It’s the Network

Over the past decade I’ve come to the conclusion that networks are changing everything in our lives. Dealing with networks is the big challenge for leaders, managers and knowledge workers of all types. Because we are all inter-networked, work is learning and learning is the work. We can no longer separate learning and working, and all attempts to do so are fraught with problems. Instructional content developed earlier is quickly out of date. Those who should be attending formal training are too busy working, so they slowly lose their skills and currency and become out of date. This is usually realized just after being downsized and forced to look for new work.

Acceptance of life in perpetual Beta is a necessary attitude to survive and thrive in our networked society. As Jay Cross wrote here several years ago,

No human life goes beyond beta; life is a perpetual experiment and reshaping. Speaking for myself, I recognize that I still have a lot of bugs.

What’s beta and what’s not is a state of mind. Many people try to go into release prematurely: they put defective product on the market. (By productizing people, I mean locking in on attitudes, structure, opinions, etc.: becoming rigid.)

Life as beta is uplifting. You have the opportunity to streamline things, to resond to feedback, to become a killer app.

Lots of alphas are claiming beta status now. They debut on life’s big stage long before they’re prepared to play the part.

As Jay says, Beta is not Alpha. You actually have to do something concrete but you also have to be ready to let it go.

I am seeing a great need for senior managers to get some control over their work in an increasingly complex business environment. Paradoxically, they can gain control by giving up control:

Acceptance of life in perpetual Beta is the first step.

Developing personal strategies for sense-making, such as PKM, is the next step.

Sharing knowledge and participating in professional networks then becomes a necessity for work.

Being willing to create and test emergent practices is next.

Finally, we need to build new structures, like wirearchy, for how we work and learn together.

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