Agile Design: An Ethos for Creating Learning Platforms

Software design and related practices and methods have had a significant influence over the Instructional Design field. For example, ADDIE, Dick and Carey, and Rapid Prototyping are heavily influenced by software development methodologies (Rawsthorne, 2005). Software design methodology is now going through another paradigm shift — Agile Design. And rather than being a methodology, it is more a philosophy or ethos that is best described by its manifesto (Agile Alliance, 2001):

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

agile learning (instructional) design

The Agile approach recognizes the need for collaboration, faster design solutions, feedback and change for producing business value in our ever faster and more networked society. Thus, for learning professionals to keep pace with the rest of the organization, Agile Design could easily be adapted to fit the needs of the learning and training community by providing an ethos for the design of learning:

We are uncovering better ways of designing
learning processes by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Solutions that promote and speed the development of learning processes over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract and formal negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Because we still value the items on the right means that we do not have to abandon the technologies that make up our profession, such as ADDIE, 4C/ID, ARCS, Captivate, and PowerPoint. But rather we pull the best concepts from them that will support the values and principles of Agile Design.

Values and Principles of Agile Design

Since Agile is a more of a philosophy, it has values and principles that guide its practices. The Sidky Agile Measurement Index (SAMI), developed by Sidky & Arthur (2008), is probably the most widely used method for guiding Agile principles. It is composed of five values: communication, collaboration, evolutionary, integrated, and encompassing. These five values were heavily inspired by three of Malcolm Gladwell's ideas in The Tipping Point:

  • People = communication & collaboration
  • Message = evolutionary, integrated, & adaptive
  • Suitable environment = all encompassing

Listed below are the five values with their descriptions (please note that I changed the descriptions to fit learning rather than software development):

  • Encompassing: Establishing a vibrant and all-encompassing environment to sustain agility
  • Adaptive: Respond through change through multiple levels of feedback
  • Integrated: Develop high quality learning solutions in and efficient and integrated manner
  • Evolutionary: Deliver learning processes early and continuously
  • Collaborative: Enhance communication and collaboration

The Agile Manifesto basically outlines 12 principles; however, Sidky & Arthur (2008) discovered they could group them into five tight principles (please note that I changed the descriptions to fit learning rather than software development):

  • Embrace change to deliver customer value
  • Plan and deliver learning processes frequently
  • Human centric
  • Technical excellence
  • Collaboration with business people

These five values and principles can be placed in a matrix to guide the selection and population of practices that will best achieve the ethos of Agile Design. The matrix shown below lists the five values in the left column and the five principles in the top row. I then listed some Learning Design practices, concepts, and processes that may be used to guide a performance project. Note that the principles may vary from organization to organization and may even change from project to project within an organization, but any adopted practices should always be guided by the values and principles; that is, they should never go against them:

Agile Design Matrix

So that you don't have to reproduce the above matrix, I am including the Excel file for the Agile matrix of values, principles, and values. The xlsx file is for the latest version of Excel and is the one shown above. The xls file is for older versions of Excel and is the same except the colors are brighter and may need to be toned down:


adaptive to predictive continuum for agile design

These value and principles make Agile more adaptive rather than predictive; and people-oriented rather than process-oriented (Fowler, 2003). It is misleading to view it on the opposite end of a spectrum from "plan-driven" or "disciplined" methods as it implies that agile methods are "unplanned" or "undisciplined." A more accurate distinction is that methods exist on a continuum from "adaptive" to "predictive" and agile methods lie on the "adaptive" side of this continuum (Boehm & Turner, 2004):

To achieve an adaptive and people-oriented process, a strategy is implemented that allows collaboration among the designers, business unit (customer), learners, exemplary performers and/or SMEs, and other interested parties. To accomplish this, a conceptional framework is initiated that allows the strategy to carried out — Plan, Orientate, Design, Select, & Iterate.

Plan, Orientate, Design, Select, & Iterate (PODSI)

  • Plan by identifying the potential target, vision, and feasibility of the project that will ensure the active participation of all stakeholders. Determine if the managers are indeed going to collaborate or are willing to learn to collaborate. If they simply want you to be an order-taker then, "run my friend run, run as fast as you can!" Find a project with people who desire to collaborate.
  • Orientate in order to recognize the level of the complexity of the environment (Cynefin) so that the initial learning architecture can be started to solve the problem. Use Exemplary Performers and/or Subject Matter Experts to help identify the complexity of the environment.
  • Design by using a collaborative approach or model so that only the minimum required knowledge and skills are taught that will resolve the problem. Build other useful benefits into the learning process during the final iterations.
  • Select the correct learning objects, processes, and tools that will provide the needed knowledge and skills that support both formal and informal learning — the use of small learning objects will increase the speed of iterations and allow you to more easily transform parts of the instruction into informal and nonformal learning.
  • Iterate by prototyping the initial design and to determine what other performance support technologies are required that will fully support the learners' quest to better performance. Use After Action Reviews to transform deficiencies into actionable items. Transform the formal learning objects to informal or nonformal learning as possible.
"Failure at an organizational level seems to come from the inability to customize processes and make them their own. Trying to apply someone else's template to your organization directly doesn't work well. It leaves out too many important details of the previous successes and ignores your company's specific situation." — Kent Beck (2006 interview with InfoQ)

PODSI is dynamic in that the above stages are not step-by-step, all encompassing solutions but rather selected concepts from our discipline that best support Agile. Even though they may be performed in order, particularly for the first iteration, the concepts should be thought of more as a network, rather than a flowchart or template. Thus, while the last concept is to iterate the learning process in order to achieve the best solution, the other concepts are also iterated throughout the life-cycle of the project on an as-needed basis.

Essence of Agile Design

Essence of Agile Design


Throughout the upcoming weeks I hope to expand on PODSI, thus I am interested in hearing your feedback, thoughts, and ideas. Please feel free to share, rip, and mix.

Note (December 23, 2009) The compleste series has been posted:


Agile Alliance (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Retrieved on June 28, 2009 from http://www.agilemanifesto.org/

Boehm, B.; R. Turner (2004). Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley. pp.165-194

Fowler, Martin (2003). The New Methodology. Retrieved on June 28, 2009 from http://www.martinfowler.com/articles/newMethodology.html

Rawsthorne, P. (2005). Agile Methods of Software Engineering should Continue to have an Influence over Instructional Design Methodologies. Cape Breton University & Memorial University of Newfoundland. Retrieved on June 28, 2009 from http://www.rawsthorne.org/bit/docs/RawsthorneAIDFinal.pdf

Sidky, A. & Arthur, J. (2008) Value Driven Agile Adoption: Improving an Organization's Software Development Approach. Fujita, H. & Zualkernan, I. (eds). New Trends in Software Methodologies, Tools and Techniques: Proceedings of the seventh SoMeT_08. Volume 182. Oct 15, 2008. P149-164. The Netherlands: IOS Press. Retrieved Oct 22, 2009: Google Books


The Brick & Mortar Mix of Learning

In his blog, Jay Cross points to relative old, but interesting article on informal learning: Informal Learning and the Transfer of Learning: How Managers Develop Proficiency and notes, "If you're still relying on formal training to develop managers, you might want to give this one a read."

The paper is more interesting for what it omits, rather than what it purpose seems to be. That is, it seems to tout the importance of informal learning, rather than from what I see is the real key finding — its the mix that matters. For example, it makes several comments along these lines:

"Because skills learned informally are likely to share similar features with transfer tasks in terms of context and content, the potential exists for skills learned informally to be more readily transferred than skills learned in formal training contexts."
"Our study suggested that managers learn mostly from informal learning, that proficiency is the product of informal learning, and that metacognitive knowledge and self-regulation skills moderate informal learning and the transfer process.

In the paper they show the following chart (p377):

When referring to the chart they note, "The distribution indicates that managers reported learning all twenty skills predominantly from informal learning activities." Yes, while the managers believed they learnt more from informal learning, the chart actually seems to be showing that they learn a core base from formal instruction, and then they build from their proficiency from there. In addition, some core skills only need a drop of formal learning to get the process going, while others require a heavy dose.

This goes back to the previous post in which I noted that some learning episodes that are strictly informal may be too narrowly based in that the learner only learns part of a task or superficial skills that may not be transferable to the job (Bell and Dale 1999).

Thus, just as we have a "blend" of learning media and processes, we also need the proper mix of formal and informal learning. This means you not only have to select the proper blend of formal learning, but also select the proper mix of formal and informal learning. In turn, you then have to select the best blend of informal learning that will help the learners transfer their skills to the job.

In the paper they mention a study in which pilots with more flight experience perform better on a simulated flight test (that is, a transfer task) than did their novice counterparts. Now I don't believe that anyone is going to argue this point, but the other part to it is that those better performing pilots would have never been able to perform in the first place if it was not for their core skills gained with formal learning.

In the comment section on my previous post Michael Hanley notes, "...the reality is that all of these exist on a 'learning continuum.'" This learning continuum is also the subject of a post by Clark Quinn: The Formal/Informal Continuum.

Thus, its not a matter of designing learning from one side of the continuum or the other because you need the core skills from one side and the proficiency of actually being able to put those skills into practice from the other side. In addition you need that mix from the middle that is not readily identifiable as either formal or informal.


Informal Learning, huh, yeah, what is it good for?

Robert Bacal's post, "What Do Intellectually Impoverished Educators/Trainers Do To Make A Living? Why They Make Up New Fancy Sounding Terms" attempts to be a call to action to go beyond the hype, but turns quickly into what seems to be almost a hyperbole of fear. While Robert writes of informal learning, learning 2.0, education, and training; I'm going to stick with informal learning in the workplace to help keep this post more focused.

First, there seems to be some confusion as to the origin of the term "informal learning" by both the poster and commentators. While Jay Cross brought the concept to its present level of popularity, Malcolm Knowles is generally considered to be the originator of the term through his book published in 1970: Informal Adult Education: A Guide for Administrators, Leaders, and teachers.

Robert makes a feeble attempt to define informal learning, but basically makes no sense at all — "informal learning simply refers to learning that occurs....well, informally."

Actually both informal and formal learning has nothing to do with the formality of the learning but rather the direction of who controls the learning objectives or goals. In a formal learning environment the training or learning department sets the goals and objectives, while informal learning means the learner sets the goals and objective (Cofer, 2000).

In addition, if the organization (other than the training department) sets the learning goals and objectives, such as a line manager directing OJT, then it is now normally referred to as "nonformal learning" (Hanley, 2008). Thus in a formal learning process, learning specialists or trainers set the goals, while a nonformal one has someone outside of the learning department setting the goals or objectives.

Robert mentions the terms "incidental learning" and "intentional learning," which basically refers to the intent of the learning objectives. An intentional learning environment has a self-directed purpose in that it has goals and objectives on what and/or how to learn; while incidental learning occurs when the learner picks up something else in the learning environment, such as the action of a model, that causes him or her to loose focus on the learning objectives or goal and focus on an unplanned learning objective.

While incidental learning is often dismissed by trainers, it is an important concept because it often has a motivating effect with the learners that leads to "discovery" learning. So unless other considerations prevent it, it can be worthwhile to detour from the primary objectives to take advantage of an unplanned "teachable/trainable moment." For example, if I'm instructing the learners to operate forklifts and we are discussing safety concepts, one or more of the learners might become interested in a safety concept that is unrelated to the operation of forklifts. However, if possible I should try to help them with the unrelated concept, which in turn should help to motivate them with the related safety concepts pertaining to forklifts. In addition it could lead one or more of them to become more interested in the safety program and perhaps lead them to become more involved with it.

If we were to map out the above types of learning it might look something like this:

While it might seem obvious to most readers that both formal and informal learning include both incidental and intentional learning, it might not be as obvious that formal learning often includes episodes of informal learning and vice versa. A two-year study calculated that each hour of formal learning spills over to four-hours of informal learning or a 4:1 ratio (Cofer, 2000). Thus Bell used the metaphor of brick and mortar to describe the relationship of formal and informal learning. Formal learning acts as bricks fused into the emerging bridge of personal growth. Informal learning acts as the mortar, facilitating the acceptance and development of the formal learning. He noted that informal learning should NOT replace formal learning activities as it is this synergy that produces effective growth.

And of course the opposite also occurs in that episodes of informal learning often leads to formal learning. In addition, some learning episodes that are strictly informal may be too narrowly based in that the learner only learns part of a task or superficial skills that may not be transferable to the job (Bell and Dale 1999).

The Hype of Informal Learning

Robert does make a good point when he writes, "people going around trying to convince corporations that classroom learning is wasteful, and that they should be pouring money into informal learning activities."

As stated earlier, "informal learning should NOT replace formal learning activities as it is this synergy that produces effective growth." Yet it seems that some informal learning proponents still wish to do away with most formal learning processes. For example, they will list several references that claim that only 10% to 20% of formal learning processes actually transfer to the job (Cross, 2007, p. 32), but they fail to check any of those references — if they did, they would find it is based on a theoretical question rather than any real research.

Another fallacy is claiming OJT as part of informal learning in order to increase its importance and raise its percentage of the total learning. In order to claim OJT and other organizational directed learning, they would have to redefine informal learning in basically the same manner as Robert does — informal learning refers to learning that occurs informally.

Perhaps the newest hype or bandwagon is claiming that 80% of learning is informal and 20% is formal but paradoxically training departments spend 80% of their budget on formal learning and 20% on informal learning. Yet they fail to mention that a large portion of formal learning is informal learning that has been transferred to the learning department because it is difficult or inefficient to learn in an informal learning environment or because it is an important part of a process that cannot be left to chance. Thus its almost a dammed if you don't spend money on informal learning and damn if you do because now it is no longer informal but rather formal learning — because now you, well, uh, "formalized" it!

In addition, a lot of informal learning is created through formal learning process — remember the 4:1 spill over ratio? Now while we do need to support informal learning processes more, lets not attack the very thing that helps to create informal learning and synergizes well with it. In fact this is probably one of the main reasons that training fails to transfer to the job — trainers and learning specialist fail to follow through after the training event. Training/learning is a process; just as Tom Peters urges leaders to manage-by-walking-around, we also need to walk-around and help with the informal learning that is required for the formal learning to fully transfer.

Why Should We Invest in Informal Learning?

Just because informal learning has been hyped does not mean it has little or no value. As already discussed, there is a close synergy between formal and informal learning in that neither is very effective for many types of learning processes.

The real power of informal learning seems to be based with its close ties with social learning. Allen Tough, one of the pioneers of informal learning, discovered that learners interact with an average of ten or eleven people during an informal learning event (1999). He also noted that there may actually be more social interaction in an informal learning event than there is with a similar one of formal learning.

It is these multiple and repeated social and self learning episodes in the process that makes informal learning a powerful tool. That is, the number of connections greatly increases the chance for an idea, value, or pattern of behavior to be passed from one person to another (Pontus, Magnus, & Kimmo, 2009). Thus information can be both abandoned readily and reacquired if later proved useful.

In a quite interesting story, Marcia Conner reports how Humana uses simple social media tools to engage with people across the organization in order to learn from each other. These tools further increase the number of connections — if individuals can learn many times, successful learning occurs regardless of the transmission pattern (Pontus, et al., 2009). This concept is similar to overlearning — practicing well beyond the point of initial mastery.

Since this is starting to lead to the next hype on Robert's list — learning 2.0 (self-directed learning using social networking and collaboration tools or informal learning on steroids) — it's time to sign off.


Bell, J., and Dale, M. (1999) Informal Learning in the Workplace. Department for Education and Employment Research Report No. 134. London, England: Department for Education and Employment, August 1999.

Cofer, D. (2000). Informal Workplace Learning. Practice Application Brief. NO 10. U.S. Department of Education: Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.

Cross, J. (2007). Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Hanley M. (2008). Introduction to Non-formal Learning. E-Learning Curve Blog. Retrieved October 19, 2009: http://michaelhanley.ie/elearningcurve/introduction-to-non-formal-learning-2/2008/01/28/

Pontus, S., Magnus, E., and Kimmo, E. (2009). Repeated learning makes cultural evolution unique. PNAS, 2009, 106 (33), p. 13870.

Tough, A. (1999). Reflections on the study of adult learning. Paper presented at the 3rd New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) Conference, University of Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada. Retrieved January 8, 2008 from http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/depts/sese/csew/nall/res/08reflections.pdf


My iPod Learning Mix

Since Jeff shared his great 10 Killer Content Sources for Your iPod Learning Mix, I decided to share a few of mine.

Note that the links will take you to their web site with RSS feeds or straight to their RSS feeds. If you wish to use iTunes to manage your feeds (as I do), open iTunes, click on "iTunes Store", click on "Podcasts" (Top of window), enter the title of the podcast into the search field and when iTunes list it, click the subscribe button.

This Week in Tech - MP3 Edition

This is perhaps my favorite podcast as Leo Laporte does a marvelous job of leading a panel of experts, such as John Dvorak or Kevin Rose (Digg fame) to discuss the latest on technology. This is one of the more interesting ways to learn as you feel you are at the kitchen table with a bunch of experts.

GROKS Science Radio Show and Podcast

Dr. Charles Lee and Dr. Frank Ling interview an expert a week on a science topic. These guys are smart interviewers as they always study up on the subject before the interview.

ASTD T+D podcasts

ASTD's podcasts are normally based on their magazine articles, thus are normally read to you. While this format does lead to a less engaging listening experience, it does help you keep up with the world of training/learning in that you can listen while walking or riding -- my preferred method for listening to podcasts.

Brain Science Podcast

Dr. Ginger Campbell takes you through the wonderful world of the brain, either by interviewing others or through her own experiences.

On the Media

The National Public Radio helps you make sense of the latest news by doing in-depth studies and criticisms of the sources behind the latest stories.

TedTalks (audio)

While most of you are probably familiar with their videos, you can also keep up with Ted through their podcasts.

Xyleme Voices

While they normally only podcast about every three or four weeks, they do come up with a few gems, such as an interview with Clive Shepherd the episode before last.

NPR: Story of the Day Podcast

NPR is one of my favorite news sources and this podcast spotlights some of their best stories.

BBC Digital Planet

More on technology from a British perspective.

This American Life

Chicago Public Radio presents their award winning show with master story teller Ira Glass.


Data & Training, Learning, Folksonomy, Scenario Learning, Outsourcing, & Rapid eLearning

Steelhead Fishing

Training to Climb an Everest of Digital Data - New York Times

Science these days has basically turned into a data-management problem.

For the most part, university students have used rather modest computing systems to support their studies. They are learning to collect and manipulate information on personal computers or what are known as clusters, where computer servers are cabled together to form a larger computer. But even these machines fail to churn through enough data to really challenge and train a young mind meant to ponder the mega-scale problems of tomorrow.

Learning new tricks improves wiring in the brain - Reuters

"We tend to think of the brain as being static, or even beginning to degenerate, once we reach adulthood," said Heidi Johansen-Berg of Oxford University's department of clinical neurology, whose study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on Sunday. "In fact we find the structure of the brain is ripe for change. We've shown that it is possible for the brain to condition its own wiring system to operate more efficiently."

Folksonomy folktales - KM World

The Dewey Decimal System is not a good example of a taxonomy. Folksonomies are the exact opposite of the wisdom of crowds. Hierarchies are not rigid, conservative and centralized.

Scenario Based Learning - Speak Out

A SlideShare presentation (20 slides)

The U.S. Is Outsourcing Away Its Competitive Edge - Harvard Business Blog

You focus on R&D and turn over the low-margin commodity manufacturing to contractors. You make out like a bandit because you have the intellectual property and your contractors have so much competition they cannot afford to charge you more. All this assumes your manufacturing partner is content to subsist on your table scraps. But what if they have their eye on the prime rib, too?

There's nothing rapid about Rapid eLearning - VMG

However, in today's times, it's worth understanding that rapid just isn't what it says it is.
As a testament to this, I did some quick research and found four studies over the past seven years to demonstrate the reality of the situation. Interestingly, the findings are very similar (see below for details): the time to create one full hour of an intermediate level, Captivate/Articulate style elearning product is around 200-250 hrs.


Learning Objectives, Brain, Content, iPod Learning, Training Stats, & Dilbert

Otter Asleep

Do learners really need learning objectives? - Bottom-Line Performance

Why do we do this? What does it really achieve? Gagne says we should inform learners of the objectives to create a level of expectation for the learning. By using a bulleted list, what level of expectation are we setting? What level of learner engagement are we shooting for?

New Mathematical Model Suggests How The Brain Might Stay In Balance - Science Daily

Magnasco's model differs from traditional models of neural networks, which assume that each time a neuron fires and stimulates an adjoining neuron, the strength of the connection between the two increases. This is called the Hebbian theory of synaptic plasticity and is the classical model for learning. "But our system is anti-Hebbian," Magnasco says. "If the connections among any groups of neurons are strongly oscillating together, they are weakened because they threaten homeostasis. Instead of trying to learn, our neurons are trying to forget."

Content still king on the Net -

Net users still spend 42 percent of their time online using content sites, more than any other category. That figure represents a 24 percent jump from 2003 when Net users spent 34 percent of their time on content sites.

  • Content - 42%
  • Communications - 27%
  • Commerence - 13%
  • Community (Social Networks) - 13%
  • Search - 5%

Turn on your iPod and learn - The Independent

Dr Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York, led a study of two groups of students who were asked to listen to an introductory psychology lecture. One group attended the live class, the other listened via podcast. When given a test on the subject a week later, the podcast group scored 71 per cent while the in-class group scored 62 per cent. Within the podcast group, those who took notes and listened to the lecture more than once came away with an average test score of 77 per cent.

Cream of the Crop - ASTD

  • In 2008, BEST Award-winning organizations had an average of 40.6 hours of learning content for each employee.
  • Average expenditure per employee among the BEST Award-winning organizations fell from $1,451 in 2007 to $1,303 in 2008, a decrease of 10.2 percent.
  • On average, BEST organizations spent $1,633 to make one hour of learning content available in 2008 - a sharp decline from an average of $2,241 in 2007.
  • BEST Award winners commit an annual average of 2.33 percent of their organizational payroll to workplace learning and performance expenditure.
  • The ratio of learning hours used to learning hours made available was 65.1 in 2008, indicating that on average, each hour of content was accessed more than 65 times.

Dilbert Does Twitter

Oh, yes. Every little thing you do is interesting.


Learning, Presentations, Twitter Polls, Design Programs, Foot in Mouth

Fish in the Sky

Why One Way Of Learning Is Better Than Another - Science Daily

It is a well known psychological principle that learning is better when training trials are spaced out than when given all together; however, the differences between the two types of training can now be shown at the molecular level.

Steve Jobs' Presentation Secrets - Business Week

Learn what Jobs does to captivate his audience and how you can use his techniques (18 slides).

  • storyboard the plot
  • benefits
  • offer Twitter-friendly headlines
  • introduce the antagonist
  • draw a roadmap
  • create visual slides
  • every 10 to 15 minutes, breaks up the content
  • use zippy words rather than technical, vague, or confusing ones
  • share the stage
  • use props
  • plan a water cooler moment
  • practice... a lot
  • have fun!

6 Great Twitter Quiz and Polling Apps - Read Write Web

A list of 6 services you can use to get the answers you need from your Twitter friends and followers

World's Best Design Programs - Business Week

Companies in every industry have adopted design thinking to offer fresh insight in functions from strategy to finance. Listed here are 39 master's and MBA programs from North America, Europe, Asia, South America and Australia that significantly integrate design thinking and business. One of the more interesting looking ones is a degree in Emotional Design from Brazil.

Ballmer: IBM should ignore profits, get back into the hardware business - Computerworld

This is kind of off the wall from what I normally post but there seems to be a great message in there (like maybe sometimes you should engage brain before opening mouth) -- "Ballmer told The New York Times that IBM made a mistake when it quit the PC, hard disk, and networking equipment businesses, because companies need to diversify if they want to profit over the long term." The article continues with,"I.B.M.'s strategy has worked out O.K. for its investors over the last decade. Shares of I.B.M. are up about 30 percent since 1999, while shares of Microsoft have dropped about 30 percent over the same time span."