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. It turns out that eventually your word ‘flips’ itself: if you spend long enough pursuing competence there comes a point when you are surrounded by people less competent than you are. And your challenge ‘flips’: either you are going to spend the remainder of your life cursing those around you, or you are going to have to learn to adapt to a world where others are not driven by the same things.

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.

The story that defines me is one of dissatisfaction I suppose: I was a young psychology lecturer who, through the application of learning theory to technology, discovered that none bore much relation to reality - and began to question their validity.

It troubled me (but no-one else, it seemed) that so much activity could be based on so little; that without an answer to that fundamental question 'how do people learn?' every 'learning' conversation was just noise.