Years ago our HR Director challenged us all to consider the question ‘what does the organisation really hire you to do?’

The answer – delivering learning – never seemed very satisfactory to me. The business is really interested in outcomes. They have never been entirely convinced that learning delivers them, and we have never been very convincing.

But now I think it is clear: either you are delivering engagement, or you are improving performance. There is no ‘learning’ role. In general, the output of courses (events) should be engagement. The output of resources should be improved performance. You can work in either (or both)*.

But the implications are significant: firstly, there are principles and capabilities which belong to either class of activity which we are not following.

For the most part, our learning is driven by challenges. I fear that we cease to learn, as we grow fearful of challenges - and of failure.

We put together a list of challenges and did our best to complete as many as possible.

One of the challenges was to write 5 poems. At school I had tried to write poetry as part of a small group led by the Headmaster. We took turns to read. When I had read mine I looked up. The headmaster was frowning. 'What's wrong with it?' I asked.

"we do not remember events; instead we remember how we felt about them and we use these feelings to reconstruct the event."

Click here to read A Preliminary Explanation of Human Learning and the Methods of Learning Design.

What’s your stopping-off point?

I'm reading Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson. One of the things I like about his writing is how quickly he exposes people's 'stopping off point' - what some might call 'core beliefs', but which I like to think of as the point where they decided to stop going any further and said 'this is as far as I'm going'.

It varies a lot. It can be religion, or football, or something your parents said. Or a belief in UFOs.

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.

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.