Remembering Jay Cross and His Work

It’s been a week since Jay Cross passed. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, but like many in the field, I read his writing and had great respect for his work. Someone asked me recently about what makes a thought leader, and Jay was one of the first people I mentioned as an example. We often overuse the word “innovate,” but Jay truly did innovate and lead the industry forward. He was the guru of informal learning who pushed us to think outside of the traditional model of formal courses and training. He may not actually have been the one to coin the term “e-learning,” but he certainly shaped and led the field.
Between his books, a dozen years of blogging, and other writing, Jay shared many ideas worth remembering. What better way to remember him than with a small sampling of his own ideas?
Meeting Jay Cross
Formal and Informal Learning
“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance
Training versus Learning
“Training is imposed on people (for example, by the training department), as if they are cogs. Learning is what people choose to take in (whether or not through training), as if they can make decisions for themselves. Training assumes the trainer is in control; learning puts the learner at the helm.”
Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It
“Conversation is the most powerful learning technology ever invented. Conversations carry news, create meaning, foster cooperation, and spark innovation. Encouraging open, honest conversation through work space design, setting ground rules for conversing productively, and baking conversation into the corporate culture spread intellectual capital, improve cooperation, and strengthen personal relationships.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance
“Businesses have been trying to promote passion in the workplace while keeping other emotions at bay. Denying people their emotions is de-humanizing. We have to start treating people like people.”
The Coherent Organization
Perpetual Beta
“Nothing is forever. In the long run, evolution keeps life and the lessons of experience in perpetual beta. Even when something is a perfect fit with its environment, environmental change will render it obsolete.
Everything flows. In the long run, everything is beta or dead.
The opposite of Perpetual Beta is closure. The topic is no longer a subject for discussion. People cease trying to make improvements, for the ones worth making have already been made. We’ve closed the book on it.
Closure makes room for the next chapters but it shuts down attention in the brain. Never tell people they’ve graduated from anything because it causes their memories to atrophy. Keep the things you want to keep alive in beta; close out the others by withdrawing your attention.”
Should Learning Content be in Perpetual Beta?
Real Learning
“You are learning all the time, taking in new information and making sense of it. You learn by doing, through conversations, and from the school of hard knocks. You, rather than a teacher or institution, are in charge of the process.
Learning is not something that happens to you at events or in courses. It is something that you own and experience continuously, with other people, in your life, and your work.
Learning is how you solve problems, grow professionally, and achieve your goals.”
Real Learning

Others Remember

Many others have written more eloquently in Jay’s memory. If I missed your post or you have memories to share, please leave a comment.

Image Credit: Meeting Jay Cross by Alan Levine

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