still standing and learning

I spent the first 21 years of my working life with a regular pay cheque, lots of formal training, and a fairly regular schedule. Leaving the Army I worked at a university and a few years later for an e-learning startup. In 2003 I found myself without an office or a pay cheque and few prospects for local work. It was a similar situation to what many people faced this Spring with lock downs and job losses due to the pandemic.

After 17 years of distributed work, remote informal learning, and connecting with clients via video conferencing I think I have learned a bit about the ‘new normal’ many people are now facing. One early experience was running the Informal Learning Unworkshop online with Jay Cross, which cemented the idea of perpetual beta in my work.

Harold Jarche is a true pioneer. Nine years ago [2005], long before online activities were commonplace, we conducted a series of Unworkshops on the topic of web-based learning. We relied on free software. Our students came from Australia, Lebanon, Canada, Austria, the Azores, and points in between. Lessons were both synchronous and offline. To give people exposure, we used a different platform each week. I can’t imagine anyone (aside from Harold) crazy (and innovative) enough to sign up for something like this.” —Jay Cross (1944-2015), founder Internet Time Alliance

Social media are different than they were in 2003 but I am still firmly committed to blogging as my main form of sensemaking and connecting with a global audience. I have said many times that my blog gave me everything. In my first year of blogging I came across the concept of personal knowledge management and as part of my ‘learning out loud’ I described my evolving PKM processes over the years.

It was eight years later that I was contacted by Domino’s Pizza to incorporate what I now call personal knowledge mastery into their leadership training for franchise owners. The model kept evolving and interest slowly grew. Later, ING Bank would incorporate some of the model and practices into their digital employee initiative. Carlsberg has used PKM in their global leadership training and we are currently implementing a ‘Working Smarter with PKM’ program at a global financial institution.

The reality of learning and working at the same time is starting to sink in for many people this year. There was no course to prepare us for the pandemic. Medical experts are learning as they go — so is everyone.

There are more questions than answers about the “now normal.” Yet many of these can be approached in a systematic and scientific way. In May 1932, during the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt — who was running for president at the time — called for “bold, persistent experimentation.” We need a similar mindset and approach to shape the “now normal.” While we are likely to be in this situation for quite some time, we have the power to define and make the best of it. —Fair Observer 2020-10-26

So I guess I should say thanks to the owners of that e-learning company who decided to let me go. The company is no longer there but I am still standing, and learning, and better prepared for life in 2020.

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