I have worked as an external ‘consultant’ for the past 20 years. Prior to that, I was an internal consultant, with my last five years of military service as a training advisor in the aviation field. Consultant is a very general term and can mean many things in different fields. My company is called Jarche Consulting, a term I chose in 2003 that would allow me to change my lines of business without requiring a name change. For instance, in my first few years of freelancing I did a lot of advisory work on choosing learning technology platforms, something I do little of today. I am a different kind of consultant now than I was in 2003.

My experience is that as an independent external worker, there are three fundamental roles.

  1. expert outsider
  2. consultant
  3. contractor


summer sci-fi

“Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions.” —Eliot Peper

“I define science fiction as the art of the possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible. Science fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and they’re always ideas that work themselves out and become real and happen in the world.” —Ray Bradbury

3 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction:
1. SF Extrapolates Current Technology
2. SF Highlights Societal and Cultural Changes
3. (The Best) SF Helps Solve Big Problems
Richard MacManus

I read a lot of non-fiction and post book reviews here. When I get a chance, I read fiction, mostly science fiction. Here are some recommended reads from the last year. (more…)

the perpetual beta coffee club

This year I started the coffee club as a way to focus on people who were willing to take a very small leap across the financial chasm. Since January I have offered a private community space to anyone willing to pay $5 per month. Of the tens of thousands of people who read my work, I now have about 30 40 paid members of the Perpetual Beta Coffee Club (trademark nonexistent). As it grows — which is my hope — I will focus more of my energy there. So far we have a discussion forum and I host live web video chats monthly. These are recorded and available for 30 days. We try to ensure that what is discussed inside the coffee club stays there. I want to keep it as a trusted space. If the club grows, I intend to grow the services and offer a more robust community technology platform.

We are now six months in and there are people from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, & USA. It’s a pretty eclectic group and while the main focus is workplace learning, we talk about whatever interests our members. The surveillance economy, and how to deal with it, was a recent topic.

I will keep on supporting our club and may some day turn it into my main professional focus. It’s much more fun to work with people who appreciate what you do and are willing to show it, not just use your work.

What do you get?

  1. Support my continuing free public writing on this blog (since 2004).
  2. A private community space for deeper discussions.
  3. Monthly web video sessions to converse and discuss topics of professional interest.

Subscribe for a full year for $(CA)60 — and get 13 months membership

Image: Wikipedia

Or subscribe monthly for $5 per month.


We are in a platform economy where those who own the platforms — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google — reap massive financial rewards. I have likened it to crowd-milking, as opposed to the overused crowd-sourcing which is often nothing more than free labour. As a blogger for these 14 years, my insights, models, and ideas have been used not just by myself and for my clients but by people in many organizations across the globe. For example, I have had participants from every major consultancy on my PKM workshops — Accenture, IBM, McKinsey, EY, PwC, Boston Consulting, Deloitte — but only once. It seems they learned enough through one participant. I must be a great teacher.

I know that there is interest in my work, based on years of feedback. But still, the challenge is finding a business model that works. My free services are always in high demand. Getting paid work is another story. This is life in perpetual beta. The coffee club is a probe in understanding the complexities of the networked business world.

keep asking questions

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

“The car gave to the democratic cavalier his horse & armor and haughty insolence in one package, transmogrifying the knight into a misguided missile … it has become the carapace, the protective & aggressive shell, of urban and suburban man.” —Marshall McLuhan, via @grescoe

“Computers are rubbish. They only give answers” —Picasso, via @alansmlxl

@mmay3r: “The internet doesn’t fracture truth, it reveals the many competing truths that always existed but were flattened by centralized broadcast technology.”

@cennydd: “I’m trying to avoid the term ‘AI’. It mythologises tech as a new species, a self-directed moral agent outside our control. But, of course, these technologies are absolutely within our control. They’re products of our code, decisions, and policies. Their ethics are our ethics.”

@SimonDeDeo: “Machine learning is an amazing accomplishment of engineering. But it’s not science. Not even close. It’s just 1990, scaled up. It has given us *literally* no more insight than we had twenty years ago.”

@LuxAlptraum: “Plastic Strawgate became a thing for the same reason we endlessly argue over recycling: it’s easier to fixate on small, personal choices that feel under our control than it is to restructure our society at the systemic level we’d need to truly help the environment.”

@HughCards: “You can have a fantastic product, work your ass off, be loved by the media, and still be poor. Just ask any restauranteur. (more…)

to know is to do

Do we really understand tacit knowledge?, asks Haridimos Tsoukas in a 2002 paper. He bases his position on the work of Michael Polanyi in that all knowledge is personal and all knowing is through action. Tacit knowledge [I use the term implicit knowledge as it is easier to understand for non-native English speakers] is not merely explicit knowledge that has yet to be codified. Knowledge is personal.

Tsoukas states that:

“we do not so much need to operationalise tacit knowledge (as explained earlier, we could not do this, even if we wanted) as to find new ways of talking, fresh forms of interacting, and novel ways of distinguishing and connecting. Tacit knowledge cannot be ‘captured’, ‘translated’, or ‘converted’ but only displayed, manifested, in what we do. New knowledge comes about not when the tacit becomes explicit, but when our skilled performance – our praxis – is punctuated in new ways through social interaction.”

This is important for anyone working in training, education, knowledge management, and the various growing fields of ‘artificial intelligence’. Knowledge cannot be transferred. We can observe how people use their knowledge but even they cannot explain all of it.

“Although the expert diagnostician, taxonomist and cotton-classer can indicate their clues and formulate their maxims, they know many more things than they can tell, knowing them only in practice, as instrumental particulars, and not explicitly, as objects.”

It is only when we no longer think about something, like hammering a nail, that we can concentrate on the next level, like fixing the roof. We are constantly creating mental black boxes to lessen our cognitive load.

“Knowledge has, therefore, a recursive form: given a certain context, we blackbox – assimilate, interiorise, instrumentalise – certain things in order to concentrate – focus – on others.”


curious and fractal

Some people seem to be naturally curious. Others work at it. Some just lack interest in learning. You can notice this when traveling. Some people can describe many aspects of their local vicinity while others don’t know anything about why certain features exist. They say that the most interesting people are those who are interested in others.

This is what I wrote about connected curiosity two years ago. Basically, curiosity about ideas can foster creativity, while curiosity about people can develop empathy (not sympathy). We get new ideas from new people, not the same people we see every day. We get new perspectives from people whose lives and experiences are different from ours. (more…)

teaching in higher ed podcast

I was recently interviewed by Bonni Stachowiak, host of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. The subject was my personal knowledge mastery framework which Bonni uses in her university teaching. You can listen to or download the podcast. Here are some lightly edited highlights of a very pleasant conversation with Bonni.


We can talk about knowledge bases and things like that, but for me, knowledge is that human sense making of experience, and exposure, and everything, and messy interactions, and feelings, and culture and all and all those kinds of things. And that’s really what knowledge is. Knowledge is the stuff that we use from which we take action. I use my knowledge to do whatever it is I’m going to do, to go to work, to make a decision, to do anything like that. Maybe it’s not a wonderful dictionary description of it, but it’s kind of a fuzzy place to start. (more…)

knowledge-sharing paradox redux

Knowledge-sharing in the Enterprise

An effective suite of enterprise social tools can help organizations share knowledge, collaborate, and cooperate – connecting the work being done with the identification of new opportunities and ideas. In an age when everything is getting connected, it only makes sense to have platforms in place that enable faster feedback loops inside the organization in order to deal with connected customers, suppliers, partners, and competitors. It takes a networked organization, staffed by people with networked learning mindsets, to thrive in a networked economy.

Getting work done today means finding a balance between sharing complex knowledge to get work done (collaboration), and innovating in internet time (cooperation). (more…)

we become what we behold

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

“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.” —George Orwell

“As the preliterate confronts the literate in the postliterate arena, as new information patterns inundate and uproot the old, mental breakdowns of varying degrees–including the collective nervous breakdowns of whole societies unable to resolve their crises of identity–will become very common.”Marshall McLuhan (1969)

The Illuminations of Hannah Arendt: NYT via @leadershipabc

In her 1951 work, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Arendt wrote of refugees: “The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion, but that they no longer belonged to any community whatsoever.” The loss of community has the consequence of expelling a people from humanity itself. Appeals to abstract human rights are meaningless unless there are effective institutions to guarantee these rights. The most fundamental right is the “right to have rights.”

Why Trump’s Baby Jails Strategy Backfired, Unleashing Waves of Empathy by @GeorgeLakoff

“As I’ve written before, the conservative moral system is based on the metaphorical idea of a Strict Father Family. In this metaphor, the strict father figure makes the rules and enforces them. It’s the job of everyone else to do as he says. If they don’t, it’s his job to punish them painfully enough so that they will do as he says in the future. Zero tolerance! Authority is justified. Winners deserve to win; losers deserve to lose. Winners are better than losers.”

Kleptocracy and kakistocracy

“It is also a mistake to think that it is only in countries with weak institutions and immature political systems that thieves and goons can reach the most important positions. What we are seeing today in the United States and in many European countries that have long democratic traditions simply shows that no nation is immune to the rise of a kakistocracy. Internet searches for this word, derived from ancient Greek, have seen a huge boom since Donald Trump got to the White House.

Like all good illusionists, the kleptocrats know how to distract us from looking at their misdeeds and the kakistocrats know how to distract us from their ineptitude. They do it by talking to us about ideology and attacking those of their rivals. While we watch and play our part in these ideological circuses, they steal. Or tinker with government policies they don’t really understand.”

Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan – review

“Although Facebook has become a leviathan, that simply means that it can only be tamed by another leviathan, in this case, the state. Vaidhyanathan argues that the key places to start are privacy, data protection, antitrust and competition law. Facebook is now too big and should be broken up: there’s no reason why it should be allowed to own Instagram and WhatsApp, for example. Regulators should be crawling over the hidden auctions it runs for advertisers. All uses of its services for political campaigns should be inspected by regulators and it should be held editorially responsible for all the content published on its site.”

Reclaiming RSS by @aral

“Before Twitter, before algorithmic timelines filtered our reality for us, before surveillance capitalism, there was RSS: Really Simple Syndication … RSS was an essential part of Web 1.0 before surveillance capitalism (Web 2.0) took over.”

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” —Father John Culkin (1967) A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan, Image by @BryanMMathers