Learning Architecture: Preface

The Informal Learning 2.0 Fieldbook. That’s what I called this growing heap of words back in May 2008. Then I realized I wasn’t writing a book. And my topic was broader than informal learning. I owe you readers an explanation.

Not about learning? Learning is the cognitive process of acquiring skills or knowledge. I am much more interested in doing. We’ve become a society of knowledge workers and learning is more important than ever, but if it does not lead to action it is simply a distraction. I’d use the title Getting Things Done if someone had not beat me to it. What’s more, we can now imbed knowledge directly into a job so that people need not learn it at all.

Not a book? Books freeze an author’s thoughts in time. The faster the world flows by, the less relevant the book. I want to create a work that keeps the pace of change. Books don’t do this; hence, this is not a book: think of it as an un-book.

An un-book is a perpetual work in progress.┬áBy responding to feedback, adapting to changing conditions, and building on new insights, un-books improve with age. Publishing an un-book consists of taking a snapshot for distribution. Un-books are always current; un-books are never stocked in inventory. Rather, they are produced on demand, assuring purchasers they’ll be receiving fresh information.

Traditional books are one-way. The author speaks; you listen. As an alternative, consider the Whole Earth Catalog, which pulled you in with information on handy tools and how to use them. Where you took it from there was your business.

And why confine things to a single author? That’s presumptuous. For almost any subject that comes to mind, I know people better equipped to explain it than I. Rather than try to re-tell their stories in my language, I’d rather introduce you, and give them the opportunity to speak for themselves.

And what about you? You won’t get much from this un-book if you’re not up for making some changes. Please release the notion that change mush be threatening.

When people perceive a potential threat, their ancient reptilian brains open up the adrenaline jets, preparing them for fight or flight. This heightened ready-state is stress. Too much of it can kill you.

Many of us feel threatened by imaginary gremlins. Anything new activates their hair-trigger fight or flight response. These perceptions wear them down. They confine themselves to a limited comfort zone to escape the stress.

Hiding from change does not work for long. The only people who escape change are the dead. The world of the living is continually rebirth. Adaptation to the new is a prerequisite for living a good life.

A natural way to reduce stress without withdrawing from the outside world is to embrace change instead of resenting it. Often change is wonderful.

Remember the day you graduated from college? The feeling you had when your first child was born? Your first sip of champagne? Your first kiss?

The shift from industrial-age consciousness to the networked era is inevitable. To prosper, look at the bright side. Open your mind to fresh ways of dealing with change. Look for the upside, and you may just find it.

Lorne Greene — you may know him as Pa Cartwright on the television show Bonanza — said in a commercial that Alpo dog food was so healthy, he fed it to his own dogs. Among software developers, using one’s own programs became known as “eating the dog food.” (Tom Siebel changed the phrase to “sipping our own champagne,” but what that makes up for in taste, it loses in vigor.)

Eating the dog food means doing it, rather than just talking about it. Let’s eat! Bon appetit!