out on the edge

Last month in Berlin I gave a keynote at the Landing Festival entitled, It’s your Network, Stupid. I explained that to find new ideas and information, loose social networks are best. Weak social ties enable us to find a wide variety of information and ideas, often relatively quickly using networked technologies. In this way a diverse social network can yield a lot of information. (more…)

what they don’t teach at university, but should

Even after four years of study, many students leave their institutions of higher learning only to find themselves inadequately prepared for what is next. University graduates often go on to get a certificate in an applied area in hopes of getting a job. Frequently graduate students who do not go into academia will find themselves adrift.

So what the heck have these institutions been doing with the valuable time of their students? Four years is a good chunk of time to accomplish something. We are told they are mastering a field. A field that often does not exist outside the institutional walls. But there are portable skills that can be learned WHILE at school. These are skills, like critical thinking, that universities purport to teach but usually do not.

No graduate should leave their institution without a good knowledge of the professional field in which they want to continue. There is no excuse today for students not to be connected to professionals outside their school. Keeping students focused only on their academic studies is akin to a prison sentence, expecting that the same world awaits as the one they left several years earlier. (more…)

viking finds

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

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”  —Martin Luther King Jr.

Return of the Vikings: Nordic Leadership, by/via @indalogenesis

So, let us start with something very central to the Vikings. The Nine Noble Virtues:

Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self-reliance, Industriousness, Perseverance

The virtues are derived from ancient Nordic Mythology. It is believed that the Vikings lived their lives according to this set of values. Values of which each can be found in many religions and cultures, but somehow, when you combine them they form a unique basis for leadership – and a way of living. Chris Shern interviewed 50 very different leaders with very different perspectives on Nordic Leadership as part of his research for the book. And what he found for them to have in common were qualities similar to the Nine Noble Virtues. But we will get back to that later …

To Chris Shern the thinking was, that the Nordic approach to leadership is better equipped than others to meet the challenges of a chaotic future. Gone are the days when a boss could sit back and hold on to all the knowledge and information and you repeatedly had to go and ask him whether you can or cannot do something. What Chris Shern saw among the Nordic leaders was courage to delegate great responsibility to their employees, and for the employees to have the discipline and self-reliance that is needed to handle great tasks. This kind of corporation is depending on fidelity and for everyone to take an honour in their work. Chris Shern also found that all the people he interviewed were driven by something more than just making money. It was about having a purpose and giving back.


change the system, not the leader

Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil

It’s interesting to watch the shenanigans in Washington DC with Silicon Valley’s latest ‘crisis’ over privacy and the manipulation of the democratic process. The ‘great man’ is answering for the actions of his company in front of the world’s cameras. But the great man theory of leadership is outdated, just as the divine right of kings was two centuries ago. Silicon Valley, in spite of all the hype, is based on the same outdated organizational models of leadership and management as the companies they are putting out of business. As Christian Madsbjerg wrote in his book Sensemaking: “In a ‘Silicon Valley’ state of mind, sense making has never been more lacking or more urgently needed.”

We don’t need better leaders. We need organizations and structures that let all people cooperate and collaborate to get work done. Positional leadership is a master-servant, parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee relationship. It puts too much power in the hands of individuals and blocks human networks from realizing their potential. Even punishing the person in charge will change little. Changing leaders will not change the system from which they emerged.

Depending on one person to always be the leader will only dumb-down the entire network. In the network era, leadership is helping the network make better decisions. This starts by creating more human organizational structures, ones that enable self-governance. Leadership is an emergent property of a network in balance. (more…)

PKM made simple

Here is a simple, but by no means only, method of putting personal knowledge mastery into practice. It is based on the seek > sense > share model.


  • Use a feed aggregator to collect all your online news and information resources in one place. I would suggest Feedly or Inoreader.
  • Carry a notebook to collect insights as you go through your day. A notes application for your mobile device would work as well.
  • Determine what areas you want to learn more about. Find others from whom you can learn. Identify people who share their knowledge on social media. Follow them and take notes, as above. (more…)

automation + capitalism = a perfect storm

I have often discussed the automation of work here and how we need to focus our development and education efforts on human competencies that cannot be done by software or machines. But is automation really the major cause of workplace disruption? For example, in Sweden automation is welcomed by workers who have state support systems for unemployment and retraining. But these supports are not available in many developed countries like Canada or the USA.

In previous technological shifts, such as one hundred years ago when agrarian field workers left for factory jobs in the city, more jobs were created. Today we do not see that, as is evidenced by the growing number of freelancers and people cobbling together several part-time jobs in order to make a living. In addition, many new jobs do not have pension plans and trade unions have lost much of their influence. (more…)

soft skills are human skills

Creative people are at all levels of an organization, including the janitor, and are not ‘human resources’ but individuals who have the capability of  gaining wisdom. What are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ are becoming more important than traditional hard skills. Why is this? First of all, work in networks requires different skills than in controlled hierarchies. Information and knowledge flow faster and new connections are constantly being made. The status quo is temporary. This is life in perpetual beta. It is in networks where most of us, and our children, will be working for the foreseeable future.


A foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks is cooperation. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate. In a network, people cannot be directed, only influenced. If they don’t like you, they won’t connect. It is like being on Twitter with no followers and never getting Retweeted (RT). You are a lone node and of little value to the network. In a hierarchy you only have to please your boss. In a network you have to be seen as having some value, though not the same value, by many others.

Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, though they are complementary. Collaboration requires a common goal while cooperation is sharing without any specific objectives. Teams, groups, and markets collaborate. Online social networks and communities of practice cooperate. Working cooperatively requires a different mindset than merely collaborating on a defined project. Being cooperative means being open to others outside your group and casting off business metaphors based on military models (target market, chain of command, line & staff).

We are moving from a market economy to a network economy and the the level of complexity is increasing with this hyper-connectedness. Managing in complex adaptive systems means influencing possibilities rather than striving for predictability (good or best practices). Cooperation in our work is needed so that we can continuously develop emergent practices demanded by this complexity. What worked yesterday won’t work today. No one has the definitive answer any more but we can use the intelligence of our networks to make sense together and see how we can influence desired results. This is cooperation and this is the future, which is already here, albeit unevenly distributed. (more…)

good friday finds #320

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

Lean interaction by @EskoKilpi

“Knowledge is the act of interacting and new knowledge is created when ways of interaction, and therefore patterns of relationships, change. The creative assets of an organization are the patterns of interaction between its members. Assets are destroyed when relationships are missing or are dysfunctional.”

Rethinking the balance between equality and hierarchy: 2) New insights into the evolution of hierarchy and inequality throughout the ages

‘Perhaps most striking, in terms of political reversals, were the seasonal practices of 19th-century tribal confederacies on the American Great Plains – sometime, or one-time farmers who had adopted a nomadic hunting life. In the late summer, small and highly mobile bands of Cheyenne and Lakota would congregate in large settlements to make logistical preparations for the buffalo hunt. At this most sensitive time of year they appointed a police force that exercised full coercive powers, including the right to imprison, whip, or fine any offender who endangered the proceedings. Yet as the anthropologist Robert Lowie observed, this ‘unequivocal authoritarianism’ operated on a strictly seasonal and temporary basis, giving way to more ‘anarchic’ forms of organisation once the hunting season – and the collective rituals that followed – were complete.”’


chaos: a user’s guide

“Humanity is at a turning point. We are at a period when we must totally redefine the norms and values in fields not only related to work, to the economy, but also to social life and relations between countries.

It is perhaps time to put on the right lenses to understand this. It is perhaps time to get the right tools so as to construct a world ever turbulent and chaotic no doubt, but also more sustainable and harmonious.” p. 29

So ends the first part of Bruno Marion’s book Chaos: A User’s Guide (2014) . Marion uses fractals as a way to describe the underlying nature of chaos, or the world we are living in. Fractals, shapes that maintain their shape at any scale and never get simpler, were brought into mainstream mathematics by Benoit Mandelbrot.

“The world is no longer linear, it is no longer relative, it is no longer quantum — it is chaotic! Or more precisely, it is linear and relativistic and quantic and chaotic.

Now we will be able to recognize fractal images around us. We will be able to see ships, and see factories that run without stocks. We will be able to follow the example given to us by nature and be ready to understand that order can emerge from disorder and we can learn to manage our lives, or organizations in a more fractal way.” p. 65


we don’t need no stinking hierarchies

When we think of management we usually think of control over others. Management decides. F.W. Taylor in the early 20th century saw management as the necessary controlling layer in order to systematize work and make it efficient and so developed his Principles of Scientific Management. If labourers could not adapt to managers’ directions, then they should be let go. Managers decide and workers carry out their wishes. The common assumption was that work cannot get done without management and that relationship must be hierarchical with managers in layers above those doing the work. But perhaps this situation is merely a lack of adequate technology?

Gwynne Dyer showed how tyranny was a requirement to organize societies that could not freely communicate on a massive scale. They lacked the technology to talk to each other and make collective decisions effectively and efficiently.

“The mass societies had many more decisions to make, and no way of making them in the old, egalitarian way. Their huge numbers made any attempt at discussing the question as equals impossible, so the only ones that survived and flourished were the ones that became brutal hierarchies. Tyranny was the solution to what was essentially a communications problem.” —Gwynne Dyer