need to get your arms around the essence of informal learning in business in a hurry? Start with these:


Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance

Buy the book!
Kindle edition
What is informal learning?

Read a free chapter

CASES.Chapter 8: Envisioning.
Chapter 9: Conversation.
Chapter 10: Communities.
Chapter 11: Unblended.
Chapter 12: The Web.
Chapter 13: Grokking.
Chapter 14: Unconferences.
Chapter 15: Just Do It

Where did the 80% come from?

Search the text


Articles and Commentary

70:20:10 Learning Approaches, Charles Jennings

Managers, the Secret Weapon for Developing Better Employees (70 20 10)

The Oxford Debate on Informal Learning

Introducing Informal Learning, Marcia Conner

Eight Reasons Why You Should Focus on Social and Informal Learning, Charles Jennings

Not Without Purpose, Jay Cross

Social Learning Gets Real, ibid

Focusing on Strategy & Governance, Charles Jennings

When it’s just so obvious NOT to train it’s painful to watch it happen, ibid

Towards a definition of Informal Learning, Jane Hart

Guide to Social Learning, ibid

Informal Learning Works for New Hires, Harold Jarche

PKM & Informal Learning, ibid

Informal Learning & Performance Technology, ibid

Driving formal & informal from the same place, Clark Quinn

Seed, Feed & Weed, ibid

aprendizagem informal – os outros 80%”, Jay Cross and Luiz Algarra

Corporate Training is Broken and How to Fix It, Jay Cross


Need help with term paper? – paper writing service.

An informal way to get a better term paper is to use – a legitimate custom writing company.

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Time marches on

by Jay Cross on February 24, 2011

I started this blog when Informal Learning was released, November 10, 2006.

The informal learning meme has gone mainstream. I am gratified. That crusade is behind me.

Informal learning is more important than ever. It’s part of life. It no longer needs an in-your-face site to promote it.

These days I focus my energies on helping organizations work smarter. Informal learning is part of the mix, but so are social business, brain science, systems thinking, and a bunch of other things.

Need help with term paper? – paper writing service.

An informal way to get a better term paper is to use – a legitimate custom writing company.

Join me at

You want Jay, that’s where I’ll be. Even I was getting confused about which blog to post in.

The archives will live on. The Internet Time Search box will continue to cover both blogs.

Subscribe to Internet Time blog here (Feedburner RSS).

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Re-reading A New Culture of Learning

by Jay Cross on February 13, 2011

A New Culture of Learning by John Seely Brown and Doug Thomas

This short book (136 pages) is inspiring. I just read it a second time, something I very rarely do. These paragraphs lept out and grabbed me:

Peer-to-Peer Learning
In the new culture of learning, people learn through their interaction and participation with one another in fluid relationships that are the result of shared interests and opportunity. In this environment, the participants all stand on equal ground—no one is assigned to the traditional role of teacher or student. Instead, anyone who has particular knowledge of, or experience with, a given subject may take on the role of mentor at any time. Mentors provide a sense of structure to guide learning, which they may do by listening empathically and by reinforcing intrinsic motivation to help the student discover a voice, a calling, or a passion. Once a particular passion or interest is unleashed, constant interaction among group members, with their varying skills and talents, functions as a kind of peer amplifier, providing numerous outlets, resources, and aids to further an individual’s learning.

Learning from others is neither new nor revolutionary; it has just been ignored by most of our educational institutions. The college experience is a perfect example. When students set foot on campus in their freshman year, they begin a learning experience that is governed only in part by their classroom interactions. Assuming they live on campus, sleep eight hours a night, and attend classes three hours a day, students are immersed in a learning environment for an additional thirteen hours a day. Simply by being among the people around them—in study groups, for instance—students are learning from their environment, participating in an experience rich in resources of deep encounters.

The Emergence of the Collective
Our ability to produce, consume, and distribute knowledge in an unlimited, unfiltered, and immediate way is the primary reason for the changes we see today. One no longer needs to own a television station, a printing press, or a broadcast transmitter to disseminate information, for example. With just a computer and access to the internet, one can view or consume an almost unimaginably diverse array of information and points of view.

But equally important is the ability to add one’s own knowledge to the general mix. That contribution may be large, such as a new website, or it may be a series of smaller offerings, such as comments on a blog or a forum post. It may even be something as trivial as simply visiting a website. But in each case, the participation has an effect, both in terms of what the individual is able to draw from it and how it shapes and augments the stream of information.

This core aspect of education in the new culture of learning presents a model for understanding learning in the face of rapid change. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are taking an active role in helping to create and mold it, particularly in areas of social information.

We call this environment a collective. As the name implies, it is a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts.10 For our purposes, collectives are not solely defined by shared intention, action, or purpose (though those elements may exist and often do). Rather, they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning.

Here’s an important aspect of that I call a workscape:

Students learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment. Both of those elements matter. Without the boundary set by the assignment of playing the prelude, there would be no medium for growth. But without the passion, there would be nothing to grow in the medium. Yet the process of discovering one’s passion can be complicated.

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Free webinar, Wednesday, February 16th

February 8, 2011

Training Smarter, Working Smarter Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 11 AM PST/ 2 PM EST FREE Considering the fast pace and super-connectedness of today’s business environment, is the old static classroom really the best place for achieving modern training objectives? Hear Jay Cross, a leading expert on informal learning, for a far-ranging conversation about how […]

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Change or die

January 13, 2011

LX Briefing Mixing case studies, stories, and actionable recommendations together with humor and easy-to-understand language, Jay Cross provides much more than buzzwords and back-patting, or so says his bio. He also has some very strong opinions on the future of workplace learning. A Harvard MBA and Princeton undergrad, he has been improving business processes since […]

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Calling shades of gray “black and white”

January 2, 2011

Recognition of Non-formal and Informal Learning. Fifteen years ago, “the OECD education ministers agreed to develop strategies for ‘lifelong learning for all’.” They still don’t have it right. Who are these guys? OECD? According to Wikipedia, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, in French: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, OCDE) is […]

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Arts & Letters Daily, Denis Dutton RIP

January 1, 2011

A moment of silence, please. Denis Dutton, a philosophy who founded the pioneering website Arts & Letters Daily, has died in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the age of 66. Arts & Letters Daily broke new ground went it came online in 1998. The site’s archive shows what grabbed people’s interest back then. Here are entries […]

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Happy Multidisciplinary 2011!

January 1, 2011
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Overcoming Bipolar Thinking

December 24, 2010

Learning is a continuum of degrees of formality • BY JAY CROSS In the five years since the publication of Informal Learning, I’ve become the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. I didn’t invent the concept. Informal learning is older than civilization. My contribution has been pointing out that overemphasis on formal learning in organizations is […]

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Each one teach one customer service

December 22, 2010

Here’s a worthy idea. Mobilize your users to support one another via Twitter. This instance is part of the latest upgrade to Firefox. The push button takes you to their Tweetstream.

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