a liquid stream of facts

“Ironically, in an age of instant global connection, my certainty about anything has decreased. Rather than receiving truth from an authority, I am reduced to assembling my own certainty from the liquid stream of facts flowing through the web. Truth, with a capital T, becomes truths, plural. I have to sort the truths not just about things I care about, but about anything I touch, including areas about which I can’t possibly have any direct knowledge. That means that in general I have to constantly question what I think I know. We might consider this state perfect for the advancement of science, but it also means that I am more likely to have my mind changed for incorrect reasons.” —Kevin Kelly

This is perhaps the most succinct rationale for disciplines like personal knowledge mastery (PKM). We can no longer rely upon traditional gatekeepers of information and knowledge. Each of us must engage with others and develop trusted knowledge networks. None of us are smart enough to handle all the connections in our digital lives on our own. We need to use both our human networks and our machines in concert. Let me give just two examples. (more…)

Antigonish 2.0

There is a tradition of using public broadcasting for debate and public education in Canada. Two  popular programmes on CBC radio in the 1930’s and 1940’s were the Citizens’ Forum and the Farm Radio Forum.

“Farm Forum innovations included a regional report-back system, whereby group conclusions were collected centrally and broadcast regularly across Canada, occasionally being sent to appropriate governments. In addition, discussion – leading to self-help – resulted in diverse community ‘action projects’ such as co-operatives, new forums and folk schools. Farm and community leaders claimed that the give-and-take of these discussions provided useful training for later public life. In 1952, UNESCO commissioned research into Farm Forum techniques. Its report was published in 1954, and consequently India, Ghana and France began using Canadian Farm Forum models in their programs.” —Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Even though radio is a one-way medium, innovations such as programme guides by mail one week in advance, local discussion groups, and national feedback on individual responses kept people actively involved. Imagine a group of farmers gathering at a neighbour’s house, bringing food for a communal supper, and then discussing issues of great social relevance,  like the possibility of medicare. Today, the CBC produces programmes such as Cross-Country Checkup and the Radio Noon Phone-In for similar purposes. (more…)

the discerning mind

“I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.” —J.K. Rowling (attrib.)

In the PKM framework of Seek > Sense > Share, the latter may seem easy but it does not always equate to helping others make sense. Some people are good at recognizing all the contextual signals in the workplace, making implicit connections, and then identifying something that might be useful to share. It usually takes time and practice to be a discerning sharer of knowledge. Sometimes an idea is not ready to share. Sometimes it helps to share a ‘half-baked idea’. It depends. PKM requires a discerning mind. (more…)

look for disconfirming data

Adam Kahane hosted a webcast this week to discuss his new book, Collaborating with the Enemy. I thought his first book, Solving Tough Problems, was an excellent read so I attended. What follows are from my notes. The quotes are as I wrote them down and may not be Kahane’s exact words.

Kahane opened the session with an observation from his research that “collaboration is often difficult and painful and doesn’t work”. He described collaboration as the fourth option, usually after these three are discarded: adapt, exit, and force. It is often when forcing our position is not possible that we realize we must collaborate. Kahane cited the case of our relationship with the United States, in that Canada has no choice but to collaborate with the USA. Canada cannot exit North America, adapt its borders, or force its way with our larger neighbour.

Kahane stated that the conventional model of collaboration implicitly means control, it is constricted, and cannot succeed in complex situations when both parties do not want to collaborate. The book describes a process Kahane calls ‘stretch collaboration’. It is an open process and often makes participants feel uncomfortable as they lack control over what will transpire. Stretch collaboration is based on three fundamental assumptions:

  1. We are not one team or whole, and we have a multiplicity of interests. We have to embrace conflict as well as connection.
  2. We are probably not going to agree on either the problem or the solution, so the only way to find out is to try one step at a time, and to experiment.
  3. The only thing you can change is yourself.


learning cities

Is tribalism a reaction to our concerns about the emerging network era, which is putting into question our existing institutions and markets developed in previous eras?  Jalaja Bonheim wrote about this phenomenon in Why We Love Trump and describes a potential counteracting force: “A new consciousness is awakening that recognizes our oneness as a global community.” But David Ronfeldt thinks there are smaller scale efforts that do not require such global engagement.

“In any case, I am struck so far that many readings about tribalism end up recommending ways to improve interpersonal relations, and/or ways to foster global consciousness. Yet there are intermediate levels that, so far, have been neglected by those who discuss malignant tribalisms.

Consider, for example, ideas about our needing a new social compact, or social contract, or national covenant. As I’ve often argued from a TIMN [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] perspective, getting the tribal form right is essential for a healthy society. The obvious elements are families and communities. Yet the bright side of the tribal form is also found in social compacts, contracts, and covenants that political philosophers and historians like to discuss.” —David Ronfeldt


network learning cities


“According to my review of history and theory, four forms of organization — and evidently only four — lie behind the governance and evolution of all societies across the ages:

  • The tribal form was the first to emerge and mature, beginning thousands of years ago. Its main dynamic is kinship, which gives people a distinct sense of identity and belonging — the basic elements of culture, as manifested still today in matters ranging from nationalism to fan clubs.
  • The institutional form was the second to emerge. Emphasizing hierarchy, it led to the development of the state and the military, as epitomized initially by the Roman Empire, not to mention the Catholic papacy and other corporate enterprises.
  • The market form, the third form of organization to take hold, enables people to excel at openly competitive, free, and fair economic exchanges. Although present in ancient times, it did not gain sway until the 19th century, at first mainly in England.
  • The network form, the fourth to mature, serves to connect dispersed groups and individuals so that they may coordinate and act conjointly. Enabled by the digital information-technology revolution, this form is only now coming into its own, so far strengthening civil society more than other realms.”
    Overview of social evolution (past, present, and future) in TIMN terms, David Ronfeldt

There are strong indicators that society is heading toward a quadriform structuring (T+I+M+N) with network culture dominating in many fields: open source insurgencies, Blockchain financial transactions,  political manipulation through networks, crowdfunding, etc. This is also bringing tensions between the old Tribal, Institutional, and Market forms against the emerging Network form. (more…)

cities as learning platforms

In 2008, CEO’s for Cities recommended a more inclusive way of supporting learning in the community. Basically, the city becomes the learning platform, not just for schooling but for other community support activities, such as policing and heath care.

“The current offer is that education is schooling — a special activity that takes place in special places at special times, in a system where most of the goals and curriculum are set for the student, not by the student. Attainment against those standards leads to a system of grading that has a huge bearing on life chances.

The new learning platform [the city?] would offer learning all over, all the time, in a wide variety of settings, from a wide range of people. Pupils would have more say and more choice over what they could learn, how, where and when, from teachers, other adults and their peers. Learning would be collaborative and experiential, encouraging self-evaluation and self-motivation as the norms.

The principles and ideas developed for the redesign of education and learning city-wide could also apply to policing, crime and safety, health and well being, care for the elderly, carbon usage reduction and sustainability, and culture and creativity.” —Remixing Cities (PDF)

For the past century we have compartmentalized the life of the citizen. At work, the citizen is an ‘employee’. Outside the office he may be a ‘consumer’. Sometimes she is referred to as a ‘taxpayer’. All of these are constraining labels, ignoring the full spectrum of citizenship. As the network era connects people and things, society needs to reconnect with the multifaceted citizen. This is the connecting role the city can play. (more…)

friday’s finds #300

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. My initial post in this series was made in May 2009. The first three years of these posts were weekly. This is the 300th post of my Friday’s Finds.

@SebPaquet: “Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play.”

Warren Buffet: “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.” via @dankeldsen

@R0BY0UNG: ‘On the train today, the guard said, “We’re now arriving at the wealthy town of Wokingham. Mind the gap … between rich and poor” Inspired.’ (more…)

beta conversation 2017-06-15

I will be hosting the next Beta Conversation on Thursday, June 15th at 14:00 UTC [07:00 Pacific, 10:00 Eastern, 15:00 BST, 16:00 CET]. The subject will be Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and leadership. The Harvard Business Review article, The Best Leaders are Constant Learners, gives a general idea of the themes to be discussed. Participants can add their own questions in advance.

The session will be 90 minutes long. For participant confidentiality, these sessions will not be recorded.

The format of each session is as follows:

  1. Presentation of the key themes by Harold
  2. Discussion of any questions provided by participants in advance
  3. Open discussion


organizing for the network era

In my last post I noted that many organizations today are nothing more than attractive prisons. The current organizational tyranny was a response to a linear, print-based world. These organizations are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and hard to share, and when connections with others were difficult to make and required command and control. The network era, with digital electric communications, changes this. Organizations today should be designed more like the internet: small pieces, loosely joined.

Last year I described several of my principles and models for the network era and showed how they related to each other. I would like to put these together in a coherent framework to show how we can design organizations for the network era, instead of ones optimized for markets, institutions, or tribes. The network era needs new structures, not modified versions of obsolete models. (more…)