set an example or leave the building

Leadership by example has been a continuous theme here.

2008 — Wrong Medium, No Message — You have to understand what it’s like to be a node in a social network and that there is almost nothing like it in the industrial workplace or school system to prepare you for this. The basic premise is that you have to walk the talk before you can criticize.

2009 — Communities and Work — The role of online community manager is fast becoming a hot job opportunity for people who not only understand the technologies but how to exert influence in a network. It’s like pushing a rope. Leadership by example (or modelling instead of shaping) is a good starting point.

2013 — leadership by example — Perhaps the problem is the nature of leadership. Is it a skill that can be fairly quickly developed, or rather a craft that takes time to develop? When it comes to crafts, that require much time and practice, modelling may be a better method than shaping.

2014 — leadership for the network era — In our networked world, modelling behaviours may be a better strategy than shaping on any pre-defined curriculum. With modelling, the learner is progressively supported. In connected leadership, people can be both teachers and learners. Therefore neither training programs, nor coaching, are enough. Leadership by example becomes the key. (more…)

navigating complexity

The Cynefin framework can help us connect work and learning, especially for emergent and novel practices, for which we do not have good or best practices known in advance. When we want to create a conducive learning environment for knowledge workers, the Cynefin framework helps us see the inherent weakness of instructional systems design (ISD) — designed for formal learning — which works from the premise of predetermined learning objectives and activities, usually based on good and best practices observed in the workplace.

I discussed learning in the complex domain last year and used the following visual to describe some ways that teams, communities, and networks can organize to improve knowledge sharing and sense-making.

The image below takes the basic PKM model — with teams in blue, communities in red, and networks in green — along two axes: high & low structure, and low & high abstraction. These are split in half — one for the Complex domain, and the other for the ordered domains (Complicated & Clear). The Chaotic domain has unique conditions and requires a different approach, beyond this post. (more…)

airborne finds

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@DRTomlinsonEP: “I know I go on about this AN AWFUL lot, but if you have no idea how a pathogen is transmitted, you have no idea how to PREVENT transmission.
[UK Chief Medical Officer, Professor] Chris Whitty knew SARS2 was airborne, 5 Mar 2020”YouTube Video

@JimRosenthal4: “Boeing study shows that on an airplane with HEPA filtration, particles transferred between a cougher and breather are about the same as separation of 2 meters in a conference room. Wear a mask!”Boeing Cabin Airflow Video (more…)

Dee Hock 1929-2022

Dee Hock, founder and CEO of VISA, died last week at the age of 93. VISA’s success was based on its chaordic structure.

chaordic [kay-ordʹ-ic], adj., fr. E. chaos and order. 1. The behavior of any self-organizing, self-governing, organ, organization, or system that harmoniously exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos. 2. Patterned by chaos and order in a way not dominated by either. 3. Blending of diversity, chaos, complexity and order characteristic of the fundamental organizing principles of evolution and nature. —Dee Hock

In the early 1990s, Hock looked into how to create more democratic companies, a mission he never achieved.

Not so long ago, says [Peter] Senge, Hock was addressing an audience full of CEOs. And he really had them pumping: “Great! This is how to create a learning organization that can grow at 20% per year! He’s found the keys to the kingdom!” That is, until the end, when he told them about the one little problem: “You’ll never be able to justify paying a CEO $1 million a year to run this kind of corporation.” —FastCompany 1996-10-31


stupid management practices continue

Ten years ago, I wrote that the performance appraisal treadmill is keeping organizations from testing out and adopting better management models for the networked economy. Performance appraisals are like academic grades and keep the focus on the individual. In a collaborative, social enterprise this is counter-productive. In today’s enterprise, work is learning and learning is the work, and it has to be done cooperatively.

“Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review … The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.” —W. Edwards Deming (1982)

Even technology companies are governed by outdated management models. (more…)

analyzing automation

Several years ago I recommended one small change that could have a major impact would be to look at everyone’s work from the perspective of standardized versus customized (non-standardized) work. Every person in the company, with the help of some data and peer feedback, should be able to determine what percentage of their time is spent on standardized work.

If the percentage is over a certain threshold —perhaps 50% — then it becomes a management task to change that person’s job and add more customized work. The company can be constantly looking at ways to automate any standardized work in order to stay ahead of technology, the market, and the competition. While automation is pretty well inevitable, it does not have to decimate a workforce.

Looking at the overall company balance between standardized and customized work should be an indicator of its potential to succeed. By visualizing the Labour/Talent split, people in the company can take action and make plans before the inevitable shift. This also means that jobs and roles have to become more flexible and open to change. (more…)


We recently finished a PKM workshop and in one of our discussions we talked about intentionality — “The fact of being deliberate or purposive, or the quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.” This is the core of personal knowledge mastery. It is a discipline built on many small practices, such as:

  • narrating our work
  • adding value before sharing information
  • helping make our networks smarter and more resilient
  • network weaving and closing triangles
  • seeking diverse perspectives
  • sharing half-baked ideas

Together, these practices can develop into an intentional sense-making discipline. (more…)

ITA Jay Cross Award 2022

internet time allianceThe Internet Time Alliance Award — in memory of Jay Cross — is presented to a workplace learning professional who has contributed in positive ways to the field of Informal Learning and is reflective of Jay’s lifetime of work.

Recipients champion workplace and social learning practices inside their organization and/or on the wider stage. They share their work in public and often challenge conventional wisdom. The Award is given to professionals who continuously welcome challenges at the cutting edge of their expertise and are convincing and effective advocates of a humanistic approach to workplace learning and performance.

We announce the award on 5 July, Jay’s birthday.

Following his death in November 2015, the partners of the Internet Time Alliance — Jane Hart, Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn, and myself — resolved to continue Jay’s work. Jay Cross was a deep thinker and a man of many talents, never resting on his past accomplishments, and this award is one way to keep pushing our professional fields and industries to find new and better ways to learn and work. (more…)

When “hope and history rhyme”

When the pandemic began — it’s not over — I stopped reading dystopian fiction, some of which I had recommended in Summer science-fiction a couple of years before. The last one I had read was Station Eleven, which I am glad I did so before March 2020. My first read this Summer has been Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future — here is Bryan Alexander’s final instalment from his book club.

The Ministry for the Future can be called speculative fiction, and in this case provides a wide array of methods and processes that we might collectively use to get us through the current climate catastrophe. As fiction, it is more persuasive than any research report or white paper. It opens with a heat wave in India with temperatures above 38C and 60% humidity. Millions of people die as a result. Well, the 2022 heat wave in Pakistan and India hit 49.5C! (more…)

telling stories

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“Proposal to stop referring to the pandemic in the past tense and climate change in the future tense.”@BethSawin

That you tried your damndest
only to fall ill now
is no reason to feel shame
after so many months
of masks and social distancing
of shots and canceled plans
it is not that you failed
but that your society failed you.


The shame should rest
Where the blame does rest
Yet those who should hang their heads,
abashed at the unexpected harvest their actions did sow
Do not see the ripples in the pond,

while, those who bobbling in the wake,
hear the peal of memory,
“I made a mistake.”

@Bitsy15CS (more…)