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Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance Paperback – November 10, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0787981693 ISBN-10: 0787981699 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pfeiffer; 1 edition (November 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787981699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787981693
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I was an unlikely candidate to buy into Jay Cross's theory that formal learning is largely ineffective. But my curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself totally engrossed in his out-of-the-ordinary thinking on learning." (T+D Magazine, February 2007)


"The key to the twenty-first century will be in learning how toleverage informal learning for us all. Jay provides us with anevocative road map to how we can do this."
—John Seely Brown, coauthor, Social Life ofInformation, and former chief scientist, Xerox Corp.

"Informal learning is the perfect theme for exploring the nextwave of our field. Jay Cross continues to push our thinking on thetransformational forces of knowledge, learning, and performance. Amust read!"
—Elliott Masie, founder, The MASIE Center's LearningCONSORTIUM

"In an outsourced, automated age, informal learning has becomethe key to high performance and personal fulfillment. And now JayCross has written the very best primer on this woefully neglectedtopic. This is a book for both sides of your brain!"
—Daniel H. Pink, author, A Whole New Mind

"Jay Cross provides an important challenge for us all—tomove our focus from the classroom to the workplace, and in doingso, reframe what we do in ways that much more closely reflect howpeople actually learn and perform on the job. InformalLearning has profound implications for how we—fromtrainers to chief learning officers and from frontline businessmanagers to executives—must rethink our ideas and practices,not in some distant future, but right now."
—Marc J. Rosenberg, management consultant, and author,Beyond E-Learning

"This book shows how informal learning experiences connect uswith information, help us share ideas, and obtain new perspectives,and even help us create new knowledge together."
—Ellen Wagner, director, Worldwide eLearning, AdobeSystems

"The one sentence from this book that hit me like a train: 'Mostcorporations invest their training budget where it will have theleast impact.' Wow. In an era of demanding ROI, shrinking budgets,and the insistence to do more with less, think of the impact thatinformal learning could have if it could truly focus learning andefforts for maximum impact."
—Mark Oehlert, learning strategy architect, Booz AllenHamilton

Customer Reviews

Informal Learning provides a variety of cures for "hardening of the categories."
Bill Veltrop
After reading this book, it's hard not to face up to that fact, because we now have a compelling, if nascent, alternative.
Stephen Francis Williams
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the aforementioned Return on Learning.
Robert Morris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Francis Williams on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jay Cross has written an invaluable book here for many reasons.

It can be hard to face up to, but the medieval basis of our education is suddenly and starkly out of touch with the needs of a post-network society. After reading this book, it's hard not to face up to that fact, because we now have a compelling, if nascent, alternative. The web enables a wholly different, but infinitely more effective approach to learning - through self-direction, and peer collaboration, motivated by individual choice, for example. As Jay points out, given the complexity and pace of change of 21st century life, we simply must change. (I have an 8 year -old daughter in school and it pains me to see what she's going through when it will all become obsolete in just a few years.) He outlines a kind of proto-pedagogical alternative, taking 'natural' learning as its starting point. He blends online/offline ideas with ideas from design, motivational psychology, etc, but is careful not to lose sight of learning objectives.

As an educator/trainer of over 20 years myself, I believe the book succeeds. Jay isn't a tremendous stylist, nor are his ideas wildly original, but he does exactly what is needed. He makes the case for alternative approaches to learning in a clear and simple way with plenty of diagrams, and examples. Although his focus is on corporate training, rather than traditional education, the implications reverberate. He brings years of training experience, together with an optimistic outlook to practice what he preaches. Having read his blog o ver the course of severalk months it has left it's makr on my own

The book is almost a metaphor for the kinds of challenge we face: hard to pin down, constantly changing, yet sometimes so obvious that we fail to see the significance.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bill Veltrop on December 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
First, a bit of context: I'm a seasoned (30+ years) practitioner in the field of leadership development, organizational learning, design and change. I've come to see that the work of transforming our organizations to new levels of consciousness, effectiveness and sustainability rests on our skill as practitioners and leaders in achieving a breakthrough an organization's capacity to learn how to learn--to be responsive to ever-increasing challenges and ever-increasing rates of change.

I've long been aware of the high cost and relative ineffectiveness of conventional "butts-in-seats" approaches to individual and organizational learning. The accelerating emergence of relevant learning strategies, methods, technologies and tools over the past decade has been encouraging--necessary but not sufficient. Jay Cross' wonderfully crafted Informal Learning constitutes a major breakthrough for all who care about transforming the organizations they serve.


1. It does a magnificent job of explaining how we actually learn. It turns much "conventional wisdom" on its head. It provides us a cornucopia of innovative ideas for how to stimulate a culture of learning and innovation throughout an organization.

2. It's clear, clean and creatively written/formatted. I was pulled into and through the book by Jay's open, straight-talking, conversational style. His use of a variety of illustrations and juicy sidebar tidbits kept luring me to go just a bit further. The accessibility of information is superb.

3. It's alive. It's up-to-the minute and it anticipates a future where organizations are becoming increasingly alive and conscious because they've mastered the art of encouraging and nurturing informal learning.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hagop A. Emrazian on April 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are ready to give your T&D function a face lift and infuse a culture of Learning that is not tied to classroom instruction, then grab this book. Jay Cross challenges you to think outside the box and points to the Push vs. Pull Learning approaches. Some of the thoughts are applicable on the spot, yet the majority requires a change management for smooth implementation. I have used some of the techniques and started to reap the benefits.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Denham Grey on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Formal learning is like riding a bus, it goes, starts and stops when & where someone else decides (bus driver and urban transport committee) - informal learning is then like riding a bicycle, you choose the time, route and destination.

Way more learning happens in the coffee room than the classroom, but firms continue to spend way more on formal training than informal learning - there is a huge disconnect right there. The theme is similar in KM - formal structured tools, top-down mandates, ROI and the smells of project management dominance, do little to enhance agility, awareness, creativity, shared understanding and meaning - which add the real value.

Jay talks about unblended learning, emergence, grokking, envisioning, unconferencing, connecting, conversation, community, web2.0 and JDI (just do it). He makes the point that classes are dead, that every learner needs to cultivate an ecology, share via voicing, communicate using stories and build common text by collaborative editing (wikis).

Jay has written this timely book in the form of short stories and vignettes, recounting his experiences and perspectives. I did not find much new stuff, although there are many interesting examples and truths, but Jay managed to hit the high spots so often, I was nodding in agreement as I read along. Clearly we all have to assume responsibility for our own awareness, learning and critical inquiry. Jay neatly illustrates the tools, hints at the practices (which need more refinement) and paints the landscape.

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More About the Author

Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, web 2.0, and systems thinking. His calling is to help business people improve their performance on the job and satisfaction in life. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix three decades ago.

Jay has provided advice and guidance to Cisco, Eaton, IBM, Sun, National Australia Bank, Intel, Genentech, Novartis, HP, the CIA, the World Bank, and numerous others. He helps companies build online communities and boost innovation.

Jay served as CEO of eLearning Forum for its first five years and has keynoted such conferences as Online Educa (Berlin), I-KNOW (Austria), Research Innovations in Learning (U.S.), Emerging eLearning (Abu Dhabi), Training (U.S.), Quality in eLearning (Bogota), LearnX (Melbourne), and Learning Technology (London).

Thousands of people read his blogs, Internet Time and Informal Learning Blog.

Jay is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School. He and his wife Uta live with a miniature long-haired dachshund in the hills of Berkeley, California.