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.



The essence of my network learning model is that knowledge flows between individuals engaged in doing work and sharing with their communities and social networks. In the model I show that working out loud comes from our work, while PKMastery is how individuals take control of their professional development. Implementing the network learning model has many facets.


We learn from our experiences. As much as 70%, indicate some models. Therefore it is important to share our work as we do it. We are sharing with trusted colleagues, but it is often implicit and difficult to describe knowledge, so we need ongoing conversations to ensure understanding as we deal with complex issues. The lessons we learn from our work can be shared later and in context with our communities of practice. Some general lessons can then be shared more widely in our social networks. For example, I have learned much from my clients, but I only share general lessons here on my blog.


We get new ideas from people who are most different from us. Social networks provide a fertile environment to share ideas. But we need a safer place to test ideas, so we turn to our trusted communities of practice (note that if your are not a member of at least one community of practice, you are missing a critical aspect of any profession). Once these ideas have been tested, at least in principle, work teams have the opportunity to incorporate them.


Social networks also enable us to find new opinions, perhaps quite different from ours. Instead of getting into a heated debate with someone we do not know, we can discuss and debate these opinions in a safe environment, among trusted colleagues in a community of practice. While we are at work, we make our opinions clear, so that those we are trusted to work with understand from where we are coming. We may not agree, but we understand, because we have work to do.


In social networks we can find new relationships, especially people who may not share our background or culture. These people can help give us a diversity of perspectives. In our communities of practice, we can develop stronger social ties as we test out our ideas and opinions in a trusting environment that is not an echo-chamber. While we work with those with whom we have strong social ties we need to take time to reinforce these relationships through social contact, listening, and empathizing. All relationships are human. The notion that ‘it’s just business’ is for another age.


I share many of my working models here, with many social networks. But these ideas were first developed with my trusted colleagues, such as the coherent organization model, developed with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues. These models were further tested by my clients, many who have adopted them.


Value is what we exchange when we work. I give my time, labour, or something tangible in return for some other value. Our social networks can show us how value networks work, if we take the time and effort to examine them. I have changed some of my practices by seeing how others offer their professional services. These new services can be tested ‘among friends’ as pilot projects to see how they work. For example, I have conducted several pilot projects with Jane Hart over the years. The objective of working with others is to co-create value, each person bringing something of value and then delivering something of greater value. This is how work should be done in the network era — connecting networks, communities, and teams.


5 Responses to “implementing network learning”

  1. CCNA Chennai

    A neatly explained network learning model that is right for teams. Adding the social networks promoting for innovation is a point taken.

  2. Leif Smith

    This is extremely good – a balancing among designed and spontaneous orders is key to successful quests of all kinds, within reach of us and among us.

  3. Alpha Partners

    I belong to three developer and two training communities, and frankly I learn a lot from fellow members. These have subsequently helped me to develop substantially in my field.

    However, it’s important to critically examine every opinion shared on these networks, before consuming them. Doing so would shield you from consuming opinions that lack the desired value.


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