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!


Stopping the Pandemic

All the ideas you have about the future of management and learning are wrong.

If you want to find out why, join us this Friday for a great webinar and some free valuable giveaways.

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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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How to Be a Great Leader

Tell me where to send your new socks, because this should knock yours off!

I love the idea of Heart Count not Head Count.

My new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy will be published by ATD Press December 1st. You can preorder now at Amazon and any of the other online book sites.

Imagining the Future of Work

We have been talking about the rapid inevitable change from labor-intensive managing hands type of work, to the mind-intensive managing minds work most of us perform. We too often imagine it happening in offices or manufacturing environments. Truth is it’s happening in places we would never imagine, from pizza parlors to coal mines to … take a look.

Originally produced by Quartz Media

Learning Culture & Human Capital: The Reality, the Myth and the Vision

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Sally Ann Moore is the Director General iLearning Forum at Closer Still Media. iLearning Forum is the most important learning meeting in Europe. Sally Ann wrote this as part of her preparation for the conference that I am honored to be speaking at in Paris on 22nd & 23rd January, 2018 at the iLearning Technologies France.

While preparing the Learning technologies France 2018 conference programme, I have been doing research and reading, and in particular looking at L&D trends, Talent Management and Human capital management. I unearthed a real shock and a paradox about the value of people to organizations.

Business Leaders don’t really Value People

In November 2016 The Korn Ferry Institute published their grim findings of a global study:  In August and September, 2016, Korn Ferry interviewed 800 business leaders in multimillion-dollar global organizations on their views on the value of people in the future of work. These leaders were in the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Brazil, France, Australia, India, and South Africa.

  • 63% of the CEOs said that in 5 years, technology will be the firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage.
  • 67% said that technology will create greater value in the future than people will. (and 64% believed people are a cost, not a driver of value)
  • 44% said the prevalence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will make people “largely irrelevant” in the future of work.

Worse still, the study found that when asked to rank what their organization’s top five assets will be 5 years from now, the company’s human resources  did not make the list. The top five assets were:

  1. Technology (product, customer channels);
  2. R&D / Innovation;
  3. Product / Service;
  4. Brand; and
  5. Real Estate (offices, factories, land).

So much for Human Capital Management and Learning Culture! I can even affirm that some of the companies in the survey also like to say people are their greatest asset. Ha! (They just don’t tell shareholders that – 40% of respondents in the Korn Ferry survey said they have experienced shareholder pressure to direct investment toward tangible assets like technology). This known as a “tangibility bias”.

As someone deeply involved in Learning and people development, I had to follow my strong belief that it is people that make THE difference, its people that add value and people are the best investment we can make. So I dug deeper. Eureka!

But the Tangibility biased are wrong!

In December 2016, in an economic analysis also commissioned by Korn Ferry, they report that human capital represents to the global economy a potential value of $1,215 trillion – more than DOUBLE the value of tangible assets such as technology and real estate (valued at $521 trillion today).

So, while large organizations put technology in the spotlight in the future of work, it is, in fact, human capital that holds the greatest value for organizations now and in future.

Human capital is also the greatest value creator available to organizations: For every $1 invested in human capital, $11.39 is added to GDP, (the Korn Ferry economic analysis finds). The CEO’s should note that the return on human capital—value versus cost—is the by far the best investment over time.

The problem is “Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias,” said Jean-Marc Laouchez, at Korn Ferry. “Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible – what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology investments. Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products.”

How can we, the L&D specialists address this issue?

We are faced with a constant threat of budget cuts and lukewarm commitment from the executive.  I have always said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Also what you measure is what you get…..

What are you measuring? My casual research suggests that most training managers measure learner satisfaction with their training, and there are plenty of tools for measuring knowledge and skills attainment. Sadly this doesn’t lead us to a tangible ROI. We can only measure that if we measure outcomes of the L&D investment. That is to say the change in work performed and the increased value of that work.  In this respect, I am glad to say that we are now making big strides implementing the Kirkpatrick model over here and addressing the 70:20:10 rule in our L&D projects. (More on this in my next article)

Managing Minds, not Hands

Additionally I came across some new thinking published this year by David Grebow and Stephen J. Gill in the USA. They have been researching for a book to be published early 2018 by the ATD press, entitled:  “Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy”

They began the research by looking for examples of companies that said they were learning cultures, where learning was continuous and supported in every aspect of organizational life. They never found one. They found some examples of learning cultures within companies, in various departments and units, but never consistently across the whole enterprise. They eventually realized why:  A company can tell the world it has a learning culture, provide lots of learning opportunities, and supply eLearning for everyone. But if management support for learning is not apparent and not constantly on display by managers every day, the original culture that supported and rewarded “not learning” will dominate over any attempt to be a learning culture.

They realized that a culture focused on learning needs leaders and managers focused on learning. So they looked at the critical relationship between managers and learning. Managers are expected to direct people’s daily work and performance. They are not usually expected to develop employees. In the research the authors (Grebow and Gill) identify two basic categories of business organization:

  • 19th style Century “Managing hands” older companies, an endangered species
  • 21st century knowledge economy, new companies “Managing minds”

The business results of the latter group are far more spectacular than the former. The authors go on to look at several case studies, in order to identify best practice of managing minds. David Grebow will present their results (and the book) at Learning Technologies France, international conference stream,  on 22nd & 23rd January 2018.

Minds at Work will be published this December 2017 by ATD Press and is available now for preorder on Amazon.