Networked Knowing

I spoke at the UNL Extension conference in Nebraska last week. The theme was on the changing nature of work as we enter the network era and how learning is becoming integral to individual and organizational success. I noted how the period of 1900 to 1920 saw a significant shift in the American economy, with manufacturing replacing farming as the dominant economic activity. The resulting demographic shift was millions of men leaving farms and moving to factories.  The Cooperative Extension program was created in 1914 while this shift was taking place. One hundred years later and we are witnessing a similar shift, from the industrial economy to the network era and a creative economy. For a deeper look at this phenomenon, see Nine Shift. (more…)

Inspiration for Working Out Loud

It’s International Working Out Loud Week, also known as #WOLWeek. Working Out Loud is a relatively new term for me, picking it up from John Stepper in 2012. I have used the term, narrating your work, which to me is the same thing, though some may differ. My observation is that combining transparency (in the workplace) with narration (of work) results in increased serendipity, or more chances of fortuitous outcomes. My own working out loud on this blog has resulted in speaking opportunities and meeting interesting clients. The more you give, the more you get; though not in any way how you may have expected it.

Simon Terry recently asked me, “Who inspires you to practice and learn as you work out loud?” (more…)

The Future of HR

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”Timbuk3


Many of today’s larger companies have overly complicated, hierarchical structures. As they grew to their current size, control processes were put in place to create efficiencies. To ensure reliable operations and avoid risk, work became standardized. New layers of supervision appeared, more silos were created, and knowledge acquisition was formalized, all in an attempt to gain efficiency through specialization. Support departments, like human resources, were added to manage the resulting complicated structure. (more…)

Power, Networks & Freedom

Here are some observations and insights that were shared on social media this past fortnight. I call these Friday’s Finds.

Power always thinks it has a great soul & vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak. – John Adams” via @JusticeWillett (more…)

Innovation is a network activity

In business, attention is paid to innovative individuals, especially those who go on to become captains of industry. But of more importance is the ability of the network (society, organization, company) to stay connected to its collective knowledge in order to keep innovating. Just think how quickly an organization would its lose collective knowledge if people did not share their knowledge. What about an entire society?

You start out with two genetically well-intermixed peoples. Tasmania’s actually connected to mainland Australia so it’s just a peninsula. Then about 10,000 years ago, the environment changes, it gets warmer and the Bass Strait floods, so this cuts off Tasmania from the rest of Australia, and it’s at that point that they begin to have this technological downturn. You can show that this is the kind of thing you’d expect if societies are like brains in the sense that they store information as a group and that when someone learns, they’re learning from the most successful member, and that information is being passed from different communities, and the larger the population, the more different minds you have working on the problem.

If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population. – How Culture Drove Human Evolution


Working and Learning Out Loud

Working out loud is a way to ensure others know what you are doing and to be conscious of your own work. It is being mindful of your work and how it may influence others. But working out loud is nothing if there is no time taken for reflection. Learning out loud takes you to a different level; one that may seem even more precarious. It’s sharing your half-baked ideas with the world. But these ideas, combined with others over time, can build a resilient web of innovation.

Working out loud connect us as professionals and humans. It is a highly social activity. It also exposes us, so it requires trust. While we may get interesting ideas from our informal networks, such as on social media, we still need trusted spaces to test things out. A place to test new ideas is often the missing link between doing work and leisure time. We may see something interesting while engaging on social media at night, but when it comes time to go to work, there is no easy way to make the connection. At work we need to stay focused. We might have a chance for a quick chat over lunch, but for the most part we focus on getting things done. (more…)

An update on jobs

Nesta, a UK-based innovation charity, recently looked at jobs and automation, in the article, Creativity versus Robots. I have summarized some of their findings, and added my own perspective, with an image showing how standardized work is decreasing while creative work is increasing in the job market. Overall, we are seeing an increasing percentage of creative jobs in the workforce. But this is not a zero-sum game, as many jobs are getting automated and disappearing. If nothing is done, there will be severe societal repercussions. (more…)

What are you doing with your 70%?

The 70:20:10 (Experience, Exposure, Education) Framework is focused on learning at work, not in a classroom, and not in a lab. Charles Jennings has described workplace learning as based on four key activities:

  1. Exposure to new and rich experiences.
  2. The opportunity to practice.
  3. Engaging in conversation and exchanges with each other.
  4. Making time to reflect on new observations, information, experiences, etc.

Studies show that informal learning accounts for between 70 and 95% of workplace learning  [USBLS: 70%; Raybould: 95%; EDC: 70%; CapitalWorks: 75%; OISE: 70%; eLG: 70%; Allen Tough: 80%]. Gary Wise extrapolated Josh Bersin’s data from 2009 and found that as much as 95% of workplace learning is informal. Offering only sanctioned courses as professional development is completely inadequate in a complex work environment. It is arrogant to think that we can know in advance what people need to learn on the job today. Everyone needs to experiment, learn from experience, and share with colleagues,  as part of their work. (more…)

Creating the AAA Organization

For an organization to be agile and adaptive, the people in it need to be aware of what is happening around them, have alternative pathways to gather information and knowledge, and must be allowed to act to meet/solve both local and global goals/problems.  They need to both work in their hierarchy and in a self-organizing network simultaneously! – Valdis Krebs, Orgnet

How can an organization build awareness, investigate alternatives, and act on complex problems? The organization needs to connect the outside with the inside. This is not a technology challenge but rather a structural one. Organizations need to help knowledge flow and this only happens when people are connected. Technology is a facilitator, but people are the key. This is too often overlooked, as in most enterprise social network implementations, where mere training is bolted on at the end of the technology build. Awareness, alternatives, and action can each be supported within a unified organizational framework. (more…)

Friday’s Finds 230

Here are some observations and insights that were shared on social media this past fortnight. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@morgenpaul“Psst … Your people are not your greatest asset; they’re not yours and they’re not assets. Let’s treat them like people.”

Will robots make our lives better or worse? – via @gideonro

So the question is not whether robots and computers will make human labour in the goods, high-tech services, and information-producing sectors infinitely more productive. They will. What really matters is whether the jobs outside of the robot-computer economy – jobs involving people’s mouths, smiles, and minds – remain valuable and in high demand.