making meaning

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

“The hardest part of teaching: Having to justify to students that what they’re learning in school is relevant and will be useful in the future.”

The Most Precious Resource is Agency

Agency is the capacity to act. More subtly: An individual’s life can continue, with a certain inertia, that will lead them on to the next year or decade. Most people today more-or-less know what they are going to be doing for the first twenty-or-more years of their life—being in some kind of school (the “doing” is almost more “being told what to do”). Beyond that age there is of course the proverbial worker, in modern stories usually an office worker, who is often so inert that he becomes blindsided by a sudden yank of reality (that forces him out of his inertia, and in doing so the story begins).

Gaining agency is gaining the capacity to do something differently from, or in addition to, the events that simply happen to you. Most famous people go off-script early, usually in more than one way. Carnegie becoming a message boy is one opportunity, asking how to operate the telegraph is another. Da Vinci had plenty of small-time commissions, but he quit them in favor of offering his services to the Duke of Milan. And of course no one has to write a book, or start a company. But imagine instead if Carnegie or Da Vinci were compelled to stay in school for ten more years instead. What would have happened?



In 2013 I wrote that work is already a game. Adding badges or other extrinsic motivators to professional learning only detracts from the real game. Gamification also creates incentives that, when removed, may result in going back to previous behaviours.

In a Twitter thread Ana Lorena Fabrega discusses gamification and suggests that it is often ‘pointsification’.

“Pointsification ties to external motivation—free time, tasty treats, or bragging rights. It’s taking the things that are least essential to games and making them the core of the experience.
The problem with pointsification is that it’s not sustainable.

While it may help tweak some behaviors in the short term, it doesn’t work for long enough to build actual skills.

Pointsification ‘solutions’ miss the heart of what makes a gameful experience effective for learning.”


leadership in a distributed workplace

Distributed, remote, and even hybrid work have one similar quality — they expose cracks in the system that could be covered over in face-to-face settings. They make dysfunctional workplaces transparently obvious. Distributed work, like online teaching, has to be much more explicit. Both require excellent communication skills, especially writing, because the work becomes more asynchronous. In a global economy, work is distributed across both space and time.

Those in leadership positions — servant leaders — have to manage networked contributors working in environments that are transparent, diverse, and open. Anything less is sub-optimal. They need the skills developed by leading multiple players in online role-play games — creating highly motivated and remote collectives to battle elves or aliens or build civilisations. These skills are not taught in business schools and few senior managers or executives have them today. (more…)


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

“Always urgent, but never specific. That should get the result you want.”@MeetingBoy

“Saying it’s ‘post-pandemic’ because your regional lockdown is over is like saying it’s ‘post-climate change’ because the flooding in your town receded.”

“Vaccine efforts, and much of public health for that matter, are about convincing and manipulating people rather than providing them options, data, or decision-making tools. The base assumption is that the public is stupid and that the information they get must be carefully controlled and metered. That approach doesn’t work well in a networked information-rich environment. To compensate for this and achieve planned outcomes, network technology companies are being enlisted to actively control, censor, and manage public discussions on public health. NOTE: we saw this happen with [US] politics in 2019.” —@JohnRobb


post-production society

Technology at Work v6.0The Coming of the Post-Production Society, is the latest research report from Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, published in June 2021 [Disclosure: Citi is a client]. One year ago I summarized the previous version, The New Normal of Remote Work. I concluded that most people would like the option to work from home, most of the time. This is especially true for knowledge workers. They have tasted it, and in spite of the challenges of being forced into what I would prefer to call ‘distributed work’ — they like it.

The report has four chapters.

  1. The Post-production Society
  2. Covid-19 and Digitization
  3. Fiscal Policy — From Life Preservers to Stimulus
  4. Inventing the Future

I will highlight a few sections of interest, but there is much more in this +100 page report. (more…)

ITA Jay Cross Award 2021

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…)

battling elves and building civilizations

Why do we follow others? Because we trust them for their knowledge, advice, support, vision, etc.

“We follow others for various reasons, some because of their knowledge, some because of their vision, some because of their inspiration, and all for the confidence we place in them. No trust, no follower-ship. Without confidence from others, a person can not effectively lead. No follower-ship, no leadership.” —Valdis Krebs 2014-12-11

As this pandemic becomes endemic, many organizations are returning to the office. But the past 18 months have showed most of us that we don’t have to work in an office to be effective. As remote, distributed work takes hold across many industries, what kind of leaders will be trusted?

In a long thread on Twitter, Simon Wardley describes where these new leaders — those who can organize distributed teams — will come from. (more…)

it’s science

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

@A_AMilne“My father used to say that the third-rate brain thought with the majority, the second-rate brain thought with the minority and the first-rate brain thought for itself. Where there was uncertainty, where opinions differed, I would have to decide for myself.”

COVID19 original coronavirus + variants of interest & concern so far + country where they were first found:

– SARS‑CoV‑2 (China)
– Alpha (UK)
– Beta (South Africa)
– Gamma (Brazil)
– Delta (India)
– Theta (Philippines)
– Iota (US)
– Kappa (India)
The pandemic is not over yet.


a unique opportunity

“The spread of germs is the price we pay for the spread of ideas.”Nicholas Christakis

Many people want a return to normal. But normal is what got us into this pandemic — mass air travel, global supply chains, constant expansion, pollution, biological weapons research, etc. What we have is a unique opportunity for significant change and a 21st century Renaissance.

“The Black Death upended the world of the Florentines and mightily reduced their numbers. And how did the Florentines respond to mass death and a shortage of hands? With great creativity and new visions. They opened their society to change and filled the ranks of the dead with new faces. You called it the Renaissance.

My COVID-19, on the other hand, is a minor pandemic, a small disrupter. A rupture to be sure, but nothing like my Black Death. But do you think that I have stopped your world so you can daily complain about lockdowns and shortages of toilet paper and computer chips? No. I am here, present and alive, so you can take stock, make amends, and pay attention to what matters.

Whether there will be a renaissance in your future depends not on how much knowledge your society has manufactured. Rather, it rests on how much wisdom you have cultivated.” —The Pandemic Speaks


we don’t need no stinking jobs

Last month I wrote that if you are wondering why work is not getting done as desired, then focus on the system. As we see people returning to offices and workplaces (hopefully post-pandemic) we should reflect on what this past year of remote working has really accomplished. Remote, or distributed, work has even been empowering, as stated by some Apple employees in an open letter to the CEO.

“For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office. The last year has felt like we have truly been able to do the best work of our lives for the first time, unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices and in-person co-located offices themselves inevitably impose; all while still being able to take better care of ourselves and the people around us.” —The Verge 2021-06-04