The new book is out on Tuesday. I think it will resonate with you and your work.
Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Krypton Community College

Connecting into groups

[update: Shane put up a Meetup Everywhere page]

On Monday, I'll be posting the first curriculum, a course based on some of Seth Godin's (that's me) published writing and the challenge of shipping work that matters. It includes discussion questions and links to text, audio and even a bonus workbook.

This update is about choosing, contacting and organizing your course. No doubt, you (and some of the attendees) will want to review the curriculum in advance, but in fact, that's not the key question, any more than people need to know every book that will be covered before they join a book group.

Instead, the challenge is helping people understand that this is painless, worthwhile and most of all, the sort of thing that people like us like to do.

I've put together a simple online forum where you can go to exchange notes and check in with other organizers. It's run by volunteers and it's not a tech support system, but it might be a good place to find fellow travelers and to connect to find answers to shared questions.

To kick off your discussions, here's a sample invitation you might consider sending to colleagues and friends. Of course, you should change whatever elements of this aren't quite right, including dates, times and any or all turns of a phrase. I have no doubt that you can write a more effective and detailed invitation, but wanted to get you started…

email subject:  Are you busy Tuesday afternoon?

I'm hoping you will join some of my friends to join a free course based on the work of Seth Godin.

Krypton is a new online/offline project based on a simple idea: we learn better when we do it together.

It's a free course that makes it easy to organize an in-person 'book group' to discuss ideas–books, websites, TED talks and other varieties of useful learning.

We meet four times, once a week for four weeks. Everyone in the course gets a PDF document with links to articles, etc., and we come together to discuss and figure out how to push each other to dive deeper into the work. Unlike traditional school, there are no tests, no memorization, no proving you did the reading. Instead, I'm trying to put together 8 people who will share their experiences and figure out how to grow from what's on offer. That's when the real learning happens–not from the spectator, click-clicking for access to information, but from on-the-hook teaching and defending and building.

Learning together.

The first session will be in the conference room near my cube, at 4 pm on Tuesday, October 1. Drop me a reply and let me know you'll be able to come. I've also invited Jenny, Andy, Jo-ann, Sasha and Ted. If you can think of someone else who should be there, let me know!

You can find out more about the thinking behind this at the Krypton site.

I'm excited about hosting this course, and I hope you'll give it a try and join us.


Krypton Community College

Soft skills and hard

Which comes first?

Do successful people learn hard skills (differential calculus, advanced Spanish, Ruby on Rails) and then go on to learn the soft stuff (connection, innovation, humility, initiative, the ability to ship work that matters) or does it happen the other way around?

I think the answer has shifted, and just recently.

The industrial model of schooling involves more than a dozen years of hard skills, pushed, prodded and poked onto students who learn them in order to move forward. And the assumption is that as you engage in the test-and-measure forced march of hard skill learning, you will pick up the other stuff along the way.

But in the all-you-can-eat abundant world of access to education, the question is, “who will push themselves to learn this stuff if they are given access?”

Most people with access to a MOOC never even sign up. Most people who sign up, don’t finish. Why not? Because without the soft skills to push ourselves and own the process, we never acquire the hard skills.

Krypton can’t add much value in the process to learn hard skills. It’s not clear to me that a four-week in-person process is going to help you push through the hard parts of advanced programming or civil engineering… certainly not at the mass scale I’d like to achieve.

On the other hand, the work of folks like Gretchen Rubin, Fred Wilson, Chris Guillebeau, Jacqueline Novogratz (all part of our upcoming courses) is precisely aimed at waking us up and taking us somewhere we might not go. My course starts us off next month (I'll post early next week), and we'll keep layering on folks with work this soft/important/personal, month after month.

The class doesn't exist to test you on your knowledge. Instead, it's a safe space to share your experience, to expose your fear and most of all, to push yourself to explore how to do work that matters.

Call the content of TED videos and blogs ‘soft’ if you want to, but my experience tells me that in the world of ‘pick yourself’, the doors are only open to those that actually show a willingness to expose themselves to the risk of walking through them.

Doing that with a few colleagues and friends at your side makes that journey a lot more likely.

Krypton Community College

Logistics (part 1)

Every week for four weeks, a course meets. A course is a group of people learning together, sort of like a book group.

You can host each of the four classes of the course in your office, your home or a coffee shop. The ideal size is 6 to 15 people, but you might want to invite a few extra folks as insurance.

Consider not just your co-workers, but fellow freelancers, friends, people who do work you admire. While it's fine to ask strangers to attend, my sense is that's not going to be effective, at least at first, when the program doesn't have a track record yet.

We call the person who organizes the classes within a course (that's you) an organizer. No credentials required, other than a generous desire to lead and share.

Every four weeks there will be a new course. Obviously, a group can continue meeting from course to course, or you can pick and choose. I think it would extraordinary if the 11,000 people already subscribed to this each hosted ten people for a dozen courses over a year. That would be a powerful step in raising the conversation and output of more than a hundred thousand people…

The first course is going to be based on selections from my work for a few reasons. First, I figure most of you know my work and want to be more engaged with it, and second, I can tweak the course more in search of a paradigm that works. We call the subject of the course a scholar, mostly because we couldn't think of something catchier and more accurate. More scholars will be announced soon.

Before each course is launched, we'll post two different PDF documents here. One is for the students in your class, and the other, similar but with some added material, is for you, the organizer.

This list, then, becomes the central clearinghouse for which courses are up next and sharing what we learn from you. The college, though, is completely distributed, it lives and breathes because of what you do with it.

Your job, then, is to:

  1. Invite the right people to your course.
  2. Find someone else to bring snacks.
  3. Make sure all the students get the PDF, in advance, by email. One PDF covers all four classes in the course.
  4. Lead the class. This doesn't mean you need to teach it. The best classes are going to be peer-driven events, in which the organizer works to push people forward and to give people a chance to be heard. You're not an expert on anything except your own experience with the work, and that's just fine.

The first course begins in October, and we've reserved Tuesdays as our default day (because syncronizing people across social media can't hurt). #KryptonTuesday is the idea, but you can run it on any day you choose–you're the organizer. Some are choosing to do it during the workday, some in the evening. October 1st is the target launch, and you might consider inviting people to reserve the date.

One and only one boundary: don't run a class online. It won't work and it denatures what we're trying to build. In person is magical.

Students should expect to spend about an hour a week preparing for class (all the material is linked to within the PDF) and perhaps 90 minutes working together in their weekly session with you.

It's all free, it's all open, and I'm hoping that this format will copied and morphed and used by others going forward. We've got nine of the courses outlined, and will release one a month, though it's entirely possible that Krypton (and others) may put a choice of courses online. Of course, once a course is live you can run your classes whenever you like… no need to be in sync if you choose not to.

In my next post, I'll go over some of our thinking about scholars, and then I'll be posting the first curriculum, because you don't need to trust me that's it's worth doing before you invite people to join you.

Krypton Community College

Scarcity and abundance in education

Traditional higher education is based on scarcity.

Famous colleges are permitted to be famous because they don't have many graduates. The value of the degree increases the number of students who want to attend, which further enhances their fame. In fact, they're called, "selective," because they don't let many people in. Here's an amazing truth: many colleges promote their schools to students who can't possibly get in, just so the number of applications will go up, so they can reject more students and thus appear more selective, which will, perversely, make them more popular as a school to apply to.

A class taken at the Harvard continuing education program is not 'worth' nearly as much as one taken by someone who got in to real Harvard. Because getting in is scarce.

Class enrollment is scarce. You need to get up early, or game the system or get lucky to get a seat in the best classes. We happily applaud the value of a small-group seminar and decry the 300 person lecture because the intimacy that comes with this sort of scarcity is valuable.

Accreditation further enhances scarcity, as does the requirement that a certain number of teachers have a doctorate degree.

MOOCs and online education, of course, turn all of this upside down. There's no extra cost to having more students in an online course. 100,000 students isn't at all unusual. Abundance! Not only that, but since anyone can take any course, there's an abundance of choice. A typical university might offer just one or two intro courses in artificial intelligence, but the internet can easily offer a hundred or a thousand.

Abundance means that there's far less brand value in saying you took a course, because the fact that you took the course isn't rare or scarce. The learning is valuable, not the proof you took it.

Now that just about anyone can continue their education, just about everyone must. You must, because if you're not keeping up, you're falling behind. You must because the new abundance creates a new expectation. "What do you mean you don't understand that…"

Here's the big leap: When we were offering you the valuable prize of a brand-name degree, that scarcity required you to jump through hoops to get it. It meant you had to spend years in high school following the pre-college rules just to get in. It meant that we had to test you in each course, to prove you learned it. The proof was what you exchanged for your A, and your A was the coin you needed to buy your summa cum laude degree, the thing of value.

In the world of abundance, there's no scarce degree. So testing you as a form of scarce proof is silly. No, the reward is simpler–learn something because you want to learn it, not because you need a grade on a curve.

Forgive me for going on, but I wanted to expose this line of thinking to help you see how flipped and flopped our experience of education is about to become.

The old system isn't going away. I still want my surgeon and my engineer to be certified and to prove that they've learned what they were supposed to learn. But more and more of the education we're valuing today is about the soft skills of decision making and creativity and most of all, about the choice to grow and step up. And that sort of learning doesn't easily happen in a scarcity-based institution.

Learn what you want to learn.

Pick yourself.

Do it often.

Don't do it for proof, do it because the learning itself is worth it.

Organize and teach and lead, because it's a great way to learn, because it's the right thing to do and because it is a new sort of scarcity, the scarcity of people who care.

[coming later this week: details on our first course and how you can start organizing for it].

Krypton Community College

In search of a narwhal

Krypton is an experiment in one way we can think about a future of education.

One of the best things about playing with ways to engage in education is that there are all these fabulous tropes. Calling this a "community college" for example, is a way of getting at the idea of community and collegiality and inquiry, while still riffing on the name of an institution.

You can have deans, registrars, degrees, grades, ivy covered buildings, cheerleaders–tons of shortcuts to communicate a reminder of something that most of us have experienced in one way or another.

Of course, every institution worth its salt today also has a sports program, with a private jet, a football team and a mascot. We don't need the jet or the footballs, but we do have a mascot.

Here's what the interns looked like sorting through their limited-edition Krypton Ultimate Frisbee Team t-shirts ("league champs, 2016"). There are no more of these, but one day perhaps we'll make something even cooler.

Before we do that, though, we need an image of our mascot, so we can invent our own t-shirts and swag.

If any of you are up for the task, draw your narwhal, a better narwhal, polish it up and send it over. The winning mammal gets a free t-shirt. Thanks.

We'll get back to more serious matters in two days. Enjoy your weekend!

PS This stamp, while well intentioned, is insufficient. It misses the joy of being a tusked sea mammal, don't you think?



Krypton Community College

The difficult part…

In creating a new project, the essential step is isolating the difficult part and focusing on that. The easy parts are important and they take work, but they tend to take care of themselves if the core engine is working.

Wikipedia: find people to volunteer to become editors

AirBnB: find people to put great houses up for rent

Typical MOOC: find millions of students willing to take a course (you don't need infinite teachers, just a few, meaning the students are actually the hard part)

In the case of Krypton, we knew that there were several key elements:

  • Finding and working with important and passionate thought leaders
  • Designing curricula that would resonate and deliver on the promise of useful learning
  • Building a software platform that could amplify the impact of what we're building
  • Finding local leaders who would step up and volunteer to organize groups or classes

It turns out that the element that's both critically important and difficult is the last one.

What does it take to pick up the phone or write an email to invite a dozen people to get together for ninety minutes? Technically, it's pretty quick and easy. Socially and emotionally, though, it's a significant leap.

The questions come unbidden–what right do I have to organize this? is everyone too busy? what if they don't come? should there be snacks? who should I include and who should be left out?

Why go first?

That's the biggest question of all. It's easier to wait, after all. Easier to be sure that this is a proven success, a worldwide shift in the way we connect over ideas.

Our job, then, is to find interesting enough topics, a simple enough structure, and a low enough risk that our local leaders would take the leap. If we've done our jobs, the idea will spread.

The secret weapon in our launch, then, is you. I'm fortunate to have an extraordinary tribe of blog readers, people who have an instinct to lead, a desire to go first, the generosity to take a leap on behalf of those they care about.

So, that's the bet. The bet is that you, the early adopters, will take a leap in a few weeks and involve a dozen or so colleagues and friends in an unproven, free, lightweight experiment in how we might actually come to learn together.

Everything we've built and will be sharing with you in the next few weeks is based on that assumption. It gives us the freedom to be open and clear and direct, because you're willing to take the last, critical step.

Krypton Community College

An overview: Curriculum plus leadership plus a group…

Here's a quick tactical overview of what Krypton offers:

  • Every month, a new course.
  • Each course is based around the work of an author/teacher/scholar/speaker… someone with something to say and a track record doing it.
  • A PDF with links to online and offline content (videos, essays and books) along with questions gets posted a week or so before the course starts.
  • Each course has a local leader (hopefully, that's you) and about a dozen friends and colleagues who sign up to participate, in person.
  • The group meets every week for four weeks.
  • The dynamic is simple and powerful: meeting in a group raises the bar for the discussion, pushes each participant to have a point of view and creates an enjoyable and energizing way to dive deep into the content.

Over the next few weeks, I'll describe these elements in detail, but wanted you to have the tl;dr before we start. As you may remember, it's all free. Stand by for more…

Krypton Community College

This is Krypton

Initiated during a two-week summer project in 2013, Krypton is a beta project designed to explore a new way of combining online education with in-person learning.

Find out about the founding team here.

Team members:
Rachel Ilan Simpson
Grant Spanier
Josh Long
Stefany Cohen
Sankalp Kulshreshtha
Sean O’Connor
Barrett Brooks
Carlos Ignacio Lagrange Delfino
Rachel Fagen
Jeremy Wilson
Tim Walker
Thato Kgatlhanye
Monique Fortenberry
Leslie Madsen Brooks
Erin Lee
Crystal Chang

Krypton Community College

Sign up for updates

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz