The Work of Learning

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As educational content becomes a more and more of a commodity, it’s more important than ever to remember that access does not equal learning.

Hordes of people have accessed MOOCs. Few of them finish. And even fewer of them engage with the courses in a way that results in lasting learning.

As enticing as it is to think a Netflix-type model can apply to learning, a huge amount of research tells us there simply is no such thing as “binge” learning. Organizations that latch onto this concept and promote it are irresponsible.

Yes, you can accelerate some types of learning – somewhat – but the bottom line is that most real, lasting learning takes time and it takes work.

And therein lies an advantage.

Individuals who are willing to put in the time and do the work will thrive.

Organizations that are willing to do the hard work of truly being learning organizations will have a significant – often decisive – competitive edge.

Leaders who think in terms of leading learning - in their sectors, in their societies – will transform the world. Those who don’t will simply contribute to the type of dysfunctional mess we currently see in much of the U.S. political system.

So it goes in the learning economy.

A simple rule to thrive by: apply learning immediately

Hand circling "now" instead of "later" on a white boardEver read a book and found as little as a few weeks later that you can barely remember a single key idea from the book?

Or attended a conference and struggled to remember the following year whether you attended it or not – much less whether you actually learned anything?

Or led your organization through significant market research and strategizing only to find a year later that things remain pretty much the same?

Common sense and lot of research back up the idea that we don’t retain very well what we don’t use. The simple (which is not to say easy) solution, of course, is to apply new knowledge or skills soon and frequently after they are acquired. This goes both for individuals and organizations.

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The Strategy-Learning Loop

Infinite Loop Learning (TM)

In simplest terms, strategy is the means by which we travel from a current state to a future desired state. The realization of strategy is, by necessity, a learning journey.

Strategy presupposes that there are things we know, but also that there is a great deal we do not know. It gives us a framework for making decisions as we encounter new information, as we learn.

As a result of learning we should, of course, adjust strategy.

And so the process continues.

The Dangerous Middle

The Dangerous Middle

I’ve been thinking about “the middle” lately. Not the TV show – though I do enjoy that on the occasions I am able to watch it – but rather that average space in which too many organizations tend to find themselves. A place where it is very difficult to truly stand out and have an impact.

I often make the point when talking about the Value Ramp that too many organizations have a lot of “stuff” in the middle of the ramp and don’t do nearly enough on either end. And they are feeling it in the attrition of sales and members.

In any case, with this type of thinking bouncing around in my mind I stumbled across a piece from one of my old newsletters and – even after a gap of a few years – it still resonated with me. I decided to replay it here in the hopes that it will resonate with you as well. Here you go:

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What is the Learning Economy?

Start with the individual terms:


Here’s how I define it:

the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes. (from A Definition of Learning)


I had to piece together Merriam-Webster and Oxford to get a definition that I felt was truly accurate:

a system of “interaction and exchange” (M-W) that governs the “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.” (Oxford)

Interconnected System - Learning EconomyLearning is a process. An economy is a system. Both are dynamic and evolving; both never “end” in any meaningful sense.

In a Learning Economy, the process of learning is the fundamental driver of the system. Learning fuels innovation; it fuels change; it enables participants in the system to adapt so that they can sustain wealth and create new wealth.

Without learning, the system atrophies.

You could argue that every successful economy is a learning economy – and you would be right. What is different now, though, is the sheer speed, scope, and scale of learning – and, by extension, change – that is possible.

Technology – in the broadest sense – has made this possible. And learning continues to drive the advancement of technology. Both knock down economic barriers and borders.

A flywheel effect. A virtuous – or is it vicious? – circle.

That is the Learning Economy.


P.S. – What the Learning Economy is relates directly to what the Learning Revolution is.

Educational Content Marketing with the Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox

Essential Tools for the Web Educator and Educational Content Marketer

Essential Tools for the Educational Content Marketer

I’ve suggested before that succeeding with content marketing is not necessarily easy – especially as more and more people jump on the bandwagon.  One key to making it work is to create truly useful content, and for my money, that usually means educational content.

To help give you a leg up on doing just that, I’ve released The Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox from behind the e-mail sign-up wall. You can just click to download – no e-mail address or credit card required.

Free Download - Learning Revolutionary's Toolbox

In the Toolbox, you will find a range of tools to help you with creating and distributing educational content, whether strictly for marketing purposes or as a way of generating revenue.

Either way, if you find it useful, I’d be truly grateful if you would share this page with others by clicking any or or all of the social buttons at the bottom of this post, blogging about it, e-mailing, or however you choose. (Yes, I’m trying to practice what I preach.)



P.S. – Why not also grab the first chapter of Leading the Learning Revolution for free while you’re here and also set yourself up to get occasional, high-value updates from me on strategic thinking to fuel your life and business? Just sign up below (You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time, and I absolutely, positively will not share your contact info with anyone.)

Purpose, Strategy, Learning

Purpose Strategy Learning

In my day-to-day work I focus a great deal on concepts like strategy and learning at the organizational and market levels. Over time, I have also become increasingly interested in how these concepts, in combination with an overall sense of purpose, Continue Reading »

The answer is yes

McEwan Atonement Quote

I am in the midst of Ian McEwan's Atonement - a long overdue read - and I was struck by the following passage relatively early in the book. It unfolds inside the mind of Briony, the precocious 13-year old girl at the center of the story, and reflects Continue Reading »

The Learning Revolution is …

Photo of raised fists for the Learning Revolution

We hear the word "learning" and our knee jerk, often unconscious reaction is to think "education." But, in reality, learning is not primarily about education. Indeed, formal, teacher-led educational experiences account for only about five percent of Continue Reading »

The Content Marketing Danger Zone – and How to Manage It

Danger Zone Sign

Concepts like "content marketing" and "curation" are finally going mainstream - which means it's time to beware. In this post, I explore why content marketing should be a key part of your marketing mix, but also how it can lead you down the road Continue Reading »