Posts Categorized: Work

Leadership for the Information Revolution

Peter Levesque, in Democracy & Socioactive Software and Technology discusses the effect of the Internet in connecting an unprecedented number of people, who in turn have created a variety of community-based initiatives, such as open source, open content and more flexible copyright rules, like the Creative Commons.

He continues on the Cluetrain thread that markets are conversations, and these conversation must be genuine. This should mean that corporations have to "get real" in order to connect with their markets, as many communities do. But Levesque goes on to say that communities have not been as successful as corporations in producing certain kinds of societal benefits.

Levesque calls for new leadership for the information revolution. "I suggest that the leaders will be found among the aggressively intelligent citizenry, liberated from many tasks and obligations by technology freely shared; using data, information and knowledge acquired from open source databases, produced from the multiples of billions of dollars of public money invested through research councils, universities, social agencies, and public institutions."

I would suggest that business models that will allow the leadership to prosper will be essential. These potential leaders, from the "aggressively intelligent citizenry", need to be free from corporate non-disclosures or government gag orders, and the most effective business model could be the free agent working within a peer network. As tenure was essential for academic freedom, so an unfettered business model may be necessary for future leaders. If all individuals had the rights of today’s corporations, what kind of societal benefits would ensue?

Thanks to Stephen’s OLDaily for pointing to this.

Edinburgh Scenarios on eLearning in 2014

I’m posting this information on the Edinburgh scenarios, because I believe it is important, and because I cannot find any more information on the results of the scenario building that took place in Edinburgh last month. Does anyone have any more information? I would like to keep the conversation going. The eLearninternational 2004 World Summit… Read more »

RSS & e-Bay

A follow-up on e-Bay and how the customer community is making the process of buying & selling online easier. How do you compete with a business model where customers help each other to use a web service? In this case, it’s an RSS feed to keep track of items for sale in your news aggregator. I don’t use e-Bay but I sure like their business model. From Seb.

Knowledge Work

Lilia has written an excellent paper on knowledge work and weblogs. The main uses she cites for blogging (personal knowledge repositories, learning journals, or networking instruments) are the same reasons that I blog. I find that writing about things that I find interesting or useful online helps me to create my own knowledge repository. With Drupal as a CMS, my repository is also searchable, so I can search my own blog to find something that I posted about open source a few months back. This is the main reason that I amalgamated my other blogs; so I could find stuff. The discipline of writing every day is a form of a learning journal, and is similar to what Stephen Covey calls "sharpening the saw". The more you write, the more skilled you become; I hope 😉

Another point in Lilia’s paper is that knowledge work is "discretionary behavior", in that knowledge workers have to be motivated to do knowledge work. Many companies are tryng to find ways to motivate their knowledge workers. This makes me wonder about Peter Drucker’s comment that the corporation as we know it won’t be around in the next 25 years (Managing in the Next Society, 2002). Perhaps the actual structure of work, especially the Corporation itself, is an obstacle to knowledge work. Instead of tweaking the mechanisms of the corporation, through job redesign or cultural initiatives, we should be re-examining the basic structure of the corporation. It is an industrial age creation, designed to maximize physical capital and may not be optimal for maximizing "knowledge capital".

The network, with its dynamic conversations, is where a lot of knowledge work gets done, and we should be looking at new laws to recognise networks in a similar way that we recognise corporations as legal entities. Is anything like this happening?

Conversations on e-Bay

One of the first things that Meg Whitman remarked about e-Bay was that ‘It looks like the experience people have with each other helps define your brand.’. The Monitor has an in-depth article on the current CEO of e-Bay, showing how peer-to-peer relationships and a small service fee are some of the keys to the success of this multi-billion dollar company. One more example that there are others on the Cluetrain, who are successful.

Vacuum Cleaner Salesmen

If you want to spend a few minutes enjoying a humourous story, then read Cam’s telling of a visit by the Vacuum Cleaner Salesman. Cameron lives in Sackville, and provides technical support for my website. After reading this story, what I really appreciate about Cam is that he didn’t give this guy my name. Cam’s site also uses the Drupal CMS.

Blogs, Markets & Conversations

According to Lilia, in Mathemagenic, blogging is about conversations, and "Conversations are different from publishing, they require listening to others, require investment of attention and energy". This is also the central premise of the Cluetrain Manifesto, in that "Markets are conversations".

In order to have a lasting relationship between producers of goods and services and their markets, conversations are essential. This means listening, not just sending out marketing hype. There is a simple way to determine your markets. They are where you have the best conversations. Now figure out a business model around these conversations. Blogging can help you open these conversations.

Currently, my blog is mostly publishing, not conversations. Some of my previous blogs have produced some good conversations, and my aim is once again to publish enough blogs, so that I can get the conversations going. I participate in other blogs, where I am part of larger conversations about those things that interest me – learning, work systems, technology, sustainable development …

Free Agents as the Future of Work

I have been trying to organize a group of independent consultants and micro-businesses here in Sackville. This is a small town with a population of 5,000, plus the 2,400 students at Mount Allison University. I think that micro-businesses are very important because many of us have options on where we can live, as our clients are distributed, and the Internet has made distant/virtual work much easier. We could attract more "free agents" to our area, without significant infrastructure additions.

Having a number of micro-businesses in a small community provides a diverse and more stable economic base than having larger, single focus firms. The closure of a few micro-businesses would not have the destructive effects as the closure of a single distribution centre, as happened here a few years back. As in nature, diversity in economies helps with adaptation and growth.

My aim over the past six months has been to find out how many people in our area work as non-retail, externally focused knowledge workers. I’ve set up a discussion board, but there hasn’t been too much activity to date. I have a list of about 10 people/companies, but I’m sure that there are more.

I think that as a group we can do a few things:

1. Show that we are significant contributors to the local economy (anywhere from $500K to $2M, is my estimate)
2. Share information on being free agents, and help each other. So far our monthly coffee meetings have generated some good conversations.
3. Look into creating a virtual storefront to share our stories, and perhaps attract others who would like to move to a lovely small town, with heritage homes and a great community to raise kids and enjoy the arts.
4. Lobby the three levels of government. If they are going to continue to play the economic development game, then we should have some input.

I’d love any comments, or ideas on how to grow the Sackville SOHO Society.

Systemic Causes of Societal Problems

Rob Paterson, on PEI, writes about the systemic problems facing island society, in a letter to the Provincial government. "When a business is in real trouble, it is because it has a systemic problem. Trimming here and there will not save it. So it is with us. Prince Edward Island has a structural problem related not to its physical assets but to its human capital."

This letter is worth the read, as Rob’s view is that the root causes of complex problems cannot be addressed by focusing on the symptoms. This is also the view of human performance technologists. Rob’s points are pertinent to one of my projects, where we are making recommendations on how to grow the New Brunswick learning industry. Our key for sustainable development is to find out what is at the root of the problem/challenge. For PEI, Rob says that many children are already challenged before they enter school, because learning and literacy skills are developed prior to age four. All of the interventions to develop literacy and learning skills after this age are treating the symptons, not the root cause of the problem.

This is the same kind of root cause that I am looking for. What are the core components of an industry that will ensure sustainable growth? Is it infrastructure, government policy, access to capital, R&D, marketing & branding, an educated workforce, etc.? My suspicion is that the basics are the most important part. For instance, I moved to Sackville because there is a university, a local hospital, a good elementary school and cheap housing. I have stayed here because of high-speed internet access and two relatively close airports.

Are there basics that need to be addressed in order to grow an industry? In the case of PEI, Rob makes the point that early childhood interventions are critical for a sustainable society. Are there other pieces of the puzzle critical to grow a small industry, or should we focus on the region or province instead, and let industries grow in what we have cultivated? This is one of my current challenges, and I would appreciate any feedback.

Social Networks & Corporate Learning

Jay Cross of the newly renamed Emergent Learning Forum, discusses social networks and their value for corporate learning. This is the frontier of the Internet, building on the writings of Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point)and others, on how loose social ties are more important than strong ones for learning, as they introduce ideas and people outside of our usual social circle. Social networks, communities of practice, expertise locators, etc. have more potential and utility in this medium than centralized systems such as LCMS. If you have an interest in this field, then join the Forum, it’s free.