Eric Shepherd, CEO of Questionmark, asks a great question on his blog.

"As Learning and Assessment Professionals What Could We Have Done to Prevent the Financial Crisis?"

Click to check it out.

Eric provides a great list of things on the learning side. I added some things as well.

I'm a great believer that we all have some ability to influence, so I'm inclined to say, "YES," we could have done some things better.

Not that we have control. Not that others aren't more responsible. Certainly the incompetence of the former presidential administration, the deregulatory mindset we'd bought into, the senior management we work for. But, we could have done some things differently. What do you think?

Eric Shepherd of Quesionmark offers a white paper on his blog that goes into some nice depth to help you think through the level of security you might need in your learning assessments.

As I've written here before, there are many reasons to provide learning assessments, each having it's own design needs–and security needs as well.

Check out Eric's blog (and the first hyperlink) to get the white paper.

Video Overview:

The following video provides an entertaining and, I hope, enlightening look at the humble job aid.


  • This is only the second video that I shot and edited. See how I did.
  • Allison Rossett, co-author of the book, Job Aids and Performance Support (with Lisa Schafer) is interviewed.
  • Worldwide public introduction to incredible new talent, the incomparable Alena.
  • Brewer the dog has cameo role.

Video Notes:

Because of YouTube size restrictions, it is divided into 2 parts.

Enjoy in HD (if your computer can handle it) by:

  1. Starting the Video
  2. Clicking on HD at Lower Right, AND
  3. Clicking on the full-screen display (the box in a box) at Lower Right
  4. IF the audio doesn't track, your computer can't handle HD.

Part 1

Part 2

Purchasing (or learning more about) Allison's Book:

Test Page



It was November 2008 when I started using Twitter. About 120 days of Twittering. Hmmm.

Feels like years.

I've sent 233 tweets (about 2 a day). I have 256 followers. I follow 66.

I first blogged about Twitter on November 14 2008. See my first thoughts on Twitter.

Here is a mosaic of my followers:

You can get your own twitter mosaic here.

My twitter experiment continues.

It's some good, some bad.

One key is to develop strategies not to be too distracted.

I've certainly learned about some cool stuff I wouldn't otherwise know about.

What I don't know — and can't know — is what I've lost while I'm Twittering or following the paths that start on Twitter.

If you haven't Twittered, I recommend giving it a try for 2 or 3 months.

  1. Get a twitter account.
  2. Enable everyone to read your tweets (otherwise you look like a paranoid).
  3. Look to see what others are writing (me for example at WillWorkLearn)
  4. DON'T follow too many people yet (less than 5).
    Why? b/c following begets followers, and you will want a community (later).
  5. Create some tweets each day.
  6. Try to provide (a) some value (links to good info) and (b) some insight into your true self.
  7. AFTER, you've done the above for a week or so, begin following others.
  8. See what happens.
  9. The <5 folks you originally followed (who aren't yet your followers), send them an @ message to let them know you exist…so that they may join your community (and become a follower).
  10. Build some strategies to avoid too much time loss.
  11. See what happens.

Great list by Janet Clarey of some of the most notable women in the Learning Technology field.

Click here to look at the list.

The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is now famously known for making seriously contaminated products, killing 9 since September 2008 and sickening almost 700 others.

You all know that. What you may not know is that PCA was inspected by the leading certifying agency in the food industry on multiple occasions and was given glowing reviews.

Here is what the Washington Post reports:

David Mackay, Kellogg's chief executive, said his company trusted
audits performed by the American Institute of Baking International, the
biggest food-inspection firm in the country. The institute conducted
scheduled inspections of PCA's facilities and never flagged serious
problems. It issued a "certificate of achievement" and a "superior"
rating last August, when PCA was getting results from internal
laboratory tests that revealed a salmonella problem in its plant in
Blakely, Ga., congressional investigators said.

Many well-known companies (including Kellogg) trusted outside food auditing firms to test the ingredients they were sourcing for their own products. Others, like Nestle, sent their own auditors and rejected PCA products after finding rat droppings, beetles, and other detritus in PCA's products.

Not surprisingly, PCA paid American Institute of Baking International to perform the audits (AND to certify PCA as in compliance).

Lessons Learned

  1. When a company pays an auditor, the auditor may have incentive to be lenient.
  2. When a company relies on outside inspectors to assess other entities, they may not get good information.
  3. When an industry fails to provide good oversight and regulation, bad things can happen.
  4. Just because something is certified, even by the largest or most prestigious certifying body in an industry, doesn't mean the certification can be trusted.
  5. It's not just about good people, it's also about good structures, oversight, and information.

Is this Relevant in the Training & Development, Learning & Performance Field?

Yes. You bet. We have:

  1. Awards that are biased toward those paying award application fees.
  2. Top 10 and Top 20 lists that represent the awarding entity's client list.
  3. Industry research based on surveys sent to the research entity's clients' client lists.
  4. Industry research that is biased toward the research entity's biggest clients.
  5. Conference sessions that are guaranteed for companies who pay for exhibit space.
  6. Webinars by sponsoring organizations.
  7. Etc.

Unfortunately, there is no trusted journalistic institution in our field. Our trade organizations are timid because commercial interests pay the bulk of their operating expenses. Most of our bloggers (me included) are timid because we earn our living in the field. Where the hell are the freelance bloggers who our social-media evangelists promised would rise up to fight corruption and injustice?

Best Advice in Current State

The best advice at this point in time is:

  1. Be skeptical.
  2. Do your own digging. 
  3. Form groups of other skeptical diggers and share information.
  4. Don't just get angry about this. It's the way the world works. Find work arounds.
  5. If you can't point fingers, gently avoid the corrupters.
  6. If you're entangled with a corrupting entity, gently work to reform it, or leave it.
  7. If you are a corrupter, forgive yourself, reform yourself.
  8. Do good work.

The following photographs I took with my cell phone (Samsung Omnia) looking outside my windshield while double-parked in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can click to enlarge the pictures.



Here is a question for you to answer:

Why do the snowflakes in the picture look like needles (or needle-like structures)? To make this more difficult, more than one answer is correct.

1. They broke apart while falling to the earth.
2. They were originally formed as needle-like structures.
3. They shattered into pieces when they hit objects.
4. The temperature of the air dictated the shape.
5. They combined into needle-like structures while falling.

See if you can guess one of the correct answers. DON'T FORGET TO HIT THE "VOTE" BUTTON !!


How This is Relevant to the Workplace Learning-and-Performance Field.

Most people will probably get the answer to the snowflake question wrong, even with a 40% chance of getting a correct answer. Most of us have only learned about the prototypical snowflakes, those with beautiful six-sided symmetry. But as it turns out, snowflakes actually can take many forms, including the needle-like snowflakes in the pictures above. Snowflakes formed at different temperatures form into different patterns.

Here are a few articles on snowflakes.

Article 1

Article 2

Why do we think of snowflakes as hexagonal even though we must have encountered other snowflake types throughout our lives?

Yes, we were trained wrong. Indoctrinated in the six-sided mental model of snowflakes, we haven't always been able to see what is right in front of us.

Does this sort of mental-model obfuscation happen in our field? You bet. It happens in every field.

Here are some candidate mental models that we ought to watch out for:

  • Kirkpatrick's four levels.
  • Learning objectives.
  • Immediate feedback is always best.
  • More information is good.
  • Telling is sufficient.
  • Learners know how best to learn.
  • Providing feedback is enough to correct mistakes (it's not).
  • Training is sufficient.
  • etc. etc.

This is just a quick list. I'm sure I have my own blind spots.

The key is to recognize that we might be blinded by our preconceptions, we need to be open, and we need to have a way to get valid feedback on what we're doing.

Sometimes hiring an outside learning guru can help. Sometimes reviewing the research can help. Still, we need better feedback loops. We need to measure better.

I'm available to help.

If we in the learning-and-performance field are serious about on-the-job learning (a much better term than "informal learning"), we need to be serious about how managers in organizations do their work, and specifically about how they guide learning on the job (and incidentally how they use formal training initiatives to enable and improve on-the-job learning).

Recently, a group of leading management thinkers got together to re-imagine management.

Here is a brief blog post on their thinking. It is well worth some reflection.

A nice new review of research on goal-setting provides some balance in how goals can be used to guide workplace performance.

The following (admittedly low-quality) graphic comes from the authors' working paper.


The authors don't deny that goals can be useful and powerful. Instead, they focus on the negative side-effects that can occur.

Their balanced approach seems eminently sensible to me. The SMART goal revolution didn't always acknowledge some of the downsides, nor did it provide a Situation-Based Learning Design approach, providing learners with a sense of when to use goals, and when not to.

Everybody in the Learning-and-Performance field ought to read this working paper at once.

The authors: Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky, and Max H. Bazerman

My thanks to marciamarcia on Twitter for letting me know about this important work.

Working Paper Executive Summary (copied from first link above):

For decades, goal setting has been promoted as a halcyon pill for improving employee motivation and performance in organizations. Advocates of goal setting argue that for goals to be successful, they should be specific and challenging, and countless studies find that specific, challenging goals motivate performance far better than "do your best" exhortations. The authors of this article, however, argue that it is often these same characteristics of goals that cause them to "go wild." Key concepts include:

  • The harmful side effects of goal setting are far more serious and systematic than prior work has acknowledged.
  • Goal setting harms organizations in systematic and predictable ways.
  • The use of goal setting can degrade employee performance, shift focus away from important but non-specified goals, harm interpersonal relationships, corrode organizational culture, and motivate risky and unethical behaviors.
  • In many situations, the damaging effects of goal setting outweigh its benefits.
  • Managers should ask specific questions to ascertain whether the harmful effects of goal setting outweigh the potential benefits.