Amsterdam Diary – Day 2: spontaneous learning cultures – popup learning

I’ve taken this week out to think, research and write about learning culture: how is it formed, what are the challenges in global learning spaces and who owns it? Yesterday we looked at how the culture is created, with a focus on formal, organisational learning. Today is the practical session!

Sometimes meaning just emerges. Today i’m going to do something i’ve never done before: i’m going to reach out to my global network to see if we can create a story about learning culture. I will reach out through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yammer, Email and (for anyone wandering the streets of Amsterdam) i’ll be sat in the cafe of the Picasso museum trying to strike up conversations.

I hope to be able to curate the conversation, to make new connections and to find common strands in our learning and experience.

It may, of course, fall flat on it’s face. In which case i will feel slightly foolish, but i am confident that there are enough people engaged in these various communities that we will be able to collaborate and create meaning. A coherent narrative constructed across a few hours and a few continents.

If you want to take part, please share your thoughts by commenting below, or you can take part in the Learning Forum on LinkedIn, or by using the hashtag #popuplearning on Twitter (you can find me @julianstodd on Twitter). Or just email me on

I am not in the office today, i’ve been walking by the canals of Amsterdam, searching out a series of cafes with wifi. It’s an informal world of learning, so an informal setting suits us well.

I’ll be gathering the narrative and reporting the results tomorrow. Time to get started…

Question 1: Is learning culture created by the organisation or the learners?
Question 2: Do you do most of your learning in formal experiences or informal ones?

Answers below!

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in 'Just in time' learning, Culture, Knowledge, Learning, Narrative, Popup Learning, Social Learning, Social Networking, Stories, Storytelling and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Amsterdam Diary – Day 2: spontaneous learning cultures – popup learning

  1. Paul says:

    1. I believe that the organization wants to drive the culure and in some ways tries (ie. forcing participation) but ultimately it is the user population that really is the driving force.
    2. Since I view each and everyday as a learning experience, my learning is informal.

  2. julianstodd says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Paul – you’re the first person to engage in the first popup learning event!

    Your point about the organisation driving culture is important: you can’t force engagement, only nurture it, so the control really lies with the group.

  3. Kayla Ratz says:

    I couldn’t argee more with Paul’s answers!

    1. It’s important for the organization to set a foundation, and nurture learning. But, too many times learning is developed in one very structured, formal attempt to get their employees to adopt whatever message they are trying to convey. Ultimately the culture of learning stems from the users, and it’s up to the organizations to listen and leverage how their teams are engaging.

    2. Learning happens every day. Through experiences, conversations and yes…making mistakes! I would say maybe 10% of the learning I do is through a formal or planned event. On the informal side, I tend to be a grazer of information on the internet and social channels to find industry news, articles on trends and find relevant learning webinars. I have feeds set up and I follow thought leaders and innovators in the industry that are successful at the goals I’m trying to accomplish. Plug: Julian Stodd’s Learning blog is one of the ones I follow!

    But I think learning ultimately comes back to the experiences we have on a daily basis and the power of collaboration.

  4. Sheri Weppel says:

    Learning is definately created by the learner. Even if an organisation creates learning, the end learner will make what they want of it by how much they choose to engage.

    And I greatly prefer the informal learning that occurs in the formal setting. In the US our schedules are so overbooked that sometimes the formal learning is nice to at least set a placeholder for us to stop, take pause, and engage.

    • julianstodd says:

      I think that the individual learner has increasingly got the power to choose whether to engage or not. As learning becomes more social, we will apply social dynamics to situations – such as choosing when to engage and when to walk away.

      Thanks for engaging! 🙂

  5. James Tyer says:

    Hi Julian,

    I hope Amsterdam is fun!

    1) Falling back on some good old social theories, we know that it’s pretty much impossible to uncover who/what creates a culture first. It’s always the interplay between people that create a structure. This is hard to change, as we both create learning cultures and are socialised by them. I think this is why encouraging learners to take charge of their learning is difficult for both an organisation and the learners themselves to accept.

    2) My personal learning comes in all shapes and sizes, but after university has been almost entirely informal. Taking part in a personal knowledge management or personal learning network exercise really helps emphasise just how much you learn informally.

    • julianstodd says:

      It’s a bit like chicken and egg i realise… the ‘interplay between people’ certainly key, as well as the interplay between organisational process and people.

      I want to explore further your idea that because we create the culture, and are socialised by it, it’s harder for us to take control. This feels like a good insight.

      How’s coming along?

  6. Shona Cooper says:

    Hi Julian – in the organisations I work with the leaders can have a powerful impact either facilitating or inhibiting the culture of learning. Their own approach and openness to new ideas, to training, to informal learning aproaches seems to really influence how their team engage with learning. I see great leaders inspiring learning and generating an excitement for new ideas and individual growth and others who disincentivise learning through their own disinterest! There can be diverse learning cultures within 1 organisation. This is of course only part of the story and many individuals create their own learning agendas despite the organisational culture or leaders actions.

    • julianstodd says:

      I think your point about the role of leaders is very significant – i’ve used this as i’ve written up our learning narrative today. I tend to use the generic term ‘organisation’, but maybe i should be talking about ‘leadership’ and recognising the importance and potential impact of ‘inspiration’ by individuals within that team. Thanks for sharing these valuable thoughts. Your broad perspective and experience are very helpful.

  7. I tend to agree with James and Shona in believing that the organization has at least a share of the ownership of training.

    As for my own learning, it’s mostly informal these days.

    • julianstodd says:

      Jeffrey, your experiences match that of so many others: that we feel our learning today is increasingly informal. I’ve used that theme in the narrative we’ve created here. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Pingback: Amsterdam Diary – Day 3: Our community popup learning story | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  9. julianstodd says:

    Everyone – i’ve written up our collaborative learning narrative here:

    Amsterdam Diary – Day 3: The story of our popup learning experience (

    Thank you all so much for participating – it’s so exciting to be able to interact with so many great people.


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