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The Learning Layer

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The Learning Layer

Building the Next Level of Intellect in Your Organization

Palgrave Macmillan,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Information technology systems can now provide a layer of learning that adapts to users’ needs and questions.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Adaptive systems innovator Steven D. Flinn focuses on the way “system thinking applications” can improve organizational learning and knowledge management. He explains how companies can create a “learning layer” within their information technology systems to educate employees and boost productivity and performance. getAbstract recommends Flinn’s book – despite its occasional opacity and some heavy-going circumlocutions – to business leaders who want to make the most forward-looking use of adaptable corporate learning. He offers a solid take on the learning layer as a way to foster organizational education, manage knowledge and make the most of information technology. The book also will intrigue futurists who focus on technology and business. Flinn makes it clear that the learning layer’s infinite capacity exactly fits Sir Arthur Clark’s contention, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”


The “Learning Network”

A major business and information technology (IT) consultancy bid on a $200-million-a-year contract from a Fortune top-20 company. The consultancy had virtually no existing relationship with the client, though two of the other bidders did. Winning the bid was a long shot, but the candidate company had a unique advantage: its online learning network, an adaptive learning system that improves its own operations continuously based on its users’ collective activities. The client immediately understood that this specialized network offered a new way to leverage its intellectual capital and provide flexible, customized employee education. Appreciating the remarkable, sustained benefits of such learning, the firm gave the consultancy the contract.

A Revolutionary New Form of IT

Business leaders have long viewed IT as a commodity. This will soon change due to a remarkable advance in “automatic learning capabilities” that enables companies to transform their knowledge flow and the operation of their IT systems based on their users’ actions. The only other system that works this way is the human brain, a neural network that constantly...

About the Author

Steven D. Flinn, former CIO of Royal Dutch Shell, is CEO and founder of ManyWorlds, Inc., an R&D firm. He also writes on music and on the ties between evolution and information theory.

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