“weeks where decades happen”

Every fortnight — and what a fortnight it has been! — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

6 March — “You’re not going to see public health, let alone pandemic preparedness, at the top of the priority list for this White House.”The Long Now Foundation

7 March — “It’s interesting seeing all the universities that disparaged distance education as not proper suddenly being converted to the benefits of online education.”@mweller

9 March — “Shoutout to all the Zoom engineers keeping the servers up and running as usage skyrockets for personal and business communicationss — can’t imagine what would happen if they had an outage, let’s hope we never find out.”@CallMeVlad (more…)

after the shit has hit the fan

The proverbial shit has hit the fan. Were you ready? Did you have a knowledge network that you could depend upon to make sense of your digital world?

“When the shit hits the fan you want your inside information flow to be at least as fast as what is happening outside. In most organisations this is not the case … If you have a big enough, mature enough, fast enough set of internal conversations taking place then you will be better able to work out what is happening and what to do about it.” —Euan Semple 2020-03-17

For the first time ever, most students in schools in many countries are learning at a distance [850 million out of school as of today]. For the first time ever, in some countries, more people are working remotely than going to a place of work. The network era starts in 2020. Everything before was a prelude.

The new normal, when it comes, will be different. Teaching will be turned upside down. So too will curricula, academic disciplines, and their institutions. (more…)

learning from the external world

What are the most valued ways of learning work? Jane Hart has been asking this question since 2010. Over 7,500 people have responded to date. Jane has analyzed these results first from the perspective of how do people with different characteristics diverge from this overall pattern, and second from the perspective of learning from both internal and external work environments. In the second part, Jane makes three key recommendations.

  1. Help employees (particularly the youngest employees) value learning from the external world, and to take some time to do this for themselves, as well as develop the modern learning skills they need to thrive and survive. In Part 1 we saw how the Freelancers’ profile is one many will need to adopt. See particularly sections 3 – The modern worker and 4 – Encourage a daily self-learning habit.

  2. Help line managers understand the importance of continuous (self-)learning outside the organisation, and to provide time for this – see section 2 – The modern manager

  3. Curate resources and other opportunities from the external environment so that they are integrated into the daily work environment – see section 10 – Offer opportunities for continuous learning


distributed liberating meetings

A great source of knowledge to plan and conduct meetings is Liberating Structures — consisting of 33 different meeting types for Revealing, Analyzing, Spreading, Planning, Strategizing, and Helping. The site links to free mobile applications — Google Play & Apple App Store — that explain what each structure is good for, how to conduct the meeting, and the rationale behind it.

Liberating Structures can also help focus distributed work teams and groups. In addition, the restrictions created by the technology medium can provide more structure than many of the physical meetings we may have attended in the past. Moving these structures online might require a bit more planning, and likely more time, but can still get the job done. For example, online video conferencing platforms that offer breakout rooms are suitable for both large and small group discussions.

So if you want to articulate the paradoxical challenges that a group must confront to succeed, then Wicked Questions might be a good meeting structure. It requires groups of 4-6 and paper for note-taking. Just substitute chairs for a designated breakout room and use a whiteboard and recorded chat. Even the audio can be recorded. This exercise can be done as sessions over a period of time to promote more conversations and reflections. It does require good facilitation and curation skills by those conducting it. (more…)

Strategic Doing — getting to metamodernity

Strategic DoingTM is a process where strategy emerges through the continuous asking of four questions.

  • What could we do? + What should we do — enable us to answer, Where are we going?
  • What will we do? + What’s our 30/30? [what did we learn in the past 30 days & what will we do in the next 30 days?] — provide us with an emerging pathway.

Strategic Doing comprises 10 skills and the book’s authors state that of 500 projects in one initiative, the most successful teams consistently used eight of these skills, while the least successful used only two.

  1. Building a safe space for deep and focused conversations.

  2. Using an appreciative question to frame your conversation.

  3. Identifying the assets at your disposal, including the hidden ones.

  4. Linking and leveraging your assets to create new opportunities.

  5. Identifying a big opportunity where you can generate momentum.

  6. Rewriting your opportunity as a strategic outcome with measurable characteristics.

  7. Defining a small starting project to start moving toward your outcome.

  8. Creating a short-term action plan in which everyone takes a small step.

  9. Meeting every 30 days to review progress, adjust, and plan for the next 30 days.

  10. Nudging, connecting, and promoting to reinforce your new habits of collaboration.


“a continuing exploration of mysteries”

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

“The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.”Freeman Dyson 1923-2020

@RonEdmondson“One Critical Leadership Error: Assuming what you’re hearing is all that’s being said.”

@curtisogden — “Perhaps too starkly put, but we might consider the difference between “networking” and “network weaving” as the difference between thinking of others for our own sake and thinking of others for their sake or the sake of the larger whole.”

@rhappe“Communities are, at their core, the way people have always come together to learn. They provide the space, relationships, collisions, and trust necessary to create shared meaning, to iterate on emergent ideas, and to norm new patterns and behaviors.” (more…)

working smarter with PKM

Working Smarter with Personal Knowledge Mastery is a field guide for the networked knowledge worker. It is meant to complement the PKM Workshops and help practitioners. At 12 pages it is not designed to cover all aspects of the models, frameworks, and practices that inform PKM, but provide a quick reference, especially for those new to the discipline.

This field guide is made available under a Creative Commons license for easy sharing and is not for resale or commercial purposes. For more detailed explanations, see Life in Perpetual Beta. (more…)

making sense of our digital world

The spread of the novel corona virus SARS-CoV-2 is having a massive influence on our connected world. Schools are being shut, quarantines are in effect, and airlines have cancelled certain flight routes. So where are we getting our information from? If it’s from Facebook then some secret algorithm designed to maximize advertising revenue is deciding what we see. This does not make for a well-informed citizenry. There are also forces at play that want people to panic. Some misinformation may be designed to push stock prices up or down so profits can be made. Other forces see panic as a way to destabilize competing or warring nations. The digital information sphere is constantly being manipulated and we should understand this and find ways to counter the post-truth machines. (more…)

remote work and learning

I have been working and learning remotely since 2003, when I became a freelancer. I live in a fairly remote location — Atlantic Canada  — away from major metropolitan hubs. I had to understand remote technologies in order to stay connected to my peers and potential clients. There was little chance I would bump into them here in Sackville, New Brunswick. Over the past decade the work with my colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance has been mostly remote, as we span between the UK and California. Necessity has been the mother of invention for a lot of my work.

“Harold Jarche is a true pioneer. Nine years ago [2005], long before online activities were commonplace, we conducted a series of Unworkshops on the topic of web-based learning. We relied on free software. Our students came from Australia, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, the Azores, and points in between. Lessons were both synchronous and offline. To give people exposure, we used a different platform each week. I can’t imagine anyone (aside from Harold) crazy (and innovative) enough to sign up for something like this.” —Jay Cross (1944-2015), founder Internet Time Alliance

I recently came across a site dedicated to remote work — Remote.co. This site has a number of questions to which over 100 companies have posted responses. I would like to highlight what I think are the most interesting responses to some of the questions. While many of the responses come from start-ups I will try to focus on those from larger or more established companies. Today, the drive for more remote work, even in established businesses, is quickly ramping up. Given the current global health situation, this site, which includes a blog, is quite useful. (more…)

PKM in practice

What is cognitive load?

“When the brain has to deal with multiple elements of information, difficult material, and you have to manipulate or process those different elements, working memory can struggle. It imposes a heavy working load on working memory – that is cognitive load … Intrinsic cognitive load is the load complex material places on working memory. It is subjective, intrinsic and there’s not much you can do about it. Extraneous cognitive load is in the designed instruction and can be redesigned to reduce cognitive load.” —Donald Clark

Worked examples can lessen cognitive load, according research by John Sweller, which is reviewed by Donald Clark in the quote above. “A worked example is a step-by-step demonstration of how to perform a task or how to solve a problem”, according to Psychology Wiki. Cognitive load management is one of the four beneficial skills that can be acquired through the practice of personal knowledge mastery (PKM). For example, off-loading some cognitive tasks to an external network or community of practice provides time to focus or reflect. (more…)