Traditional books are snapshots of that stream. The swifter the stream, the shorter the life of the book. A book is an event. We need a process that outlasts the moment — a movie in place of a photograph.”
Well, I’ve been working on a solution. Let me present: the unbook.
Unlike traditional books, unbooks are in perpetual beta, are frequently updated and accept input from their readers. Recently, the mid-2010 edition of an unbook titled The Working Smarter Fieldbook was released. It is the successor to the January 2010 edition. Let’s examine the changes and additions to reveal both the evolution of the unbook concept and what has gained importance in learning and development in the past six months.
Since this unbook is targeted at business managers, the word “learning” does not appear in the title. Learning is the means, not the end. To managers, the L-word triggers thoughts of schooling, classrooms, boredom and the cessation of work. Learning has become the work.
Why target managers? L&D professionals already know the importance of increasing the reach and impact of learning. This is news to many executives. They haven’t thought of learning as a component of strategy execution. Our aim is to speak directly to managers — or to provide L&D professionals with the ammunition to make their case.
In nonfiction, the single-author concept is a conceit. As the saying goes, the sum is greater than its parts. My colleagues Jane Hart, Jon Husband, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings and Clark Quinn wrote many of the words here. Our thoughts are inextricably intertwined; we couldn’t separate them if we wanted to. Most of the book is written in a single voice.
Like all unbooks, The Working Smarter Fieldbook is not finished. This is the sixth edition in less than two years. We’d rather be current than polished. We warn readers to expect some rough edges and redundancy in this version. Further, readers learn more from tentative material than from text that’s set in stone. This goes for all learning events, not just unbooks.
Informal learning, social networking and interactive Web technologies make learning and development a richer but more complex field. The midyear unbook is 120 pages longer than the January version — and that’s after chopping out 50 pages deemed irrelevant.
Since we’ve entered an age of do-it-yourself, the current edition focuses on “how to” rather than on theory. Forty-five examples show how organizations are working smarter. We have included a new way of assessing social and informal learning.
The ongoing economic meltdown has tested the patience of business managers everywhere. They want results now. A new chapter on making the business case describes how to assess productivity and business results, propose plans to management, evaluate intangibles, decipher when to replace learning with performance support, and decide when not to use training. We share the job aids from our workshop on developing a pragmatic elevator pitch for senior management.
Everyone is short on time these days, so rather than bulk up the fieldbook with another five chapters, we provide 30 cheat sheets and job aids that summarize motivation, natural learning, unmeetings, psychology, retention and enterprise 2.0.
Traditional instructional design frameworks come unglued in the face of uncertainty, peer learning, collaboration, granular content and roving mobile learners. We propose new ways of looking at instructional design. It’s high time to rise above training programs and focus on learning environments.
When you disagree with or don’t understand a traditional author, there’s not much you can do about it. You might write a review, but you’re not going to have a dialogue. As a result, most books are frozen in time. They don’t change. Authors don’t benefit in real time from suggestions from readers.
The site that accompanies The Working Smarter Fieldbook encourages readers to discuss the issues raised in the book. We are committed to addressing every concern. Furthermore, we encourage readers to contribute material, provide examples and introduce new topics.