Well marked exits

There is a massive machine for the manufacture of controlled content. The machine dictates what people learn, how and when. It conspires to control learning experiences with subsidiary structures which outcast those who do not submit to indoctrination by coerced content.

Those of us with the sense to be blogging about learning -- have found many well marked exits. We are whistle blowers like those inside Enron or the tobacco and asbestos industries. We've been thinking about what we are doing, what good our work does others and whether we can continue in good conscience. When we step outside the premises of the massive machine, we have a lot to say while we figure out what to do next. Welcome to our blogosphere.

It's disorienting to be out of the machine. We are getting our own bearings amidst tremendous changes and technological marvels. One way to get oriented is to see how we got here. I suspect we all moved through well marked exits. Here's the ten exits I'm familiar with and how their doors are well marked.

Learning: Inside the machine, learning generates problems with motivation, retention and outcomes. Those problems vanish as learners find freedom, networks and search tools beyond the exit.

Creativity: Anyone with the sense to think outside the box sees the machine as oppressive and predictable. Explorers of innovative processes, metaphorical approaches and artistic expressions naturally exit the machine.

Political rights: Concern with social justice, individual rights and moral causes finds the machine to be aristocratic, tyrannical and in violation of human dignity. Citizen marketers, journalists, pundits and instigators of social change find themselves outside the machine in more democratic conversations.

Compassion: Anyone who cares about others and seeks to comfort those in pain -- sees the machine as abusive, harmful, toxic and dysfunctional. Success with changing others' epistemic frames, limiting assumptions and wounded self concept will exit the machine in the process of healing their lives.

Entrepreneurship: All free agents and long tailers who develop new products and services -- get inspiration from the unsolved problems of customers. The machine is obviously depriving the customers of better service, solutions to their problems and value that emerges from co-creating with their viewers, subscribers, clientele and patients.

Competitive strategy: The machine competes in a red ocean bloodied by rivals and fear of invasions. Anyone creating uncontested market space out in the long tail -- will serve untapped demand, cross the chasm and entice early adopters outside the machine.

Ecological awareness: Anyone who understands cycles sees the toxic repercussions of the machine's conduct. The increasing pollution, useless stockpiles and imbalances reveal a clear exit to sustainable, recyclable, and balanced systems.

Gamer heuristics: All players who have skipped the instruction manual and discovered how to move up levels on their own -- leaves the machine behind in the dust. Their self-cultivated aptitude for solving problems and changing strategies repudiates the need for over-structured policies, accountabilities and controls.

Open source participation: Anyone who has contributed to and benefited from collective initiatives finds the flaws in the machine. Participation in communities, gift economies, unconferences, leaderless gatherings or vibrant wikis finds an exit in no time.

Storytellers: All of us who are on our own fascinating journeys see the machine as going nowhere quickly. Our sense of adventure, suspense and exploration moves out of the machine into the panorama of possibilities as we speak.

Which door did you exit through?


  1. Hi Tom,
    Liked your analogy and identified different phases of my professional life in it.
    For many years, while developing training for the Israeli Air Force, we were proud to control our content and in fact all the learning environment. Nobody thought that something could be done otherwise.
    The same can be said when I was the CLO for a big bank here in Israel.
    Then along came a very important and difficult challenge for the training operation and the BOX couldn't bring us the necessary solutions anymore.
    We started looking around (sometimes hitting the walls…) and found mainly the Competition door, the Creativity one mainly the Learning door.
    We started to decentralize the training to the areas & branches management, to use advanced training tools and suddenly found many enthusiastic partners among people in the bank.
    And all this in 1998!!
    Now I live in the open and must tell you that sometimes I long for the coziness of the closed box…

  2. I guess I left through the Entrepreneurship door when I started freelancing four years ago. However, with that new-found freedom I became more focused on Creativity, Political rights, Compassion, Ecological Awareness, Open Source participation and Storytelling.

    I think that when one door opens, many other doors open as well.