life in the gig economy

Fewer Frustrations, More Stress

I’m in my 14th year of operating solo and have watched as several of my colleagues have gone independent and I have learned from others who have been freelancing longer than me. I know that many salaried jobs can be frustrating, from my own experience, client work, and talks with friends and colleagues. On the other hand, freelancing is probably less frustrating, as you have much more control, but more stressful for the same reason.

Nine years ago I wrote an article, So you want to be an e-learning consultant?, and updated it on this blog in 2011, So you (still) want to be an e-learning consultant? In 2007 I advised those considering consulting to keep costs low and not overestimate how much they will make. I noted that many clients pay 30 days or more after being billed. Well reality is that some clients take over 100 days to pay, as standard policy.

The freelance consulting field continues to grow, so there is constant global competition. This can make it a buyer’s market. I know many free agents who have significant gaps between paid work. I am currently in a period of several months without client work. During the last recession I went over eight months without revenue. If you are going to make the move, ask yourself how long you can last without any new income. It should be at least three months. (more…)

the third bucket

In a discussion I had with a senior Human Resources executive at a large corporation, he noted that when it comes to managing people and their talents, there are three buckets. Two of these are easy to fill, while the third is the real challenge:

1. Tools

2. Skills

3. Meta-Competencies:

Learning how to Learn (e.g. PKMastery)

Working in Digital Networks (e.g. Perpetual Beta) (more…)

working in perpetual beta

working-perpetual-betaWorking in Perpetual Beta is the latest volume in the perpetual beta series. It began with Seeking Perpetual Beta, a synthesis of 10 years of blogging. The next volume, Finding Perpetual Beta, specifically focused on personal knowledge mastery. Adapting to Perpetual Beta, published one year later, was an examination of leadership in the network era.

My intention with this fourth volume of the perpetual beta series is to provide a common framework from which others can test new organizational models and better ways of coordinating human work. This is not a recipe book. It is not based on best practices. I am setting forth what I believe may lead to some emergent workplace practices for the near future. Given the rise of automation, continuing income inequality, increasing human migration, and accelerating climate change, we have to think differently. This is my contribution to a new perspective on how people can work and learn together.


power and addicts

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

“Power not only corrupts, it addicts.” – Ursula Le Guin, via @ndcollaborative

“You are reading a book,” the car said. It pulled over and stopped. “This road is paid for by advertising boards. Look at them to proceed.” – by @MicroSFF AKA Micro Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories

A Walking Tour of New York’s Massive Surveillance Network – via @jafurtado

[Ingrid] Burrington points out that infrastructure is often designed to be ignored. The field guide, with its cheerful drawings of manhole covers and cable markings, turns the infrastructure into something ordinary and familiar, not intimidating, and not some magical process by which videos and images appear in your phone.

“If it’s effective, it’s invisible,” she says. “But if it’s taken for granted, we lose the ability to make decisions about how it’s used.”


to retrieve or to extend

It seems that ‘millennials’ in America do not have a lot of confidence in their institutions and markets. According to a 2016 Vox survey, corporate America, governors, and news agencies ranked the lowest. The status quo is not faring well. This is not surprising if we look at the major shift in how we humans are organizing, which is only the fourth in history. The TIMN model shows how each shift created a new dominant form of organizing people: first in tribes, then through institutions, and later in markets. And now we are beginning an age of network dominance. (more…)

valued work is not standardized

Does automation result in job loss?

“Consider, for example, the effect of the automated teller machine (ATM) on bank tellers. The number of fulltime-equivalent bank tellers has grown since ATMs were widely deployed during the late 1990s and early 2000s (see Figure 1). Why didn’t employment fall? Because the ATM allowed banks to operate branch offices at lower cost; this prompted them to open many more branches (their demand was elastic), offsetting the erstwhile loss in teller jobs (Bessen 2016).” – WEForum: James Bessen


seek > sense > share for cities

Two years ago, a number of members from UCLG (United Cities & Local Governments) participated in a personal knowledge mastery workshop. This was part of the organization’s search for “practical solutions to fulfill the citizen’s demand” acknowledging that “learning cannot be conducted alone but has to be part of partnerships”. One result was an initiative between Mozambique and Brazil that embraced my seek > sense > share framework in a unique way (PDF pp. 44 – 47).

“The methodology used throughout the project and the role of partners is described using Harold Jarche’s ‘Seek, Sense, Share’ learning framework as it seeks to facilitate the sharing of complex knowledge and foster a network built on trusted relationships.

Seek: Identify Partners, Cities, Technical and Political Leaders, and People
“The objective was to bring the actors together through triangular cooperation built around Brazilian cities’ experiences and expertise, European support and Mozambican leadership.”

Sense: Building Content and Results
“This methodology was an eye-opener for many mayors, who thus had a better understanding of the role and work of their technicians, which led to higher levels of trust.”

Share: Disseminate Results and Evaluate the Process
“Additional outreach included a blog to share the results and to connect to other stakeholders; a newsletter; radio interviews provided by Brazilian mayors; and strategic connections to other events and meetings in Brazil.”


a workable future

In the IFTF report Ten Strategies for a Workable Future, the authors highlight issues for the US labour force, which I believe are applicable to many other countries and economies. (full report PDF)

  1. Combine the best of investor-owned and commons-based platform models
  2. Solve for both transparency and privacy
  3. Integrate marginalized workers in a sustainable economy
  4. Ensure opportunities for workers to advance outside of traditional organizational hierarchies
  5. Support worker-owned identities
  6. Create ways for workers to bring their voices together
  7. Reinvent benefits to follow workers everywhere
  8. Integrate learning and work
  9. Prepare youth for “the hustle”
  10. Champion a good work code

I have discussed most of these issues on this blog, such as platform capitalism, integrating work & learning, and the limits of hierarchies. The triple operating system model for network era organizations aligns with these recommendations, particularly the need to operate as temporary, negotiated hierarchies and the requirement for safe places to work on alternatives (communities of practice). This model is based on the core principles of subsidiarity, wirearchy, and network management. (more…)

carpe diem

Arun Pradhan recently asked about my own experiences of learning and working. I decided to work and learn out loud and post my responses here. There were four questions, but my responses overlapped, so I have written a single, narrative response, below.

  1. Q1. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from experience, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you used intentional practice, learnt from failure, learnt from ambitious projects and/or used reflection)
  2. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from people, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learnt from project teams, mentors, coaches and/or broader social networks)
  3. In your working life, how have you learnt effectively from courses, research or investigation, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learnt from reading on the web, reading books or attending courses)
  4. What’s your top advice for someone who wishes to develop faster and learn complex skills in modern workplaces?

The first twenty-one years of my work life were spent serving in the Canadian military. During that time I had four years of formal university education, followed by military courses and instruction totaling several years. I also completed a Master of Education degree part-time while working. I was a trained and qualified infantry officer, health care administrator, and training development officer. On leaving the military in 1998, I starting working in the field of learning technologies, where I had minimal formal education, other than a course in instructional design. My Master’s degree was in adult education and not much use in the field of knowledge management or human performance technology, the main focus of my work for my first two civilian jobs. (more…)