Top 50 Articles of 2012

For the last 4 years I have produced a Top 100 Articles of the year list containing the resources I particularly enjoyed during the year. However, this year as I’ve been doing a Pick of the Month, I’ve decided to keep the list to just 50 key articles. (You can find my complete 2012 Reading List here.) Once again, though, I’ve created a Wordle to visualize the key themes emerging from titles of my choices- you can compare it with those I produced for my 201120102009 and 2008 Top Articles lists.


Here now are the 50 articles in chronological order:

1 - 10 enterprise social networking obstacles, the brainyard, Information Week 3 January 2012

“Given how successful Facebook and other social experiences are on the consumer Web, why wouldn’t every organization flock to this vision of agile, spontaneous, transparent, and people-centered corporate collaboration? Sadly, there are a few reasons … Profusion of tools. The explosion of social software tools is a source of great innovation, but also a lot of confusion. Organizations can easily wind up with several enterprise social networks used by different teams or departments, or for different purposes, along with social applications for purposes such as project management or employee recognition, each coming with their own user profiles and activity steams and notions of how connections are formed. A fragmented social environment–one that promises a global view of people and activity but in fact does not–might be worse than none at all.”

2 - Future hipsters - this video started off Social Media Week, 7 February 2012

3 - The collaboration pyramid (or iceberg), Oscar Berg, 14 February 2012

“The majority of the value-creation activities in an enterprise are hidden. They happen below the surface. What we see when we think of collaboration in the traditional sense (structured team-based collaboration) is the tip of the iceberg – teams who are coordinating their actions to achieve some goal. We don’t see – and thus don’t recognize – all the activities which have enabled the team to form and which help them throughout their journey.”

(Diagram available on Flickr for use under Creative Commons Attribution license)

4 - Does the online education revolution mean the death of the diploma, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Fast Coexist, February 2012

“Education is changing, and it’s changing fast. Anyone can put together a personalized educational experience via digital textbooks accessible by iPad, video learning from top university faculty, or peer-led discussion. People of all demographics are gathering their own seeds of education and cultivating lush sets of hybrid tools to deal with the rapid knowledge replenishment that’s essential in an economy where massive career specialization and constant innovation reign. What we’re witnessing is a bottom-up revolution in education: Learners, not institutions, are leading innovation. This is an era of plenty. I like to call it the Education Harvest.”

5 - Why we use social media in our personal lives – but not for work, Tammy Erickson, HBR Blog Network, 16 February 2012

“Just gaining widespread adoption — getting people to use the technology — can present a major hurdle. Driving real changes in the way work is done can be even harder. Why is it proving so difficult? And what can you do to speed not only adoption, but the adoption of productive practices in your organization? To understand the challenges of using collaborative or social software inside business organizations, begin by thinking about the use of similar technologies in your personal life.”

6 - The Top 10 Ways to Become Truly Social, Dov Seidman, 24 February 2012

“We can’t automatically make employees interact in  deep and sustainable ways simply by hitting the on button, creating a Facebook page, launching internal social communication or real-time performance feedback platforms and replacing e-mail addresses with hash tags any more than we could generate long-term shareholder value by slapping an “e” in front of our business name. We can’t order an employee to have a great idea or mandate rich, creative collaborations any more than we can order a doctor to become more humane or a teacher to be more inspirational in the classroom.”

7 - 50 learning theorists in 50 days, Donald Clark, March 2012

“In an effort to explain our predecessors, warts and all, this series of portraits will take look at the people who shaped learning theory and practice over the centuries. They have all played a role in shaping (some mis-shaping) the learning landscape. Our theorists are major thinkers who have reflected on the large-scale issues around learning and education. The practitioners have more direct relevance, as their advice is wholly relevant to the design of e-learning programmes.”

8 - Why blended learning is really blended training, Dave Kelly, 21 March 2012

“If learning professionals can start focusing more on improving people’s performance than on simply “delivering content,” we can create a true “blended” learning model — one that gets away from the “knowledge-delivery” industry.:

9 - Learning is not something to get – Harold Jarche, 18 April 2012

“In too many cases we view learning as something that is done to people. It’s almost as if we are goin’ to get some learnin’! We think we can “get” an education or “get people trained”. This is absurd.”

10 - The Napkin Academy –  Dan Roam

“Learn to solve any problem with a simple picture.”

11 – Selling it  - Jane Bozarth, Learning Solutions Magazine, Nuts and Bolts, 1 May 2012

“Shooting ourselves in the foot I see this happen all the time with people trying to gain support for implementing new learning approaches and technologies, and I am sure I am often guilty of it myself. What we find cool, others find intimidating. What we find useful, others find threatening. What we find magical, others find scary. And the very benefits we tout are sometimes exactly what others fear.

12 – Shouldn’t we just best buy corporate learning – Dan Pontefract, 14 May 2012

“As you pass the greeter in this vivid, brightly lit and humming environment there are a number of learning sherpas … the guides on the side not pestering you to buy something, rather, able and available when you require assistance. There are no commissions at Best Buy to make a sale. Employees are there, quite literally, to help you as necessary.”

13 - Reconciling formal and informal - Clark Quinn, 24 May 2012

“There are really two viewpoints: that of the learning and development (L&D) professional, and that of the performer. Each of these sees the world differently, and we need to separate these out.

14 – Bringing informal learning up to date  – Jay Cross, 29 May 2012

“I also back away from the word eLearning. What once held such promise for democratizing learning often led to boring page-turners no one should have to endure. I’d like to see bad top-down training eliminated, flipped, or made experiential. Most eLearning is formal, in that it has a rigidly defined curriculum, and it’s based on the flawed notion that exposure to content is all that’s required for learning.”

15 – Mobile Learning: The Time Is Now - Clark Quinn, ELearning Guild – 10 May 2012

In this complimentary report for eLearning Guild members, author Clark Quinn assesses how mobile learning is changing, and recommends strategies to make the most of the technology’s emerging opportunities. He also examines the current trends in mLearning, analyzing usage, perceived barriers, availability, ROI, and other aspects that will help you make the decision of how and when to go mobile.”

16 – Social Learning Truths  – Tom Spiglanin, 25 May 2012

“… encourage me to learn, but don’t force me. Show me how to improve my performance, but don’t send me to unnecessary training. Empower me to grow wiser, but don’t hold me back. Give me access to social knowledge, but don’t limit me. In the end, we all will benefit.”

17 - Instruments of Restraint - Harold Jarche, 29 June 2012

“First, the notion of learning technologies as separate from working technologies continues to keep learning separate from work. This makes little sense in a networked workplace. Second, learning technologies become a special class of tools that only learning experts understand or care to learn about. Third, they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization. My experience is that the only organizations that benefit from learning technologies are those whose core business is learning with a focus on formal, structured delivery – schools.”

18 – 70:20:10 – It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the change - Charles Jennings, 6 June 2012

“There is still a huge focus on ‘knowing’ in organisational learning. We build formal classroom courses and eLearning programmes that consist of pre-tests and post-tests. We then assume that if we gain a higher score after some formal learning process (almost invariably assessed through a test/examination/certification based on knowledge recall) than we did before, then learning has occurred. Most of us know deep down that this is bunk.”

19 – Why We Stop Learning: The Paradox of Expertise - Matthew Liebermann, Psychology Today, 20 June 2012

“Alas, at some point we change.  We stop learning. We move from being learners to being knowers.  Strangely, being someone who ‘knows’ can interfere with being someone who ‘learns’.  Paradoxically, the better we were at learning, the worse this problem can be.  Why does knowing get in the way of learning?  We constantly need to keep learning regardless of how much we knew at some point in time.  But identifying ourselves as an expert, or knowing that others identify us as an expert can make this tricky.”

20 - The trouble with online education - Mark Edmundson, New York Times, 21 July 2012

“A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.”

21 - Ballpoint pens…the ruin of education in our country - Nick Sauers,27 June 2012 (HT to Jane Bozarth for sharing this one)

“From a principal’s pub­li­ca­tion in 1815: “Stu­dents today depend on paper too much.  They don’t know how to write on a slate with­out get­ting chalk dust all over them­selves.  They can’t clean a slate prop­erly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”

22 –  The Higgs boson of Training & Development? - Charles Jennings, 5 July 2012

“The idea that learning is best carried out by removing people from the workplace and providing them with structured content and (if they were lucky) opportunities to practice in a simulated environment was blown away with the invention of the Web and the appearance of ubiquitous information sources.  Suddenly we had the ability to do a lot of things better, faster, more efficiently and more effectively – and often with higher levels of engagement and enjoyment.  It’s taken us a while to realise it, but that’s what happened.” 

23 – Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It  – Jay Cross, July 2012

“Workers learn their jobs in the course of doing their jobs. Study after study finds that 70%-95% of learning in the workplace is informal and experiential. (Studies) Most corporate training is an example of the “Streetlight Effect.” A police officer asks a man searching for his keys under a streetlight, “Are you sure you lost them here?” To which the man replies, “No, think I lost them in the park.”  “Why are you searching here instead of in the park?” asks the police officer. The man replies, “The light is better here.”

24 – Let’s stop pretending - Craig Wiggins, Learning Circuits Blog, 30 July 2012

Let’s stop pretending that the answer to 70-20-10 is to double down on formal learning hierarchies
Let’s stop pretending that social learning’ is something new (or something that can only be achieved using social media).
Let’s stop pretending that what you’re collecting with your LMS has a lot to show in terms of learning analytics, ROI, or business intelligence.

25 – The Opportunity—and Threat—of Self-Directed Learning, Celisa Steele, tagoras, 1 August 2012

“… organizations need to give up the idea of being a one-stop shop for their learners. That’s an antiquated notion in today’s information-everywhere reality that makes it easier than ever for adults to direct their own learning. But the other side of the information-everywhere reality is that learners need help in finding their direction. If your organization doesn’t play the role of guide, then you’re not helping your learners as much as you could—and you’re leaving a lot to chance in your own business strategy.”

26 - Compliance training: does it really work? - Charles Jennings, 15 August 2012

“We need to step back from the standard knee-jerk response that compliance training is a necessary and effective way (and often the only way) of improving levels of compliance, and that there is no alternative open to us. There seems to be little evidence to support the link between compliant behaviour and current standard compliance training approaches. In fact some of the evidence indicates the contra-argument. In other words it is likely that most of the time, effort and money spent on compliance training is simply being wasted. At best it’s a security blanket. At worst it promotes non-compliant behaviour. Even paper-waving training records in front of judges and national commissions no longer holds much sway.” 

27 - The $1.3 Trillion Price Of Not Tweeting At Work - Fast Company, 30 August 2012

“Savings comes from some unexpected places. Two-thirds of the value unlocked by social media rests in “improved communications and collaboration within and across enterprises,” according to the report. Far from a distraction, in other words, social media proves a surprising boon to productivity. … Social technologies have the potential to free up expertise trapped in departmental silos. High-skill workers can now be tapped company-wide. Managers can find out “which employees have the deepest knowledge in certain subjects, or who last contributed to a project and how to get in touch with them quickly,” says New York Times tech reporter Quentin Hardy. Just cutting email out of the picture in favor of social sharing translates to a productivity windfall as “more enterprise information becomes accessible and searchable, rather than locked up as ‘dark matter’ in inboxes.”

28 - Why do I share my knowledge? - Luis Suarez, 19 September 2012

I just couldn’t help thinking myself about my very own motivations to share my knowledge across out there, whether internally and externally, more than anything else as a self-reflection exercise trying to answer *why* do I do it and why do I keep doing it, and most, importantly, why can’t I conceive a business world where we couldn’t survive without sharing our knowledge across for others to benefit from it.”

29 - Mind the (skills) gap – William D. Eggers, John Hagel and Owen Sanderson, HBR Blog Network, 22 September 2012

“A bachelor’s degree used to provide enough basic training to last a career. Yet today, the skills college graduates acquire during college have an expected shelf life of only five years according to extensive work we’ve done in conjunction with Deloitte’s Shift Index. The key takeaway? The lessons learned in school can become outdated long before student loans are paid off.”

30 - From training to performance to social – Harold Jarche, 29 September 2012

“My experience is that it is difficult to move a traditional training organization directly to a social learning focus and it is easier to start with performance consulting and then expand to social and collaborative learning.

31 - Defining social learning – Marcia Conner, 4 October 2012

“What isn’t social learning? Social learning is not technology … it’s a very human way people have communicated throughout our history.”

32 - Everything you know will eventually be wrong – Daniel Engber, Truth Decay, 5 October 2012

“It’s an irony of modern life that the exponential spread of information has given rise to another exponential spread, of books about the exponential spread of information. We’ve got more facts than we ever had before, and so we’ve got more ruminations on how those facts affect us. Does Google make us stupid, or has it given us a deeper knowledge? Is there now so much to read and learn that we’ll never master anything (a concern that dates back at least 800 years)? Are all these facts disposable, such that what we learn today will be obsolete tomorrow?”

33 - Discovery learning is the new higher learning - Don Tapscott, Globe and Mail, 15 October 2012

 “Of course, a student still needs a knowledge base. One can’t Google one’s way through life. But what counts more is a person’s capacity for lifelong learning, to think, research, find information, analyze, synthesize, contextualize and critically evaluate; to apply research to solving problems; to collaborate and communicate. This is particularly important for students and employers competing in a global economy. Workers and managers must learn, adapt and perform like never before.”

34 - If everyone’s here, we’ll start – Andrew Jacobs, 18 October 2012

“Before this post starts, I think it’s a good idea that we agree the ground rules for today’s post.  Firstly, what’s said on the blog stays on the blog.  This, of course, limits your chances of talking to each other about specifics after the event but it protects me from information being shared outside the blog which I can’t control.  It is important I control the push of information to evaluate any increase in performance as a result of the training.”

35 - Learning at the speed of links and conversations - Jon Husband, elearn magazine, October 2012

“In this context and set of conditions it’s critical that we learn continuously and effectively in order to adapt, and become more flexible and develop resiliency for a world of perpetual turbulence. As an analogy, think of a fast-flowing river with a lot of whitewater rapids. We now inhabit a world of permanent whitewater (for more on this, see Peter Vaill’s Learning As A Way of Being: Strategies For Survival in a World of Permanent Whitewater).”

36 - Metaphors – Jane Bozarth, Learning Solutions Magazine, 6 November

“What do these metaphors say about our mental models? How do they affect our approaches to teaching, learning, and designing instruction or learning experiences? How do they reflect the way we engage with learners or interact with “teachers” or other vehicles for delivering instruction?”

37 – Five ways to become less collaborative at work – Dan Pontefract, 12 November 2012

“3 – Command and control
First step is to stop listening to your team. .. Second, think of all the ideas yourself. (This is a huge time saver) Third, once you’ve got the idea, instruct someone on your team to tell everyone what they should do and by what deadline. Insist there be no questions. Enforce perfection.”

38 - What does L&D need to do to survive in the 21st century – Helen Blundon, 16 November 2012

“I get pangs of disappointment when I see the business working on exciting projects and initiatives that affect our customers but L&D doesn’t even get an invite to play with them anymore because of our stereotyped image. Or, the business may not see the relevance of L&D’s involvement. It’s like organising a fabulous party and then someone asking, “did you invite Uncle Bert?” and you cringe knowing that having Uncle Bert at your party will put a dampener on everyone’s spirits.  He will tell everyone what they should and shouldn’t be doing; how parties were organised in his day; how if we don’t have an objective for the party we won’t be able to measure it’s success; and how the new-fangled parties with all their technical gadgetry and glitz of today really are of no value. I don’t want L&D to be Uncle Bert.”

39 - Easy as ABC - Andrew Jacobs, 25 November 2012

“I’ve been talking about this obsession with measurement for a while now and my words were nicely summarised by Paul Webster a while ago as ‘we spend too much time measuring the Tiny rather than standing back and looking at the Big’ … Let’s apply this to the role of L&D.  Are we motivated to improve our practice and that of our organisations  to see if there are better ways of doing things, or by the desire to create metrics to justify our busyness? … It’s not our role to try and capture and categorise every snippet of new knowledge and behaviour that an individual uses. …  I believe the manager’s role is to measure the performance in the workplace, yet there seems to be a desire to retain this measurement within L&D to ‘prove’ it was our work that created the difference.”

40 - The MOOC movement is not an indicator of educational evolution – Andy Oram , O’Reilly Radar, 3 December 2012

“… massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge … But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges.”

41 - Content becomes its own context  - Jane Bozarth, Learning Solutions Magazine, 4 December 2012

“How much of our training budget goes to things that have nothing to do with ‘learning’? Why does the LMS cost more than the whole L&D department? How many organizations invest in more authoring tools and asset libraries than they do in people who know how to use them to design more effectively? Why have we fragmented learning into shards of ‘objects’ rather than craft whole, robust learning experiences? We’re supposed to be in the learning business, not the ‘object’ business.””

42 - Sparking a Revolution – Andrew R McIlvaine, HR Executive Online, 6 December 2012

“When it comes to social media in the workplace, HR is just starting to learn to stop being the police — and to start joining in the charge toward change.”

43 - 12 trends disrupting the market for lifelong learning – Jeff Cobb, tagoras, 10 December 2012

“With a new year right around the corner, it seems like a good time to reflect on some of the trends that have been gaining steam throughout the past year (or more, in some cases). Here are a dozen that have really gotten my attention.

44 - Are You Giving Up Power? – Nilofer Merchant, HBR Blog Network, 14 December 2012

“Lately, whenever I give a talk about social collaboration, the first question I hear from the audience goes something like this: Are you craaazzeeee? Well, to be fair, people usually find a way to phrase it slightly better. The real question, the underlying one, is always the same: how is this going to affect the amount of power I have? People deep within organizations are wondering if they will finally get a chance to participate. Middle managers are worrying if they are still needed. And senior leaders are asking, “Won’t I have to give up power?”

45 - The E-learning realm is too nice – stand up and challenge each other - Tracy Parish, 15 December 2012

“All it takes is one person to stand up in the crowd and call bullshit.  All it takes is one person to be brave enough to say, “I don’t understand.”  All it takes is one person to pose a question. All it takes is one person to throw down the challenge and then TALK and chatter becomes a DISCUSSION.  Note that I say a discussion and not a debate.  This is important.  Debates get us no where.  Lines get drawn.  Sides are taken and nothing moves forward.”

46 - The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails - Mike Myatt, Forbes, 19 December 2012

Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago.

  1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
  2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
  3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
  4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
  7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  14. Training focuses on problems  - Development focuses on solutions.
  15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.
  17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.
  20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.”

47 - Nine Challenges for the Learning Department  - Hans de Zwart, 20 December 2012

Do-It-Yourself or Self-Directed Learning

“Marcel de Leeuwe and I hosted a workshop on this topic and created the website doityourselflearning.org. I was pleasantly surprised to see that other were also talking about this shift.

Two trends are pushing this forward:

  1. Many companies are turning into information companies with knowledge workers doing complex tasks. These knowledge workers are the only people who can understand their job (barely!). This makes programmatic (i.e. curriculum based) learning offerings designed by others largely ineffective.
  2. The world is incredibly connected and the tools for collaboration can, for all practical purposes, be considered to be free. People can organize their own learning groups.

My challenge to the learning department is the following: Which of the five DIY imperatives (devolve responsibility, be open, create experiences rather than content, provide scaffolding and stimulate reflection) are you practicing?”

48 - Interactive Social Collaboration at Work Infographic - Hootsuite, 20 December 2012

49  - If You’re Serious About Ideas, Get Serious About Blogging - Dorie Clark, HBR Network, 21 December 2012

“These days, Pinterest and Instagram get all the headlines as companies desperately racing to establish a beachhead on what could be the next mega-platform. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most useful social media tools for all companies. … But for organizations and individuals that want to be known for their ideas, the clearest — yet most underrated — path is through blogging. It hasn’t been buzzed about in years, but it’s more essential than ever …”

50 - Conquering Your Fears of Giving Feedback - Adam Bryant, New York Times, 29 December 2012  - an interview with Google’s VP of People Development

“One thing that doesn’t make sense is to require a lot of training. People learn best when they’re motivated to learn. If people opt in, versus being required to go, you’re more likely to have better outcomes.”