Friday, September 08, 2006

Weird day at DTI

Looked forward to fresh ideas from DTI e-learning delegates fresh from a mission to the US. What I got was a corporate plug for the BBC and a sort of anti-American bunfest.

Wrong keynote
First, it was the wrong keynote. Nigel Paine (BBC) has done a fantastic and innovative job within the BBC (he has now left the BBC) but the BBC is an idiosyncratic, over-funded entity which distorts rather than aids the market. Look at the appalling BBC Jam content (reviewed in this blog) and you’ll see what I mean.

US bashing
Then the returning delegates sounded as though they’d just been on a bad package holiday where there had been nothing to see or do, with quotes along these lines:

“We suffered Death by PowerPoint”
“We’re ahead of them on quality”
“Almost everything we saw was crap”

If you visit a load of corporates, such as IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, Accenture and Sun you will get dull PowerPoint presentations. You will also get lied to. (Speak to some veterans of this game such as Julian Wakely – he was in the audience). Does anyone really believe that these organisations are the sources of innovation on e-learning or the web? Dinosaurs don’t give birth to gazelles.

On more than a few occasions it descended into unnecessary US bashing. I was sitting next to an American (one of the most innovative people in the room) and we were cringing. Even the questions from the floor were jingoistic. The quality of our content is much better, our TV drama is second to none and so on - oh yeah!

Gurus travel by bandwagon, but...
OK their gurus Masie, Brandon and Bersin travel everywhere by bandwagon, and most of their large corporates talk relentless nonsense, but it’s a big place and if you look hard you’ll find plenty of innovation. I’ve been going to the US and reporting back for years (three times in the last year alone). I saw the best example of compliance e-learning I’ve seen (Michael Allen for Apple), some astounding MMOG military training (Forterra), met a great range of bloggers such as Jay Cross, wonderful stuff from Curtis Bonk in academia, the astounding success of the University of Phoenix, Wikipedia, LeapFrog in educational publishing and stuff so inspiring from Google that it made me want to cry with joy. I could go on.

By the end Iwas thinking about heading back - I wanted to watch The Sopranos.

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Blogger Tony Karrer said...

Donald - I was surprised to read - "Does anyone really believe that these organisations are the sources of innovation on e-learning or the web? Dinosaurs don’t give birth to gazelles."

IBM has done some very interesting things in eLearning, KM, etc. So has HP, Cisco, Sun. I'm not as familiar with Accenture and Adobe. But, I'm surprised that your impression was that they weren't innovative around learning and the web. What the heck were they talking about?

9:19 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

IBM recently implemented one of the most disastrous e-learning projects in the UK for a majro bank. They may practise their 4-tier model internally, but externally they milk customers with false promises. In this case Saba was implemented but had so little allocated bandwidth that it has nearly destroyed the reputation of e-learning in that business. Luckily they have some talented internal people who are desperatley trying to keep the flame alive. I have been on the tail end of a number of failed IBM projects where the client was glad to see the back of them.
Then there's their great product Lotus LearningSpace, perhaps the most useless product in its peer group. IBM have to use it internally, buy few in their right mind would buy the thing.

IBM appropriates smart technology and ideas from others - open source is a good example.

If you've had to sit through a Nancy Lewis presentation - it's like watching someone who has been hypnotised - they must be 'on message' all of the time. There's no debate, only the IBM way - or SUN way, or Microsoft way, or CISCO way....

IBM have made some bold statements in the past about dominating the e-learning market - they haven't, thankfully, and where they have, the solutions have been large scale, crude LMS implementations. Why? That's what makes them the most money.

Let me rephrase my animal analogy. Dinosaurs don't give birth to gazelles, but when they see one they kill them.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Tony Karrer said...

Donald - love the new dinosaur analogy!

It's funny that I was thinking of some of the things that IBM (Sun, Cisco, has done internally not of them as a vendor providing services.

I appreciate your insights into this and thanks for the response.

It's funny how things like the real problem projects get buried so no one can learn from them.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Brent Schlenker said...

Wow! Donald! After hearing that story I'm glad we paid IBM 3.5mill to NOT implement. What a nightmare.
I don't know anyone who uses NOTES today accept for the programmers who work at IBM. Oh well! love your blog. Great commentary!

6:08 PM  
Blogger David Wilson said...

Donald - agree that the DTI day was truly a weird day - see my post on it too. I called it very Learning 0.0!

Was a big shame though as there were lots of really interesting people in the audience, and of course, some really interesting companies and projects in the states. Unfortunately this exercise seems to have bypassed most of them!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Rina t said...

At the moment IBM is hiring left right and centre in India. Wonder what they are upto in this recession?

9:12 AM  

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