life in the jungle

How can you survive in the jungle when you live in a zoo?

“Our silos (I won’t even mention cubicles!), like the cages in the zoo, exist to control behaviour and reduce complexity by creating homogeneity and closed environments. OD & HR professionals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find new and better ways of categorising, a direct result of which is the so-called ‘matrix organisation’. Linked to that are new and better ways of incentivising the ‘animals’ to keep performing because like zoos, many organisations aren’t particularly inspiring places. Besides food and other treats, there’s not much else that can motivate, engage or inspire creativity.” —Sonja Blignaut

In our efforts to tame complexity we constantly look for ways to simplify decision-making. It’s why best practices and case studies are still popular, despite their uselessness. It reminds me of a client who proudly declared that his company was a ‘fast follower’. Followers in the jungle are eaten or survive as scavengers. (more…)

future hedging

“The future of work will be based on hacking uncertainty and hedging risks through post-blockchain smart contracts, learning and social capital.

The main question is perhaps not what skills we should have in the future, but how we hedge the risks that are inbuilt in our world, our unique knowledge assets, the know-what, the know-who and know-how of our life.” —Esko Kilpi

In hedging the future of work, Esko Kilpi describes three areas of work that need to be negotiated by knowledge workers in the digital network era.

  1. Long-term Collectives
  2. Short-term Communities
  3. Flash Networks


owning your data

I was recently interviewed for an article in Forbes magazine and asked what I thought about ‘The Cloud’. There was a typographical error in my response, so here it is corrected.

I cannot see why any organization would put all of its data online. The Cloud is just a different term for someone else’s computer, which you do not control. It may make sense to have some data in The Cloud to improve flexibility and accessibility, but as we see everyday, these systems break or get hacked. Own your critical data.

For the past ten years I have advocated owning your data. This means having access to what you post online and the ability to move it if you need to. For example, this website is built on WordPress software and is hosted with a third-party. The database and files can be transferred, even though it’s a bit complicated. WordPress is open source (OS). (more…)

integrating personal knowledge mastery

I developed the personal knowledge mastery (PKM) framework for myself, beginning in 2004, as a way to make sense of all the digital information flows around me and to connect with others to improve my practice. In 2012 I was contacted by Domino’s Pizza to help incorporate the PKM framework into their leadership training (PDF). Last year Jane Hart and I worked with The Carlsberg Group to add PKM into their Learning Leaders Program.

PKM is applicable to any organization though it takes some effort to develop it for a specific context. An excellent example of this is posted as four articles by the Listening & Spoken Language organization, Hearing First, whom I first met in 2013. Below are some highlights from these posts showing an integrated approach to using PKM for continuous learning.

To learn more, my PKM open workshops are conducted four times per year. If your organization would like to improve workplace learning and knowledge-sharing, then contact me about a private engagement for co-creation as a service. (more…)

meaning and failure

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

“Hire character. Train skill.” — Peter Schutz, former CEO of Porsche via @2080strategyex

“Human beings augmented by other human beings is more important than human beings augmented by technology”@eskokilpi

“Interesting that there is now a whole ‘mindfulness’ industry when all it takes really is to just get out & play/explore.”@DebraWatkinson (more…)

beta conversation 2017-05-18

I will be hosting the next Beta Conversation on Thursday, May 18th at 15:00 UTC [08:00 Pacific, 11:00 Eastern, 16:00 BST, 17:00 CET]. The subject will be understanding the effects of technology. It will focus on examining pervasive and emerging technologies from the perspective of Marshall McLuhan’s media tetrad, as presented here: tetrads for sense-making.

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


the missing half of training

The training industry is based on models that were developed for the military. The Systems Approach to Training includes the ADDIE [analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation] model, with variations used throughout industry. Robert Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction inform much of instructional design. Gagne’s early work was in military training. Other models were developed in the second half of the 20th century but they mostly remained in line with their military roots. One model for instructional design that I promote is Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping. It’s a welcome change, but is focused on individual training.

In the military there is much more training than individual, skill & knowledge-focused, course work. There is also ‘collective training’. Collective training is what military units do when they are not on operations. Collective training is run by operators, not trainers, and is informal, social, with an emphasis on simulation. Types of simulation can range from expensive highly technical combat mission flight simulators, to distributed war games, or command post exercises involving thousands of personnel. (more…)

the uncertain future of training

Training courses are artifacts of a time when resources were scarce and connections were few. That time has passed.

The roots of training are to get a lot of people to do the same thing competently. The Roman army trained soldiers for battle and many other duties, like building roads. Standard methods were developed. Drill and feedback over time helped to develop competence. But the modern training field exploded after 1945. Large organizations created training departments, now called ‘learning & development’ or some other variant, but still focused on one thing: looking backwards. Training looks at how people currently do work and then gets others to replicate this. These are described as competencies, made up of certain, skills, knowledge, and attitudes. The assumption was that what works today will work tomorrow. The training department assumed the status quo. (more…)

knowledge-sharing, post-technology

Your organization just implemented an enterprise collaboration platform. Now what?

Most large organizations today have some kind of knowledge-sharing platform. The recent announcement of Jive’s purchase shows that this field is consolidating with a few large players dominating. The arrival of Workplace by Facebook may even limit tool choice more. For example, Jive sells for $5 – $16 per seat, while Facebook’s Workplace is $1 – $3 per seat, with no lock-in. Facebook Workplace is also free for non-profits and educational staff. Given the diminishing choices, enterprise knowledge-sharing today is even less about the technology.

Over many years of working with enterprise knowledge-sharing and collaboration tools I have learned that the hard work comes after the software has been installed and the initial training sessions are over. Then comes the question, what do we do now? Quite often the answer is: the same as we did before. Even with fewer tools to choose from, the biggest challenge is changing behaviours. This takes time. Therefore training is not the solution. A course will not result in behaviour change. Practice and feedback are needed, as well an environment that reduces barriers to seeking out knowledge, having time to make sense of it, and sharing it with discernment. (more…)

first we shape our tools

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

@wimleers : “We’re building tools for authoritarianism just to get people to click on a shoe ad” — @zeynep at @DrupalConNA #DCzeynep (i.e. @facebook)

Automation is transforming work and the US isn’t ready, via @scottsantens

‘The latest study reveals that for manufacturing workers, the process of adjusting to technological change has been much slower and more painful than most experts thought. “We were looking at a span of 20 years, so in that timeframe, you would expect that manufacturing workers would be able to find other employment,” Restrepo said. Instead, not only did the factory jobs vanish, but other local jobs disappeared too. Acemoglu and Restrepo say that every industrial robot eliminated about three manufacturing positions, plus three more jobs from around town.’

Alien Knowledge: When Machines Justify Knowledge

“Since we first started carving notches in sticks, we have used things in the world to help us to know that world. But never before have we relied on things that did not mirror human patterns of reasoning — we knew what each notch represented — and that we could not later check to see how our non-sentient partners in knowing came up with those answers. If knowing has always entailed being able to explain and justify our true beliefs — Plato’s notion, which has persisted for over two thousand years — what are we to make of a new type of knowledge, in which that task of justification is not just difficult or daunting but impossible?”