During the last twenty-odd years, I have worked for some of the most interesting organisations in the world, trying to bring about innovation.

I have often thought about the challenges that this presents - and wondered if I should write a book about it. It seems a popular topic these days; Ray Wang talks about the importance of Digital Artisans, for example - and the big four consultancies routinely produce reports extolling the importance of innovation in times of change.

But I find I’m often disappointed by books about innovation. They say ‘INNOVATION IS KEY TO YOUR FUTURE’ but don’t seem to understand the dynamics that hold innovation in check. They often take a great many pages to say very little. So I thought I’d write a slightly longer post and save us both the trouble.

Months ago a great friend and colleague shared with me that he thought everyone has a word - one word - that defines them.

‘What’s your word?’ I asked

‘competence’ he replied.

It stuck with me, and as a team we’ve spent time thinking about the words that define us, and how they relate to our personal narrative - as this post from Charlie Kneen observes.

But something else has come up.

Why do we have pictures?

I’ve noticed that we’re switching from writing to pictures. Have you? Pictures get more click-throughs. Even in boardrooms they want three slides (with pictures) not the long papers we used to write. My blogs are getting shorter.

It started with stories of course. Orally preserved for millenia. Then we drew pictures for some of them. But not everyone can draw. And stories got complicated. The bridge was hieroglyphics I suppose.

“You run on ahead? - Do you do so as a herdsman? or as an exception? A third possibility would be as a deserter… First question of conscience.” - Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols.

As an explorer.

It is because of the way it feels out here: the wilderness - beyond the frontier. The air, the strangeness, the perspective.

In order to really see something, you have to be able to see its edges.

The most common mistakes in  learning today stem from not being able to see beyond learning - learning's 'horizon' if you will.

The problem with saying something new is that you have to use old words to say it - which then become a barrier to understanding what you are saying.

When you reflect on your own life, a factor common to many of your memories and learning experiences is their emotional dimension. Despite this being the single most obvious feature of learning, this simple observation cannot be explained by the learning theories we have today. (Where there is an attempt e.g.

There are two kinds of thing we can accomplish as learning professionals. We can create resources that support people in addressing their concerns, or we can try and create that sense of concern - typically through emotionally significant experiences - since it is concern that underpins all learning. In simple terms, we are either helping people tackle the challenges they face or presenting them with new ones (for example, using a 'flipped classroom' approach, or the transferability of care).

Twenty years ago, I thought (as did many people) that adaptive learning was going to be the future. Later, at the BBC, my team developed a virtual 'personal trainer' - a little character that lived in your task bar and popped up with personalised learning suggestions once in a while. It wasn't a success. Can you guess why not?

Imagine you're thinking of putting up some shelves.

The first problem is how on earth a system would know that you are planning to do that.

I made this remark in conversation with Martin Couzins, and since he thought it memorable enough to cite in this article, I thought it worthy of further explanation.

For twenty years or so I've been attending learning conferences where someone will carp on about how important business alignment is. It's the 101 of conference speeches. It's the sound of training pleading to be taken seriously.

Well, business alignment is killing you, and I'd like to explain why.

In encouraging people to think about the shift from courses to resources I have found that the principal mistake is to break (course) content into small chunks and assume that these now constitute resources, by virtue of their format.

It can be hard for people to see why this is a mistake at all: after all the results look similar. Both sets of outputs may be short videos, infographics, checklists and guides, for example.