find your lumps

I am a ‘strawberry jam’ consultant. My consulting has lumps that cannot be spread too thin. My work cannot be infinitely diluted, like grape jelly can be spread. The law of strawberry jam is part of Gerald Weinberg’s advice to consultants, which I discovered two years ago via Niels Pflaeging, who created the image below to show the different types of consulting, one for individuals and the other for big consultancies.

“Not having lumps, grape jelly is perfect for processing through manufacturing machines. It’s that lumpy third dimension—the depth—that makes mass production impractical. Grape jelly spreads infinitely thin, so the consumer can color a predictable number of slices of toast out of a single sterilized plastic container.” – Gerald Weinberg


enabling self-governing teams

“All forms of governance are failing their citizens — dictatorships and communism failed in the last part of the 20th century, and in this century democracies are not meeting citizen expectations. No matter which leaders are chosen, the systems themselves are failing.” – Yaneer Bar-Yam

Our communities were not developed for a global economy, our institutions were not designed for a networked citizenry, and our markets were created for physical goods, not networked intangibles. We need to create new institutions and markets for the network era. Perhaps monitory democracy is an answer. Perhaps it requires an applied blueprint for the restoration of democracy. (more…)

labouring into the network era

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@ZCichy: “I don’t use Facebook. When I explain why to friends/family: I sound like a nut job. Acceptance of no privacy has been socially normalized.”

“History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.” – Alexis de Tocqueville – via @TheSchoolofLife

“We are facing an extreme surge of irrationality, and irrationality always moves in the direction of intolerance.” – Rebecca Goldstein – via @BrainPicker

@WorkEssence: “‘Liquid workforce’ is about as appalling a term as ‘human capital’ – we’re just people, working, making choices” (more…)

supporting the business of learning

The 2nd edition of the 70:20:10 Report has been published by GoodPractice. I have described 70:20:10 as a useful model and have suggested nine ways to implement the model. These form the core of the social learning workshop.

The 70:20:10 model is based on observations that in the workplace, people learn 70% of what they need to do their job from experience. About 20% is learned from exposure to new tasks or environments. Only 10% is learned from formal education and training. While these numbers are not firm, they provide a rule of thumb. (more…)

the problem is to know what questions to ask

“As we move to driverless cars and machine learning and an economy in which any action that is repeated can be automated, let’s spare a thought for the kids who only get Cs in school. What will become of them? What do you mean you have no idea? That’s your job! Let’s bring some small measure of consensus back to political culture.” – John Ibbitson, Globe & Mail 2016-10-07

As we move into a network society, every existing form of human organization will come under pressure to adapt to the new realities that are beginning to emerge. Almost everything is changing, except human behaviour. First we shape our structures, then our structures shape us. We are in desperate need of new structures.

We are the media: Social media extend emotion, obsolesce the linearity and logic of print, retrieve orality, and when pushed to their extreme result in constant outrage. This is what John Ibbitson is so concerned with. But this is the new nature of a digitally networked world. We cannot ‘go back to Peoria’, as it no longer exists as a convenient litmus test. It has been fragmented into millions of disconnected pieces. (more…)

life in the gig economy

I’m in my 14th year of operating solo and have watched as several of my colleagues have gone independent and I have learned from others who have been freelancing longer than me. I know that many salaried jobs can be frustrating, from my own experience, client work, and talks with friends and colleagues. On the other hand, freelancing is probably less frustrating, as you have much more control, but more stressful for the same reason.

Nine years ago I wrote an article, So you want to be an e-learning consultant?, and updated it on this blog in 2011, So you (still) want to be an e-learning consultant? In 2007 I advised those considering consulting to keep costs low and not overestimate how much they will make. I noted that many clients pay 30 days or more after being billed. Well reality is that some clients take over 100 days to pay, as standard policy.

The freelance consulting field continues to grow, so there is constant global competition. This can make it a buyer’s market. I know many free agents who have significant gaps between paid work. I am currently in a period of several months without client work. During the last recession I went over eight months without revenue. If you are going to make the move, ask yourself how long you can last without any new income. It should be at least three months. (more…)

the third bucket

In a discussion I had with a senior Human Resources executive at a large corporation, he noted that when it comes to managing people and their talents, there are three buckets. Two of these are easy to fill, while the third is the real challenge:

1. Tools

2. Skills

3. Meta-Competencies:

Learning how to Learn (e.g. PKMastery)

Working in Digital Networks (e.g. Perpetual Beta) (more…)

working in perpetual beta

working-perpetual-betaWorking in Perpetual Beta is the latest volume in the perpetual beta series. It began with Seeking Perpetual Beta, a synthesis of 10 years of blogging. The next volume, Finding Perpetual Beta, specifically focused on personal knowledge mastery. Adapting to Perpetual Beta, published one year later, was an examination of leadership in the network era.

My intention with this fourth volume of the perpetual beta series is to provide a common framework from which others can test new organizational models and better ways of coordinating human work. This is not a recipe book. It is not based on best practices. I am setting forth what I believe may lead to some emergent workplace practices for the near future. Given the rise of automation, continuing income inequality, increasing human migration, and accelerating climate change, we have to think differently. This is my contribution to a new perspective on how people can work and learn together.


power and addicts

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“Power not only corrupts, it addicts.” – Ursula Le Guin, via @ndcollaborative

“You are reading a book,” the car said. It pulled over and stopped. “This road is paid for by advertising boards. Look at them to proceed.” – by @MicroSFF AKA Micro Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories

A Walking Tour of New York’s Massive Surveillance Network – via @jafurtado

[Ingrid] Burrington points out that infrastructure is often designed to be ignored. The field guide, with its cheerful drawings of manhole covers and cable markings, turns the infrastructure into something ordinary and familiar, not intimidating, and not some magical process by which videos and images appear in your phone.

“If it’s effective, it’s invisible,” she says. “But if it’s taken for granted, we lose the ability to make decisions about how it’s used.”


to retrieve or to extend

It seems that ‘millennials’ in America do not have a lot of confidence in their institutions and markets. According to a 2016 Vox survey, corporate America, governors, and news agencies ranked the lowest. The status quo is not faring well. This is not surprising if we look at the major shift in how we humans are organizing, which is only the fourth in history. The TIMN model shows how each shift created a new dominant form of organizing people: first in tribes, then through institutions, and later in markets. And now we are beginning an age of network dominance. (more…)