What am I doing?

by Jay Cross on April 14, 2007

Yesterday morning in Boston I had a Vulcan mind meld with IBM’s Tony O’Driscoll. Tony’s on top of the pulse of our field, particularly virtual worlds for learning.

He asked what I was up to these days. Half a dozen people had asked the same question, so I decided to share what I told Tony on this blog. It fits right in with my Transparent Jay experiment on the Internet Time Wiki.

I am continuing to research how organizations can profit from informal learning, Web 2.0, and related approaches. Some solutions are simple: social networking, encouraging conversations that matter, and beefing up networks. Others require more investment but can be transformative: nurturing communities of practice, trusting peer learning, and building bottom-up knowledge systems. The profit potential is phenomenal.

Business has wrung most of the value out of the processes they recognize; there is little upside to finetuning them further.

What I am tracking has been flying under their radar; it’s new ground. More than low-hanging fruit, it’s fruit that grows on trees that have never been harvested: virgin territory.

I also work with individual companies. This keeps me sharp and pays the bills. My clients are progressive companies: high tech, pharma, and change agents. These companies are already the best; they are always exploring for ways to stay on top. In contrast, most rigid, centralized, conservative companies are waiting things out and may be beyond hope.

On a typical assignment, I might work with a group of, say, sales trainers. Their management wants them to focus on performance instead of training, to think out of the box, and to work with one another to come up with innovations. I’m the catalyst.

Before a session I’ll take a survey or distribute a white paper or perhaps send out copies of the book. In a typical three-day retreat, I’ll schmooze with people at dinners to offer individual guidance and size up the situation. I’ll spend two or three hours conversing with the group as a whole, explaining and demonstrating concepts but also brainstorming what opportunities to take advantage of immediately. Everything I do is custom. Well, maybe I should say impromptu.

My fee depends on the situation: how much value I can add, scope, and prep. I’d throw in depth-of-pockets but that’s usually very hard to come up with. Fees for the charge-up-the-sales-training-staff have run $6,000 to $12,000. I offer a minor discount for meetings in places I enjoy, e.g. Prague, Lago di Como, Paris….

I continue to give talks, write articles, and bring products to market, although now there is generally a tie-in with informal learning. Several friends have joined me to write a book on mobile learning. By mid-year, I hope to have published a book on the metrics of corporate learning.

I know it shows my age (physical, not mental), but Joni’s words reverberate in my head, “I don’t know who I am, but you know, life is for learning.” Life is good.

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