talks about the implications of the Long Tail on Education. The article is definitely worth a read, and it got me to finally write about what I see as a crisis in corporate learning.
If you are not familiar with the concept of the Long Tail, head over to take a look at the Long Tail article on Wikipedia. It's a pretty good introduction to the main concepts around a very important concept. You can also look at Anderson's The Long Tail. The core idea is that for retailers like Amazon, they sell very large volumes of titles that cannot even be carried in a bricks-and-mortar store.
Typical Long Tail
Carried further, when distribution, storage and production get lower, it becomes viable to sell relatively less popular products.
- Corporate learning functions today act like a publisher / distributor.
- The average knowledge worker has access to an increasingly large set of information resources and corporate learning is an ever smaller part of this set.
- Cost is most often not a factor in a knowledge workers decision about the use of information. Time (attention) is much more important. Factored in is expectation of quality (how much time I need to spend filtering the content to determine if it’s of value). As a quick example, we choose our preferred search engine in large part because we feel it will be the best investment of time to find the best quality information.
- Information sources will continue to grow exponentially, so Corporate Learning as a traditional publisher will be able to focus on an ever smaller portion of the knowledge worker’s needs.
- John Hagel – in a post Paying Attention tells us:
If we do not receive attention, we risk becoming progressively marginalized. Receiving attention becomes far more important than it ever was and will require far more effort than in the past. Corporate learning is in the midst of an attention crisis.
- Corporate learning functions are seeking to find ways to lower production costs so they can attack broader markets – go farther into the long tail. They look to eLearning approaches to lower distribution costs. They look to rapid authoring tools to lower production costs.
- For corporate learning functions to really impact the long tail, they will be forced to look at eLearning 2.0.
- John Hagel – in the same post Paying Attention tells us:
What we know at any point in time has diminishing value.
- Corporate learning is also facing the fact that anything they create and publish becomes out of date that much faster so effective production costs are increasing.
- Find approaches that have dramatically lower production costs, near zero
- Look for opportunities to get out of the publisher, distributor role such as becoming an aggregator
- Focus on knowledge worker learning skills
- Help knowledge workers rethink what information they consume, how and why.
- Focus on maximizing the “return of attention” for knowledge workers rather than common measures today such as cost per learner hour.
- How do we get into the attention economy business?
- How do we dramatically lower production and delivery costs?
- How do we support self-service learning and user generated content?
- How do we foster knowledge worker skills?
- What are the new metrics?
- What does this mean for our current learning systems?
- How do we aggregate content?
- What are the legal and compliance issues?
- What are the new roles that must be created to go after this?
- Where do our skills fit? What new skills do we need?