top tools 2020

Every year, Jane Hart asks, “What are the most popular, useful, valuable, digital tools for learning?” and this year has added, “How has lockdown affected the tools used for learning and development in 2020?” Everyone can add their voice, and voting ends 21 August.

In my case, the tools I use for learning have not changed much since I posted top tools for 2019.

One change I have made is to use Pinboard for my social bookmarks. It is a move I am making toward paying for my online services.

Even though I have been working remotely for most of the past 17 years, I saw an increase in Zoom meetings. I have used Zoom for five years but the past six months have been kind of crazy with meeting requests. I have collected a few social bookmarks on distributed work in the process.

Top Tools for Learning 2020


sense before stories

Beware the storytellers and praise the sensemakers. In story skepticism (2016) I suggested that while storytelling skills may be important, a critical network era skill will be the ability to deconstruct stories. When it comes to this pandemic, there is no shortage of stories. The emotional, shocking, or fantastic stories get all the attention. The hard scrabble of sensemaking does not.

For example, I came across Michael Mina, Epidemiologist, Immunologist & Physician at Harvard School of Public Health & Harvard Medical School, in an interview with the podcast ‘This Week in Virology’ — Test often, fast turnaround. Not only was I impressed at how well Dr. Mina described the situation in clear understandable terms, so were the three virologists who interviewed him. “I learned so much”, said one, “I was blown away … I feel some hope finally”, said another. I am not going to try to explain what was presented, as Dr. Mina does it so well. Take 45 minutes and learn something important about covid-19 testing. You don’t even have to have a degree in science — I don’t. (more…)

we need better learners

The global pandemic is a wake up call and an opportunity. It has shocked our triform (Tribes +Institutions +Markets) economy and society. Over the past two decades we have seen many experiments and movements toward a more equitable, sustainable way of living on this planet (+Networks). We have made the rules for how we are governed and how the economy works. We can change them. We cannot change how the planet’s environment works. We cannot change the laws of physics. We cannot change how the SARS CoV-2 virus acts, as much as we would like to. (more…)

closed and crowded

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

“Only a few know how much one must know, to know how little one knows.” —Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)

“Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.” —Donella Meadows, 2008, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

“Faced with information overload, we have no alternative but pattern-recognition.” —Marshall McLuhan, 1969, Counterblast (more…)

writing in your own voice

A good portion of the workforce has now had a taste of distributed work (I prefer this term to ‘remote work’ which has a connotation of a central location and a number of remote workplaces). And most people, for the most part would like to have an option to work away from the office, as reported in a recent Citi GPS Report“In fact a survey by Gallop has found that three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once restrictions have lifted.” (more…)

perpetual beta 2020

For 16 years my primary sensemaking medium has been this blog. This is where half-baked thoughts get tested, changed, and recombined. They reflect my interactions on social media, experiences through professional engagements, and conversations with colleagues around the world. The final part of my Seek > Sense > Share PKM practice is to put it all together. This too is in perpetual beta because once I do so, I begin on the next iteration.

After 3,300 blog posts, the latest instalment in the Perpetual Beta Series is now available — Perpetual Beta 2020

I wrote the original perpetual beta series as four standalone digital volumes between 2014 and 2017. The changing nature of work, and our evolving perspectives on learning and knowledge were the core themes. I wrote Seeking Perpetual Beta first, in order to create a coherent narrative after ten years of blogging.

Subsequent volumes focused on leadership, personal knowledge mastery, and working models. The next volume, Life in Perpetual Beta, combined the best of the first four books in late 2017, with a new edition in December 2018. An updated edition comprises the first eleven chapters of this e-book. (more…)

stories for the network age

The TIMN model [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] developed by David Ronfeldt has influenced much of my own work in looking at how we are moving toward a network society and must create organizational forms that are beyond national governments and beyond markets. Even combining the efforts of civil society, governments, and markets will not be enough to address our greatest challenges — climate change and environmental degradation.

These have been my assumptions to date.

  1. The three organizing forms for society, chronologically — Tribes, Institutions (Governments), Markets — are widely applicable across history.
  2. Each form builds on the other and changes it.
  3. The last form is the dominant form — today that would be the Market form (witness the emerging pandemic-induced recession and its influence on national governance)
  4. A new form is emerging — Networks (Commons)‚ and hence the T+I+M+N model.
  5. This form has also been called the noosphere.
  6. I have found evidence that what initiated each new form was a change in human communication media — T+I (written word), T+I+M (print), T+I+M+N (electric/digital).
  7. I believe we are currently in between a triform (T+I+M) and a quadriform (T+I+M+N) society, which accounts for much of the current political turmoil in our post-modern world.
  8. This model can help inform us how to build better organizational forms for a coming age of entanglement.

David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla have recently published an update of their original 1999 work on the ‘Noosphere’ — Whose Story Wins: Rise of the Noosphere, Noopolitik, and Information-Age Statecraft. (more…)

non-violence + 3.5%

How many people does it take to change an organization or a society?

Minority groups need 25% to influence the majority in a society. But it only takes 10% if the group is committed with unshakeable belief. Inside an organization, the right mix of people requires only 3% to influence 85% of their colleagues. There is more information about these figures here — 25-10-3

Harvard University Professor Erica Chenoweth’s research is influencing protest movements with her findings — in first being non-violent, and secondly understanding how many people have to get involved with the movement. In the USA this would be just over 11 million people. In Canada it would be 1.3 million. (more…)

meaningful finds

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

Rosalyn Yalow“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.”

Aristotle — “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” via @marksstorm

@WallyBock ‘I’m 74. When people ask me if I’m retired, I answer “What would I retire to?”‘

@malpani“The sharing economy has become a shearing economy, where platforms like Uber, LinkedIn and Airbnb keep the cream and we all get fleeced.” (more…)


This is a retrospective on how my work has been influenced by the Cynefin framework, which I first came across in late 2007, many years after it had been originally published in 1999 — the same year as The Cluetrain Manifesto. After reading some of the background information, I concluded there is no single best way to address our pressing business, societal, or environmental issues. The majority of our challenges are not Obvious or Clear (addressed with best practice, as Frederick Winslow Taylor prescribed with his 1911 Principles of Scientific Management) nor are they merely Complicated (addressed by good practice) but more of our issues are Complex (addressed through emergent practice) and Chaotic (addressed by novel practice).

The Cynefin framework helps to highlight the weakness of instructional systems design. Instead of ISD, we need a design model that helps to template ‘desirable patterns’, recognize ‘undesirable patterns’, and provide a variety of ‘seeds’ for the learning environment. This would be a far better approach for learning than a set of learning objectives and activities, as any learning intervention involving several people is arguably in a complex environment. One aspect of complex environments, according to the Cynefin framework, is that “Cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat”. This sounds like most working environments today. (more…)