The Conference in Paris


I recently had the honor of presenting the research from my latest book Minds at Work at the 2018 Learning Technologies Conference and iLearning Forum in Paris, Porte de Versailles. There were over 8,000 people attending the two-day event and the interest in learning and learning technologies in the EU is as intense and focused as I have experienced.

The book is becoming a bestseller, and the groundbreaking research is helping promote a new and progressive form of management, that is centered on what we are learning about managing minds at work.

My presentation is posted FINAL WIP Presentation for Paris.  Here are some of the reviews:

The book Minds at Work will be featured in the conference in January.

The only sustainable advantage in our hypercompetitive marketplace is the ability to learn and adapt faster than everyone else. Companies that cling to management practices of a bygone era continue to fade away. They desperately need managers who empower people to seek out learning at a moment’s notice.

Minds at Work can help you be that manager. This book captures the role managers play in the knowledge economy—where uninhibited, on-demand learning inspires employees to achieve higher levels of performance. Author David Grebow describe how managers can move from a traditional “command and control” position to become advocates of communication and collaboration. They share what happens when managers help their direct reports grow as people and use technology to pull the learning they need when they need it.

Minds at Work illustrates this shift to a learning community with success stories from forward-looking companies. With this better way to manage, these companies have unearthed those “aha!” moments as the dots connect after continuous problem solving, trial and error, and innovation. Each has redefined norms, made knowledge sharing flat, and created a workplace culture built to last.

Use this book to embrace learning anytime, anywhere. Nurture the minds at work, and you’ll win the hearts of your organization.”

Using the Pivot Point for Real Learning

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When I was finishing the last chapter in my book, Minds at Work, co-authored with Stephen J. Gill, our focus was on a new model of managing and learning designed to respond to the needs of the new Knowledge Economy. We called it “managing minds” to distinguish it from the previous industrial era model of “managing hands”.

We studied the small but growing number of companies all over the world successfully “managing minds”. These companies were leaders in their industries, without the problems other companies were experiencing including finding and retaining talent, engaging employees, or driving innovation and growth. Because of my background in corporate education, I was especially interested in what it would mean to develop and manage learning programs in these progressively managed companies.

The current industrial era managing hands approach relies on push training – classroom or online scheduled events are pushed to employees. They go back to work as soon as the program is finished with the expectation is that they can do their jobs as a result of their training. They are getting ‘just-in-case training’- just in case they need it someday.

We know from our research that this model does not work. As far back as 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus extrapolated the hypothesis of the exponential nature of forgetting. The following formula can roughly describe it: R=e^{-\frac{t}{S}} where R is memory retention, S is the relative strength of memory, and t is time. A typical graph of the forgetting curve purports to show that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material. Yet we have persisted for over 100 years in using the formal approach as the only way to train.

Further research, initially done at IBM in the late 1980’s, and many others since then, show a disproportionate amount of learning – as much as 70 to 80 percent – takes place during the pull phase after the classroom-based or online learning is completed [2]. The upshot is eye-opening.

The Numbers Are Depressing

What little learning we get (20-30%) during the formal training stage is rapidly forgotten. This means every $1.00 spent on training returns on average 20¢ – 30¢ of value.

Plus, the majority of training programs today are based on the old push model. The training stops when the initial 20% training period is over. Learners are on their own as they enter the workplace with 70-80% left to learn. The numbers change when you are presenting “high-wire” training, the kind that involves life or death split second decisions. That’s the only exception and it involves lots of simulations and time to practice.

In a managing minds organization, the push training programs are often designed to catapult the learner into the more critical period of pull learning, where the research tells us that as much as 70-80% of the learning occurs [3]. We imagined a future in a managing mind pull model [4] in which learners can get the information they need whenever and wherever it is needed. That would be just-in-time learning. And with the advent of new AI systems, learning can be customized even more to become just-for-me as well.

A push training program in a managing mind company would focus on how employees can get the most downstream from the class, from the pull learning side of the equation. That is a dramatic departure from the current push model that focuses on elements like attendance and test scores, and considers push training to be the beginning and end of the learning process.

The new push model, which is only the beginning of the real learning process, could include:

  • An ebook of key takeaways from the push training
  • Incorporating push training materials back at work as poster reminders
  • A place for feedback to report how easy it is to apply what was learned
  • Inclusion of useful apps to reinforce learning after training
  • Instruction on using just-in-time performance support tools
  • Contacts for finding experts for support
  • Opportunities for learner to teach what they learned
  • Ongoing ways to be tested on the lessons
  • Email or text reminders of key lessons.

We quickly realized the implications for change between the old and new models of training is significant. The old managing hands push model delivers formal training and stops. The new managing minds pull model that supports real learning uses formal training as a jumping off point. Push training is just the beginning. Push training programs would be the first step in the learning process [5], and would be more focused on laying the groundwork for the skills that need to be adopted, adapted, tested and acquired back at work.

In the new model there is a clear continuum from formal to informal. And that was the problem we uncovered. How do you identify the switch from formal to informal learning? What do you need to do to create the most useful bridge between these two aspects of the learning process? We call this the “The Pivot Point”.

The Pivot Point is Critical to Real Learning

Figure One: The Learning Process and The Pivot Point.


Minds at work 2018

The Pivot Point is the moment formal training ends and informal learning begins. Focusing training on the Pivot Point is important for several reasons.

Learners need to be aware of what is involved when they pivot from formal to informal learning (and back again). The focus on the Pivot Point will make sure employee’s training is supported when they return to the workplace. A plan for a well-timed hand-off from the formal to the informal can be developed to support employee performance during their informal learning.

The training can take the Ebbinghaus curve [6] into account and provide tools to reinforce the basics upon which learners need to build skills and knowledge as they adopt and adapt what they learned in a formal training program. Training can be designed to mirror the actual environment in which learners will work to make the pivot as seamless as possible. This approach will reinforce the new goal of training: to prepare learners to successfully pivot and learn how to improve their skills during their informal learning period back at work.

How the Pivot Point Works

All learners start out unequal. That simply means no one brings the same level of skills to a training program. Yet a training program can still be one-size-fits-all. All learners will need certain basics as they go forward from the formal to the informal part of the learning. Those basics, listed earlier in this paper, can be covered in ways to help bridge the transition between the two parts of the learning process.

The initial learning curve represents the research done by Ebbinghaus and others. The research shows that there is a precipitous drop in what someone learns during the formal program. The learning curve peaks during the learning process at the Pivot Point, immediately at the end of the formal program. If nothing happens past the Pivot Point learners start to drop off the curve and forget their lessons.

At the Pivot Point, informal learning takes over. This may be towards the end of the formal training program even as the learners are still in class completing a survey or a smile sheet. We believe that learning is a process of employees adopting what they learn in a formal setting and then applying that learning to the workplace during the period of informal learning. What is adopted needs to be tested and expanded upon – in a sense relearned in a new context – and goes through a series of similar, shorter learning curves.

“We learn by strengthening connections between related elements, and only so much strengthening can happen in any one day before we literally need to sleep before more can be achieved. That’s why an “event” model of learning has a low likelihood of actually leading to meaningful change. Instead, learning needs to be spaced over time, with sufficient practice to achieve the retention we require. Consider ways to reactivate learning at intervals after the initial learning presentation.” Dr. Clark Quinn  [7]

Each of these later learning curves in the series has a downward side where there is a falling off of new learning. The difference is that each succeeding curve in this extended learning process becomes less steep. They remember more, need to learn less, and forget less as well. As employees draw closer to an expert level, the curve is almost a straight line.

“There are several ways to strengthen the relationships between related elements that lead to learning. We can represent the concept that guides performance, ideally in a new way. We can present another example of applying the concept in a new context, which both helps establish transfer to appropriate situations and, of course, supports greater retention. Or, best of all, we can provide another opportunity for the learner to practice applying the concept in context. All these activities, spaced over time, will support extending the learning, but, of course, the most important is sufficient spaced practice.” Dr. Clark Quinn [8]

The Pivot Point is when formal training needs to handoff to informal learning. Formal training needs to lead up to the pivot and create a bridge that helps learners move along the learning process continuum. Training programs in a Learning Culture can no longer be the end of learning before working, but, instead, as a critical beginning to being able to learn to perform a job or task at the highest level.

When we start to see learning as a continuous process from formal to informal (and maybe back again), we realize the value of the Pivot Point. And we realize that with planning, we can make that pivot a seamless move from only pushing knowledge and skills, to employees pulling what they need, when they need it, where it’s needed.

Minds at Work is the bestselling book from David Grebow and co-author Stephen J. Gill. Based on their groundbreaking and careful research into progressively managed companies, the book explains how many of the ideas we have about management and learning are outdated. These ideas were developed to meet the needs of the previous industrial economy, and are the root cause of the many of the problems experienced by companies around the world. These problems range from hiring to retaining talented people, increasing the engagement of employees, to having them be more collaborative, creative and innovative. All these problems can be viewed as symptoms caused by the impossibility of meeting the challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy using solutions developed for the 19th century industrial economy.

[1] Formal training happens when knowledge is captured and shared by people other than the original expert or owner of that knowledge. The knowledge can be captured in any format—written, video, audio—as long as it can be accessed anytime and anywhere, independent from the person who originally had it.

[2] Andrew Jefferson, Roy Pollock.”70:20:10: Where Is the Evidence?”, ATD Science of Learning Blog, Tuesday, July 08, 2014.

[3] Ibid., ATD Science of Learning Blog

[4] Informal or pull Learning is what happens when knowledge has not been externalized or captured and exists only inside someone’s head. To get at the knowledge, you must locate and talk to that person in real time. Pull learning is learner-centered and in response to just-in-time need for knowledge and skills.

[5] We believe that learning is a process of adapting and adopting. Learners adopt what the lessons they learn in a formal program. They then adapt those lessons – through a self-directed process of trying, failing, succeeding and learning from experience – during a constantly changing set of circumstances.

[6] Weibell, C. J. (2011). Principles of learning: 7 principles to guide personalized, student-centered learning in the technology-enhanced, blended learning environment. Retrieved July 4, 2011 from

[7] Clark Quinn, “77 Tips on Today’s Hottest Topics from DevLearn Thought Leaders” On Cognition and How the Brain Learns, 15-18, The eLearning Guild, 2015.

[8] Ibid., p.18

What a New Year Surprise!

What an honor! John Baldoni is a popular leadership keynote speaker, executive coach and executive educator. He is an internationally recognized thought leader, and the author of 13 great management books, which have been translated into 10 languages. His most popular books you must read are MOXIE and Lead with Purpose.  He recently posted his “Inspiring Reads for 2018”. My latest book co-authored with Stephen J. Gill, “Minds at Work”, was on his list.

“Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy by David Grebow and Stephen J. Gill. If you think that management does a good job of bringing out the best in organizations, you don’t need to read this book. But, if you think as I do, that we too often squander the talents and skills of employees by not providing them an environment to learn and culture to thrive, then please read this book. Straight to the point and packed with research insights, Grebow and Gill (my friend) provide a road map to helping organizations unleash the power of their greatest assets: their employees’ minds!”

Here’s the full list to start off your New Year’s reading:

Inspiring Reads for 2018

Another Slice of Pizza, Please

zumeOne of the most widely read of my recent posts was The Pizza Story about the artisanal pizza made by robots in the Zume pizzeria in Palo Alto, California. The post showed that we have no idea how far automation has already reached its steely fingers into the many places in our lives. The point was to prove how far and how fast we are moving away from the industrial model of management and learning that focused on managing hands. We are rapidly approaching a time when almost all work will be performed either partly or completely by people’s minds, and we will need to discover how to manage minds and provide ways for them to learn and grow.

I loved this article in a recent issue of The Atlantic Monthly because of what happened to Freedom Carlson. Without a high school degree, let alone a college diploma to insulate her from the transition to managing minds, she was promoted from kitchen helper working alongside the robots to  “culinary-program administrator”. She is learning coding and how to use the software that determines the nutritional facts for a pizza you order from Zume.  She is a great example of how we can revise our old industrial era ideas about management and learning and move from managing hands to managing minds. The key is believing that people have a growth mindset that enables them to learn and providing the knowledge they need to grow.

Here’s the piece that appeared in The Atlantic Magazine:

“Less dystopian was the scene at Zume Pizza, in Mountain View, California, where I watched an assembly line of robots spread sauce on dough and lift pies into the oven. Thanks to its early investment in automation, Zume spends only 10 percent of its budget on labor, compared with 25 percent at a typical restaurant operation. The humans it does employ are given above-average wages and perks: Pay starts at $15 an hour and comes with full benefits; Zume also offers tuition reimbursement and tutoring in coding and data science. I talked with a worker named Freedom Carlson, who doesn’t have a college degree. She started in the kitchen, where she toiled alongside the robots. She has since been promoted to culinary-program administrator, and is learning to navigate the software that calculates nutritional facts for Zume pizzas.”

What struck me as instructive was the way the savings in labor costs – down to 10% from the standard 25% – was reinvested into the workers including

  • above-average wages – starting at $15 an hour
  • full benefits – health, vacation, and sick time
  • tuition reimbursement – this was what I loved that included tutoring in coding and data science.

The article goes on to point out something too often overlooked when we talk about the impact of automation on the workforce.  We need to focus on people’s minds and their ability to learn new technological skills, regardless of their level of educational attainment. It also makes a key point: We need progressive employers – with the help of a progressive government – to provide that learning and make it happen.

“This has typically been the story of automation: Technology obviates old jobs, but it also creates new ones—the job title radiology technician, for example, has been included in census data only since 1990. Transitioning to a new type of work is never easy, however, and it might be particularly difficult for many in the service sector. New jobs that arise after a technological upheaval tend to require skills that laid-off workers don’t have, and not all employers will be nearly as progressive as Zume. A college education helps insulate workers from automation, enabling them to develop the kind of expertise, judgment, and problem-solving abilities that robots can’t match. Yet nearly 80 percent of workers in food preparation and service-related occupations have a high-school diploma or less, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The Atlantic Magazine

Minds at Work is a groundbreaking and carefully-researched explanation about why our ideas about management and learning are more than 100 years out-of-date and need to be revised. The book is published by ATD Press and is available in paperback and ebook versions on ATD Press and Amazon. The ATD Press site also has a free Executive Summary and Sample Chapter.


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The Pizza Story



“Unemployment among robots is holding at zero percent.

Humans are not doing as well”

The Pizza Story

In our new book Minds at Work, we talk about the older labor-intensive economy in which we made things and needed to manage hands, and the newer mind-intensive economy in which we produce work with our minds and need to manage minds.

Automation creates a future in which there are no hands left to manage.

To bring that point  home, we have the pizza story.

This Makes it Personal.

When you walk in it seems like any other pizzeria. You sit, you order, you talk and drink your drink and wait.

In the kitchen in Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley, the team at Zume Pizza goes to work. Pepe and Giorgio squirt on the sauce, and Marta spreads it in concentric circles, just like they do in Italy. Then Bruno puts the pizza in the oven to bake to perfection. And they do not stop for a moment to catch their breath.  That’s because Pepe, Giorgio, Marta, and Bruno are co-bots (robots). And while human employees still apply the toppings according to the customer’s wishes, it’s only a matter of time before they cede that role, too. Co-bots will soon be robots. Made-to-order, ready-to-go, fully automated pizza in as little as seven minutes: As the owners are proud of saying, it’s “artisanal robotic pizza.”

When there are no hands to manage, what’s left.

Postscript: When we originally came across this story and added it to the book Minds at Work, there were only 4 co-bots working at Zume. Since then they’ve added Vincenzo. Then they opened a second pizzeria with 4 more co-bots.

That means that the unemployment rate for robots is zero.

btw, that’s a selfie of Bruno at the top of this post …



An Idea Whose Time Has Come

There are hundreds of cable and streaming channels all focused on a theme or subject just begging for an audience. I have an idea for one that at least 30 million people in this country are ready watch.

MAGA-TV – The Make America Great Again channel.

It’s the closest they can get to a time machine. Take them back to the last time America was great. When white flight was commuting to the suburbs light-years away from dangerous crime infested cities. A house cost $8,450, yearly wages for the breadwinning men topped $3,120. A new car? Easy installment payments at $1,510, but no worries gas was only 18¢ per gallon. Use as much as you want.

And to remember how happy they were, Mom or dad could take all the photographs they wanted on their Happi-Time camera!

So, I want my MAGA-TV. I want to go back to the 1950’s and be able to reimagine that America. We would have enough shows for everyone! Here are just a few …

Reality shows that taught us how to be a MAGA family

  • Father Knows Best
  • Leave it to Beaver
  • The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
  • The Andy Griffith show

Programs that would be MAGA fun for the whole family

  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • Green acres
  • Mister Ed
  • The Munsters

History shows about the way it used to be out in the MAGA west

  • The Lone Ranger
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Bonanza

Shows that gave MAGA kids values to live by

  • Dennis the Menace
  • The Howdy Doody Show
  • Leave it to Beaver

Shows that revealed the hard life of MAGA crime

  • Dragnet
  • Perry mason

And for the blacks

Just to make sure MAGA-TV is not perceived as racist, we would also include a few shows that proved we liked them too.

  • Amos and Andy
  • Moving on Up
  • Stepford and Sons

And if we ran out of episodes, we can always go back to the beginning. After all isn’t that what you do with a fairy tale? Just read it again.

So, it would be MAGA-TV reruns, making America great again, and again, and again. Happily ever after.

Please smile for the Happi-Time Camera.

Sex, Bitcoin, and the Blockchain Brothel


I’m always trying to learn something new. Every day…

So last night I was out with a friend of mine who is fabulously wealthy and amazingly smart. And we were eating dinner and talking about investments, retirement, 401K’s, reverse mortgages, and the California housing market after the fires. It was a calm and educational meal and then, over coffee and whisky (single malt of course), I mentioned the word …


Twenty minutes of surprising ranting followed from my usually low-key and reasonable friend, and the upshot of his lecture – enjoyed by all the nearby diners – was “Bitcoin is bullshit, it’s for suckers with more money than brains, it’s gambling pure and simple!”

I let it go, we parted amicably, and I forgot about that part of the conversation until this morning in a steamy shower.

Bitcoin is gambling. So why not open an online bitcoin casino? The more I thought about the idea the more I liked it. A place online where you could only gamble with bitcoins. Since bitcoins are not recognized as real by any government in the world, there would be no regulation. Or even better taxation. You win you keep it all. You lose I get it all.

It could have all the features of any casino. Cards. Dice. Slots. Even a roulette wheel. Plus, it could add sports betting, already online, only it would be better. No government to get in your way. Bitcoins only. It would be the uber-site of gambling – gambling with currency that was based on gambling. Gambling gambling squared!

I would include The Bitcoin Bar where, over virtual drinks, you could exchange stories about fighting in the bitcoin and cryptocurrency wars. It would be like a global community. Meet fellow bitcoiners. And other cryptocurrency lovers. Maybe even meet IRL. Who knows there might even be a marriage or two to brag about someday.

And then there could be the VR Blockchain Brothel. Let’s get real. Pornography was the midwife for the Internet. Why not step it up a notch and provide the best and newest in VR sex? Need VR headgear? We sell it. Or provide it as a perk to our Golden Members Only Club.

I even had a name: The New Goldrush Casino. Now I just need to find investors who want to put their bitcoins to work.

Sorry, gotta run … haven’t checked the latest up or down news on my bitcoins in the last 5 minutes. That’s a lifetime in cryptocurrency years!


The Game of Why’s?

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Every great leader I’ve ever spoken with or read about, when looking at the way their company works, or confronting a business challenge, does the same thing: They ask “Why?” at least three times to really find an answer. Try it.

Using the the Rule of Three 

Playing The Game of Why’s is simple. Deceptively simple. On the surface it seems like “What’s the big deal?” If you honestly play it, it becomes a very BIG deal. For every answer you have to whatever statement you’re making, simply ask “Why?” and do it again and again, three times.

WHY Number 1 will feel right, and skipping right past it will drive you crazy since we love to jump to conclusions.

WHY Number 2 will usually annoy you since it’s further away from the answer you initially wanted, and often seems counterintuitive. Keep going. You’re almost there …

WHY Number 3 will always amaze you since you’re finally getting to some really interesting place you never imagined.

The Science Behind the Game

The Rule of Three Why’s is valuable because of what we learned from the neurosciences. They discovered that the past and the future are in the exact same region of the brain. Whether we are remembering the past,  or envisioning the future,  we use the same part of our brain.

The current idea is that we use past experiences to scaffold the future; we base the future on what we experienced from the past. That makes sense since we need to have a sense of security as we go through our day so we can safely (and somewhat mindlessly) get from point A to B, not fear death when eating a Big Mac, look forward to being warmly greeted upon returning home, and so on.

We need predictability which is why change is so hard for us – we are simply not wired for it. Once we get our safe and sane existence under control, chaos is not something to which we desire. Occasionally, we sometimes long for something new, different, or novel. But for the most part we like to measure out our lives in coffee spoons.

This means that the brain apparently predicts the course of future events by imagining them taking place much like similar past ones.

The Pace and Complexity of Change

There’s something inherently problematic in thinking this way in today’s world.

At a 2017 Learning Conference, a panel of CLOs from four major corporations were asked the following question “What is keeping you up at night?” All four had a similar answer: “The pace and complexity of change.”

Change has become so common and ubiquitous that we need to start thinking in new ways all the time. That means that we cannot default to the brain’s habit of using the past to predict and determine the future. We need to constantly invoke our imagination and be continuous learners.

To do that, we need to realize three things:

  1. The past and the future are exactly the same. They are both an illusion created in the same part of our mind. Makes sense to collocate the past and future since it’s an economical, energy efficient way to use neurons and synapses.
  2. Change is difficult because there is a failure of the imagination. Magical thinking is defined as imagining if I do the same thing tomorrow that did not work today, it will magically happen. Magical thinking is a good way to define the way we usually use our brains and for the most part it’s an okay system when what we’re doing is working. The dilemma in today’s world is that we need to change a few old ideas. For instance “Knowledge is power” needs to become “Sharing knowledge is power” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” needs to be flipped to be “If it ain’t broke, break it and make a better one.” Sleeping dogs are also in trouble …
  3. The past is not a great predictor of the future. If you ever bought a mutual fund the marketing materials always needs to legally state “Past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes.” I think that needs to become a mantra for everything we do. That’s not to say that sometimes past performance does not have the same outcome in the future. Even dice rolled twice will come up with the same number.

We simply need to be conscious of the past we imagine. stop thinking of it as real when it is really our imagination at work, and let go of it. Then we can build the future on a new vision of something never before imagined.

That act of the mind – letting go of the past and imagining a new and different future –  is at the heart of all invention, exploration, creativity, disruption, innovation, and revolution. And as I said at the beginning of this post, one good way to get there is to play The Game of Why’s and use The Rule of Three.

My new book, “Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy”, is available in print and ebook versions on Amazon and all the other book seller’s websites.



Exciting News From Me

FYI – Just heard that the book is starting to ship!

On December 1st my book, Minds at Work, co-authored with my friend Stephen J. Gill, will launch. The book is being published by ATD Press and there will be an exciting ATD webinar – MANAGEMENT & LEARNING WILL CHANGE FOREVER (AND YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW AND WHY)  – 

Thanks for reading KnowledgeStar and I hope to see many of you there!

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