The New Making It with the Bicycle for Our Minds


It’s that time of year again. It is officially Fall for us in North America. But it’s still 90 degrees and green in Florida where I live. No trees cloaked in flamboyant colors or cooler temperatures for us but college football schedules guide the behaviors of many among us once again.

My lead-in refers to another annual ritual though.  Lisa blogged about it last week when she submitted her top ten learning tools in Jane Hart’s annual survey to identify the top 100 learning tools list for 2015.  More than 2,000 learning and development professionals around the world participated this year in the 9th iteration of the survey. Participants included educators, training specialists, instructional designers, learning consultants, and DIY Professional Development/online learning enthusiasts like Lisa and me.

Before you assume that the list of learning tools has nothing for you, please read and think about this Steve Jobs’ quote from the blog Treehugger Sustainability with Sass.

“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list….That didn’t look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That’s what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

Jobs recognized the power of the computer to transform our lives. It has changed the way we communicate, collaborate, find jobs, earn income, research, entertain ourselves, connect with friends and family members, and learn, along with how we do 100+ other activities. The computer, and internet that connects it to other “bicycles” (smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc.) used by people around the world have brought a unprecedented scope & depth of connections–be they with ideas or people with ideas–and speed to everything we do.

Using my own bicycle for the mind, I have visited a couple of sites that contextualize why we need tools for learning to further our progress as corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, and curious adults.

First, everyone in the workforce is affected by globalization and the “VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world” in which we operate.  The VUCA HBreport_cover-23-2015 2-56-49 PMdefinition comes from a paper on corporate learning released by Harvard Business Publishing.  Titled Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World, the paper identifies globalization and technological advances as “transforming every aspect of business.” Authors Louise Axon, Elisa Friedman, and Kathy Jordan also throw in changing workforce demographics to further complicate and “create competitive advantage”  for executives and others to evaluate and act on.

The authors believe that the complex business environments call for new leadership capabilities, twenty in all, with eight of them boldfaced in the diagram below. Of course Cultivate Learning Agility is what attracts me. Here is how they explain it.

Leaders who master learning agility internalize a learning mindset: they seek out opportunities to learn.  They continuously experiment with new approaches, using techniques such as rapid prototyping. And they take time to reflect on their experiences so they can learn from successes and failures.

From Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World, {Perspectives} on Leadership Development, Harvard Business Publishing

From Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World, {Perspectives} on Leadership Development, Harvard Business Publishing

If learning agility is good for international corporate executives to lead from within, it has merit for the rest of us aspiring types, too. But it isn’t necessarily going to be an employer or company that helps us become agile learners.

Jacob Morgan explains in Forbes that YouTube videos helped his brother develop competencies for a career in photography and videography in half the time it would have taken him to pay for a degree ($100,000!) in film at UCSC. His brother can stay current by paying small fees to take classes and workshops online from “sites like Udemy,, Coursera.” Morgan goes on to explain the value of social media to “share content, tap into our networks to crowdsource ideas, or to get help from our communities.” Inside companies, Morgan points out that  “internal social networks enable employees to teach and learn from one another by asking and answering questions, participating in discussions, and joining in conversations and communities.” We don’t have to wait to be taught. We must learn how to learn from and with others on our own.

Morgan says:

The world has changed and it’s up to us as individuals (and as companies) to make sure that we can change too. Organizations must enable employees by deploying the right technologies to connect people and by supporting employees and allowing them learn outside of the company. Individuals must get rid of all excuses and understand that they can learn anything they want anytime they want to learn it.

With this background, the #2 learning tool identified in Hart’s global survey is YouTube, mentioned as a key learning channel for Jacob Morgan’s brother’s growth.  YouTube is a sharing and learning site used billions of time a day. It is a great example of how one tool supports our publishing our ideas and perspectives in videos and serves as a searchable repository for everyone to locate videos to advance their learning.  Similarly, Twitter, chosen in the survey as the #1 learning tool, works as people use it to share key events, resources, and ideas, often with hashtags that make the Twitter “data base” searchable by topic or contributors’ names.  It tweets contributors’ posts to their followers.  That’s how we found out quickly about the release of the survey because WLS follows Jane Hart who tweets for her blog–Learning in the Social Workplace.

The other tools identified in the 2015 Top 100 may be used in our work, for communicating, organizing, sharing what we know, or gaining from what others have done.  Many also offer entertainment while challenging our ability to stay focused on our priorities.  Some tools are multi-purpose.  Some may be household names for you. Others may require some experimenting with to see if they have value for you.

Need help to design your learning path supported by social media or other communication and collaboration technologies?  Contact us at the Women’s Learning Studio.  We are here to help you as curious entrepreneurs and as members of groups or enterprises to accelerate learning and performance, innovation and fun in your world.

Many thanks to Jane Hart for starting and continuing to host the annual learning tools survey.

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Bicycle in mind image from WikimediaImages at Pixabay


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