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ATD Blog

Food, Apple, and learning


Sun May 29 2005


What do a fantastic meal and the iPod have to teach us about learning? I believe they both have valuable lessons to teach us about scoping our work.

The meal was a relaxed evening at Manresa, where the chef served up some two dozen exquisite small tastes. Chef David Kinch has created one of the top 50 restaurants in the world via a simple mantra: "A dish isn't complete when I can't add anything else to it - but when I can take nothing else away".


Apple follows a similar design ethic, noticeable in the iPod, of taking away complexity until only the essence of the product remains.

Yet look at the projects that are held up as exemplars of innovation in learning: million-dollar simulations, enterprise-wide projects at Fortune 50 companies, etc. They're impressive and inspiring, but ultimately out of the reach of many people. Cisco's RIO/RLO strategy was brilliant, but so intricate that it was replaced in a coup from within. Full Spectrum Warrior is effective and engaging, but companies aren't racing out to buy X-boxes and build immersive 3D simulations of their own.

If we believe that learning happens by doing, and that includes a great deal of trial-and-error, I believe that the e-learning community should be celebrating (and engaging in) the innovative small projects as well as the large. (The latest e-Learning Forum meeting described a performance support solution that was done in a few months on a very modest budget, but which is giving the sponsoring business a major boost.)

What have you seen that is small, elegant, and powerful?

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