preparing for perpetual beta

The latest technology gadget or silicon valley ‘disruptive’ business model is merely incremental change. But I am convinced that we are living in the middle of an epochal change. I use David Ronfeldt’s TIMN model (2009)  to explain that we are shifting from a tri-form society, where markets dominate, to a quadriform society, where networks dominate. This new societal form will be one of working and learning in perpetual beta.

A similar model, techno-economic paradigms (2009) was developed by Rob Paterson, showing us to be in the transition between capital wealth and a return to a new form of social capital wealth. Eight years later and we are seeing some signs of change with new financial models such as blockchain and a potential for a shift toward platform cooperativism.

It is interesting to note Rob’s conclusion: “There is no compromise between these two models. They are polar opposites. As all the other transitions have been.” 

If we are indeed in an epochal transition, then the most important work is developing new models, metaphors, and understanding of what a network/social society should look like. The answers will not come from our existing structures. Even silicon valley is merely playing the markets and accruing wealth in the same way as the robber barons of the 19th century did. It may be shinier, but today’s financial capital still has no human soul underneath.

Our dominant organizational models need to become network-centric and especially learning-centric. I have developed the personal knowledge mastery discipline coupled with the perpetual beta working model to start an exploration to co-create a shared vision of our worldview.


Networked individuals are the new engaged citizens, and we have to connect with our professional communities, finding them where we can, often aided by social media. These awareness networks can keep us connected to the real world, through wide and diverse human relationships. We cannot rely on our ‘algorithmic overlords’ to tell us how to understand our environment. Building these networks is everyone’s responsibility.

“Taking responsibility for own work and learning is a challenge for knowledge workers as well. Taking these responsibilities requires attitude shift and initiative, as well as developing personal KM knowledge and skills. In a sense personal KM is very entrepreneurial, there are more rewards and more risks in taking responsibility for developing own expertise.” —Lilia Efimova (2004)

Finding communities of practice, where we can safely test alternative ways of thinking and doing, becomes a priority. I have only worked with one higher education client, Bangor University (Psychology), that has pushed its students to develop external professional networks beginning in the first year, using my PKM framework. Why other universities do not prepare students for the ‘outside world’ still amazes me. Professionals without communities to help them continuously refine their practice are at a real loss in this network/social era.

More and more work is happening in short-term project and work teams. Being able to jump in and out, learning as we work, becomes another critical skill set. Making sense of our work is an ongoing sense-making process. In the long run, the more we contribute to our social networks and communities of practice, the more resilient we will make them and in return will weave a stronger social safety net for ourselves. The time to start is now.

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