Share this

Wind back to September 2000.

There was no iTunes; AOL & Time Warner had just merged; Windows had released Win2000 and the dot com bubble was about to burst.

Moreover if you would show the mobile device you use everyday to the one the you of 15 years ago was using, it’d be a very different device.

We’d begun to see major miniaturisation but in 2000 we were still using 3.5inch floppy disks to copy over AS MUCH as 1.44 Mb.  Now we have a USB stick discarded in our drawers that is over 1000 times that size that we just don’t need to use.  There are terrabytes and zettabytes of storage we occupy in a cloud somewhere.  And no Daily Mail readers, it’s not a REAL cloud.

Our mobile device is a miniature computing centre that used to take up an entire office and now is in our pocket.

lyndaSlideMiniaturisation is not the thing of sci-fi movies anymore.  We have tiny microprocessors in our phones, watches, bands, even soon, in our bodies.  Nano-technology is a frontier for medical science that may soon repair the tiniest of ailments to organs, vessels and ducts.  It’s frightening but if it’s something as simple as a corrective cochlea implant akin to a hearing aid we’d probably be comfortable with it.  Even maybe a pacemaker of miniscule proportions.  But a roaming tiny robot looking for things to repair is a bit scary.

Anyway, there is a point to this.  Not just that technology is shrinking but so is our capacity to spend time on things.

We are now though, more architects of choice than ever before through the digitisation of entertainment.  We’re not chained to TV scheduling anymore and nor to the screen in the living room.  We can watch what we want on our little screen phones when we want through on-demand downloads.  It’s liberated us to watch TV on the bus to work and leave our evenings to other creative pursuits. The “idiot box” as it was called has had to get smart.

Our music isn’t simply a hit-and-miss purchase of albums off the back of one single.  It’s whatever we choose to download from current catalogue or past.  Playlists – audio and video.

So it is with learning – or so it should be.

Well we already have MOOCs; Ignites; TED talks; Khan Academy videos;; i-Tunes U – podcasts galore; vlogs; blogs; tweetchats; storifys; slideshares; YouTube clips; Google+ communities; Yammer groups; Slack boards and more.

And none of this is even counting e-learning content from corporate companies, providers and agencies.

Except e-learning content is STILL a little out of step with this.  Largely linear, boxed-up and whilst better than it’s ever been is still not small enough or compilation friendly.  It’s smarter CDs not yet downloadable playlists.

Which is where the miniaturisation comes in.

Nano-like clips of digital content that a user can select for either

  • a short burst of insightful content (e.g. resilience techniques) OR
  • form into a playlist of content to either randomise learning (into a shuffle like state) or
  • clustered together to serve a purpose (e,g. feedback; behavioural science 101; well formed outcomes from NLP; coaching questions; and positive psychology intro).

It’s this more connoisseur learner we need to service for a digital age where it’s either short bursts, random, or binges that seems to be the ebb and flow of our “us management” in entertainment.  To ask a learner to sit through even 12 minutes of linear content with the odd badge, leader board or game-based quiz is too much like 2000’s version of digital.

Wind forward to 2030 and we’re probably going to see what Nicholas Negroponte referred to : upload learning.  We may well have perfected the transfer of information from a device into our heads without having to read and understand it. We have data we can retrieve; indexed as if we’d read or experienced something and we use of cognitive power to assemble the data into retrieved, contextualised information on-demand.  Shivers.

A perversion of us as information-led beings or the next step – the Singularity that Ray Kurzweil wrote about?

The enhanced human.

The miniaturisation of learning may mean we don’t have to take that drastic Matrix-like step but we’re already the controller in X-Box 360 games so will we come pre-loaded with Wikipedia?

However it develops in another 15 years for now, I feel the miniaturisation of learning is the way forward in an information rich world we’re trying to make sense of.

Thought leader Clay Shirky says “it’s not about information overload, it’s a filtering failure”.

We could certainly help our filtering on learning content with just in time; just right; just enough learning through the miniaturisation of content.



Perry is a chartered CIPD member; facilitator & coach, he has led technology-driven business changes for over 20 years as a corporate Head of Learning, Talent & OD. Energy, passion and insight around people development are his trademarks.

He combines Director - People & Learning at digital agency Media Zoo with his own enterprise - PTHR - aiming to transform work/learning through use of digital & social technologies; innovation as usual; more soulful leadership; and being an always-on learner for a range of his clients in all sectors.

View All Posts