control is for amateurs

Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Meaning is strength. Our survival may depend on our seeking and finding it.” —Viktor Frankl, via @nuri_numinous

@JoyceCarolOates“is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? each day feels monumental & tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away. past crises, like raging wildfires, near-forgotten.”


the future is here

Work is learning, and learning is the work. This has been my tag line for the past decade. Until recently it felt in some ways that I was talking about the future of work, as many organizations still focused on formal course-based training, and education was firmly established on subject-based curriculum developed in isolation from the world.

The pandemic changed everything. Things that we thought would take years were done in a week or two. Is digital transformation even an issue today, or did it just happen? This question has been making the rounds on social media.

Who led the digital transformation of your company?
a) CEO
b) CTO
c) COVID-19

One of my favourite commentaries on schooling from home comes from my friend Tanya. (more…)

new societal infrastructures

In 2004 Bill Draves and Julie Coates wrote Nineshift: Work, life and education in the 21st Century. That was the same year I started blogging here. Nineshift is based on the premise that during the first two decades of the 21st century, there will be a major shift in how we spend 9 hours of each day.

“There are 24 hours in a day. We have no real discretion with roughly 12 of those hours. We need to eat, sleep, and do a few other necessary chores in order to maintain our existence. That hasn’t changed much through the centuries, so far.

That leaves approximately 12 hours a day where we, as individuals, do have some discretion. That includes work time, play time, and family time.

Of those 12 hours, about 75%, or 9 hours, will be spent totally differently a few years from now than they were spent just a few years ago. Not everything will change, but 75% of life is in the process of changing right now.”

The authors put forth that society would significantly shift what we do with those nine hours and this would be complete by 2020.

  1. People Work at Home — “Work is an activity, not a place.”
  2. Intranets Replace Offices
  3. Networks Replace the Pyramid
  4. Trains Replace Cars
  5. Communities Become More Dense
  6. New Societal Infrastructures Evolve
  7. Cheating Becomes Collaboration
  8. Half of all Learning will be Online
  9. Education becomes Web-based


slow media for the great reset

As of today, about 1 billion people are in some form of physical isolation. One of my clients, a global financial institution, has most of its over 200,000 employees at home. Many of these people are encountering distributed work for the first time. Free of the office and the commute they might be able to focus on productive work, depending on their living arrangements. What most of us know — who already work from home — is that a good day is only a few hours of productive work. Knowledge workers cannot produce for more than that. Our brains can’t handle it.

“Thus, while it may be hard for some to believe, the eight-hour workday was initially instituted as a way of making the average workday more humane.

Now, the workday is ripe for another disruption. Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.” — 2016


observation > narration > curation

“In a crisis, you should always deploy an innovation team alongside the business recovery teams … to capture the novel practices … put naive observers in alongside the incident team to capture the key learning points”Dave Snowden

Are you responsible for learning in your organization? What are you doing during this pandemic as your organization reacts and changes its practices? First of all, stop thinking that your work will be remote but business as usual.

“Stop work on that coronavirus eLearning module you started last week. It is already out of date. Focus on curation and access.”Lori Niles-Hofman (more…)

“weeks where decades happen”

Every fortnight — and what a fortnight it has been! — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

6 March — “You’re not going to see public health, let alone pandemic preparedness, at the top of the priority list for this White House.”The Long Now Foundation

7 March — “It’s interesting seeing all the universities that disparaged distance education as not proper suddenly being converted to the benefits of online education.”@mweller

9 March — “Shoutout to all the Zoom engineers keeping the servers up and running as usage skyrockets for personal and business communicationss — can’t imagine what would happen if they had an outage, let’s hope we never find out.”@CallMeVlad (more…)

after the shit has hit the fan

The proverbial shit has hit the fan. Were you ready? Did you have a knowledge network that you could depend upon to make sense of your digital world?

“When the shit hits the fan you want your inside information flow to be at least as fast as what is happening outside. In most organisations this is not the case … If you have a big enough, mature enough, fast enough set of internal conversations taking place then you will be better able to work out what is happening and what to do about it.” —Euan Semple 2020-03-17

For the first time ever, most students in schools in many countries are learning at a distance [850 million out of school as of today]. For the first time ever, in some countries, more people are working remotely than going to a place of work. The network era starts in 2020. Everything before was a prelude.

The new normal, when it comes, will be different. Teaching will be turned upside down. So too will curricula, academic disciplines, and their institutions. (more…)

learning from the external world

What are the most valued ways of learning work? Jane Hart has been asking this question since 2010. Over 7,500 people have responded to date. Jane has analyzed these results first from the perspective of how do people with different characteristics diverge from this overall pattern, and second from the perspective of learning from both internal and external work environments. In the second part, Jane makes three key recommendations.

  1. Help employees (particularly the youngest employees) value learning from the external world, and to take some time to do this for themselves, as well as develop the modern learning skills they need to thrive and survive. In Part 1 we saw how the Freelancers’ profile is one many will need to adopt. See particularly sections 3 – The modern worker and 4 – Encourage a daily self-learning habit.

  2. Help line managers understand the importance of continuous (self-)learning outside the organisation, and to provide time for this – see section 2 – The modern manager

  3. Curate resources and other opportunities from the external environment so that they are integrated into the daily work environment – see section 10 – Offer opportunities for continuous learning


distributed liberating meetings

A great source of knowledge to plan and conduct meetings is Liberating Structures — consisting of 33 different meeting types for Revealing, Analyzing, Spreading, Planning, Strategizing, and Helping. The site links to free mobile applications — Google Play & Apple App Store — that explain what each structure is good for, how to conduct the meeting, and the rationale behind it.

Liberating Structures can also help focus distributed work teams and groups. In addition, the restrictions created by the technology medium can provide more structure than many of the physical meetings we may have attended in the past. Moving these structures online might require a bit more planning, and likely more time, but can still get the job done. For example, online video conferencing platforms that offer breakout rooms are suitable for both large and small group discussions.

So if you want to articulate the paradoxical challenges that a group must confront to succeed, then Wicked Questions might be a good meeting structure. It requires groups of 4-6 and paper for note-taking. Just substitute chairs for a designated breakout room and use a whiteboard and recorded chat. Even the audio can be recorded. This exercise can be done as sessions over a period of time to promote more conversations and reflections. It does require good facilitation and curation skills by those conducting it. (more…)

Strategic Doing — getting to metamodernity

Strategic DoingTM is a process where strategy emerges through the continuous asking of four questions.

  • What could we do? + What should we do — enable us to answer, Where are we going?
  • What will we do? + What’s our 30/30? [what did we learn in the past 30 days & what will we do in the next 30 days?] — provide us with an emerging pathway.

Strategic Doing comprises 10 skills and the book’s authors state that of 500 projects in one initiative, the most successful teams consistently used eight of these skills, while the least successful used only two.

  1. Building a safe space for deep and focused conversations.

  2. Using an appreciative question to frame your conversation.

  3. Identifying the assets at your disposal, including the hidden ones.

  4. Linking and leveraging your assets to create new opportunities.

  5. Identifying a big opportunity where you can generate momentum.

  6. Rewriting your opportunity as a strategic outcome with measurable characteristics.

  7. Defining a small starting project to start moving toward your outcome.

  8. Creating a short-term action plan in which everyone takes a small step.

  9. Meeting every 30 days to review progress, adjust, and plan for the next 30 days.

  10. Nudging, connecting, and promoting to reinforce your new habits of collaboration.