the neo-generalist

A neo-generalist is somewhere between a polymath and a hyperspecialist. One metaphor used by the authors of The Neo-Generalist is ‘frequency hopping’, “wandering, accumulating, sampling, mixing, putting into practice what they learn.” Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin have written a book that defies the formula of most business and management books. Instead of one or two easily understood ideas, they offer a cornucopia of ideas, perspectives, and opinions. If you just read all the books they mention, you would be much the wiser.

“The jack [of all trades] is a lifelong learner, a trickster who will acquire the skills to navigate multiple domains … It is why this book is called The Neo-Generalist rather than The Neo-Specialist. It is about people who can specialise as the context requires it but whose personal preferences lie in the area of polymathic generalism, where they are able to exercise their curiosity and pursue diverse interests by choice, through the confluence of both preference and context.”


the economy of sharing

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

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause & reflect” – Mark Twain – via @DebraWatkinson

@RalphMercer“Passion distorts reality, common sense enables the status quo, it is the balance between the two we need to strive for.”

Chimpanzees choose cooperation over competition: Study challenges distinctiveness of human cooperation

“It has become a popular claim in the literature that human cooperation is unique. This is especially curious because the best ideas we have about the evolution of cooperation come straight from animal studies. The natural world is full of cooperation, from ants to killer whales. Our study is the first to show that our closest relatives know very well how to discourage competition and freeloading. Cooperation wins!”


imagining open collaboration

At work and in school we are pretty good at creating documentation to share explicit knowledge. This is the kind of knowledge that goes into training programmes. It’s the result of interviews with subject matter experts and reviews of the field of study. For the most part, it’s stuff that is easy to codify and share.

On the other hand, understanding implicit knowledge requires a lot of conversations. It means learning and working at the same time. The type of knowledge we need to make critical decisions is often emergent, in that it emerges over time through what my colleague Clark Quinn calls ‘open collaboration’.

“This is what decision-making looks like when it matters and it’s new: open collaboration … The details are not trivial, they’re critical.

And these situations are increasing. Whether life-threatening or not, and even with the power of data, we’re going to be facing increasingly challenging decisions.  We need to learn when and how to collaborate.  One person following a script (which should be automated) is increasingly less likely to be the answer. An individual equipped with models, and resources including others, is going to be the minimal necessary solution.” – Clark Quinn


popular posts

Even after having written almost three thousand blog posts here, I am still fascinated by what interests readers and what does not. For example, my fortnightly Friday’s Finds get the least traffic, though I receive several personal notes every year from people who really appreciate the curation of what I have found on the web.

I read other blogs through a feed reader, the current one being Feedly. This aggregator also lets you share and save with many other web tools, as shown in the image below. (more…)

we are the experts

If work is learning, and learning is the work, why do we need experts responsible for managing it? Do we need learning experts in the network era? Hierarchies and experts have a symbiotic relationship. Without hierarchies, no authority can tell us who is the expert. Were people able to learn before there were hierarchies and experts? Would workers be able to learn today without learning experts?

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. But without hierarchy we need to engage with knowledge networks because we are no longer told what to think and do. Our greatest knowledge asset today is our network. Individual expertise is gradually being replaced by cooperative expertise. I have said before that individuals need to take control of their learning in a workplace where they are simultaneously connected, mobile, and global: while conversely contractual, part-time, and local. This is becoming an imperative. (more…)

connected curiosity

Some people seem to be naturally curious. Others work at it, while 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.

The primary work skills of the previous century, what I call ‘Labour’, can be summed up as: compliance, diligence, and intelligence. These skills were needed for routine work and standardized jobs. But the new skills required to live in a world dominated by networks and non-routine work requires ‘Talent’: curiosity, creativity, and empathy. The core skill is curiosity. Curiosity about ideas can improve creativity. Curiosity about people can improve empathy, through understanding others. We cannot be empathetic for others unless we are first curious about them. We cannot be creative unless we are first curious to learn new ideas. (more…)

friday’s finds #278

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

@Richard_Florida “The greatest innovation hoax is that somehow a fancy building will help produce them …”

@JeffWeiner “Well said. Why sci-fi author William Gibson likes Twitter: I’m able to wake up, open Twitter & glance across the psychic state of the planet” (more…)

a network perspective

The three overlapping circles of the network learning model – social networks, communities of practice, work teams – have been described by Patti Anklam as three network types – connectivity, alignment, productivity. This makes sense, because in social networks we mostly connect, while in communities of practice we strive to find alignment between ideas and practice, and in our work teams we produce something of value. Patti goes on to describe the key tasks for ‘network builders’. (more…)

implementing a triple operating system

A triple operating system aligns work and learning and has a network perspective. It is based on three interrelated processes, first proposed by Valdis Krebs: Awareness, Alternatives, Action. My perspective is that people in organizations cannot take appropriate action unless they have systems in place to consider alternatives, and are aware of the complex environments in which they operate. While my network learning model [previous post] looks at knowledge flow from the individual’s point of view, the triple operating system is an organizational perspective. (more…)

implementing network learning

In the network era, developing the skills of a master artisan in every field of work will be critical for success. While getting work done collaboratively will continue to be of importance in all organizations, it will not be enough. New ideas will have to come from our professional networks in order to keep pace with innovation and change in our fields. More importantly, a safe place is needed to connect these new ideas to the work to be done. Communities of practice will continue to grow as knowledge artisans need to integrate their work and learning in a trusted space. As the gig economy dominates, communities of practice can bring some stability to our professional development. These are owned by the practitioners themselves, not an association and not an organization. You know you are in a real community of practice when it changes your practice. (more…)