Exploring social media and open education from the organisational perspective.

Friday’s Finds: December 7th Edition

Unfortunately, illness sidelined my FF last week. But I’m back!

As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, networks—whether that’s learned through Personal Learning Networks developed in Connectivist Massive Online Open Courses or strategies to work in networks within The Coherent Organization—are proposed as the best means to best cope with this new reality.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and revisit what’s driving these approaches. Not that it was entirely purposeful on my part to do this (I think I owe more to @FredWBaker for his many contributions to my reading/viewing list in that regard!), but seems that recently I’ve encountered (or have perhaps attuned myself to) more resources about complexity.

This great article by Keith Morrison provides good context for our current state of complexity (and goes on to raise important points about the issues that complexity can have in an educational context):

‘Complex adaptive systems’ (Waldrop, 1992, pp. 294-9) scan and sense the external environment and then make internal adjustments and developments in order to survive in those changing external environments … The creation of a unique, and collective identity gives the system and its constituent elements a capability for survival, through increasing differentiation – they become unlike other systems, and, thereby, their uniqueness provides their niche in the world, and that unique situation contributes to their survival … Of course, being too different, just as being too similar, may be threatening to the system; finding one’s survival niche by being similar to, but also different from others, is tricky. This catches the partially antinomial nature of some aspects of complexity theory: cooperation together with competition, similarity together with difference, individuality with collectivity, connectedness with separation, necessary deviance with necessary conformity, diversity with uniformity, partial predictability with partial unpredictability, solipsism with the need to understand collectivities.

It sounds an awful lot like the foundation for networked learning and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). It also echoes the collective learning and agility envisioned by Senge for the concept of the learning organisation.

I was also lucky enough to run across an article that helped me to situate Kotter’s older change management work with the great ideas I’ve been following through Harold Jarche and his colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance. Thanks to Harold, I learned that Kotter has apparently realised that resilience to change is best supported by agile networks of collaborative, connected learners. If I’m understanding correctly, Kotter’s old stuff was essentially about enacting change in closed systems.

I also watched this TED talk from George Whitesides about establishing a science of simplicity. There’s a lot to take away, but I’ve pulled out a couple of great quotations below:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – Einstein

“You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” – de Saint-Exupery

Some other great reads that I enjoyed (including two that are side interests of mine):

  • Social Learning Strategies from Jane Hart. This is an amazing resource that I think I completely forgot about regarding the  implementation of social/networked learning (is there a difference?)! All answers are in here, I think!
  • Wow. This is the result of a study on what the new work skills/literacies will be by 2020 (link to study included in the article).
  • Jesse Stommel’s online learning manifesto. Bang on.
  • Bonnie Stewart’s companion piece, “MOOCs Are Not a System

Donald H Taylor

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are all over the news at the moment, with mainstream media such as the New York Times, Forbes and the TES featuring it widely. The L&D and Higher Ed communities, too, have pitched in with their views. Debate has ranged widely on the pedagogical quality and style of MOOCs, on the technologies, on who actually started them and on some of the mind-blowingly huge numbers of students involved. There are also some in L&D who say that MOOCs have little to do with workplace learning (and they are very wrong).

But one topic has received less notice – how will MOOCs be made to pay?

A twitter conversation last night brought this to my attention. My sub-140-character response to the question last night was ‘Freemium model surely?’

I went to sleep wondering how I would make MOOCs pay if I ran a university and…

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Friday’s Finds: November 23rd Edition

This week I found a study that analysed the affective side of group formation in online courses. In particular, I thought that the following quotation about the  development of trust is true of any ICT-moderated context (such as a networked, virtual workplace):

  …members need to be able to trust and feel secure about the other members in the community in order to iteratively, recursively engage within collegial, constructive commentary. If that relationship is not established community members might view the constructive comments personally, and perhaps as offensive. Establishing the foundations of a compelling, resilient relationship between community members is essential before offering any kind of constructive criticism. Being able to express an emotion or offer feedback when communicating within a group signifies contented or comfortable group member dynamics that allow for deep interaction with one another.

This interested me since I recently began working on a new team where a majority of my colleagues are collocated in another city. It also resonated with me given my interest in the formation of Personal Learning Networks and organisational climates that support networked, collaborative/cooperative learning.  Not long ago, Harvard Business Review provided some interesting tips for developing trust among virutal teams. I think it holds true for any sort of collaborative online work:

  • Leverage “swift trust.”
  • Pro-actively build interpersonal trust.
  • Communicate with predictability.
  • Share and rotate power.

Ideally, as Jeff Merrell has observed in his classes, evidence of community will begin to emerge through ‘half-baked’ thinking—displaying trust towards the group—and passionate discussion. As Santos and Hammond (2006) quite aptly suggest, though, community formation is ‘not an automatic and easy process’.

Bonus find: Check out this gem of a post on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) from Harold Jarche. Wow.

Friday’s Finds: November 16th Edition

This week I continued thinking about the feasibility of nudging an organisation towards becoming more networked and over the week I ran into a series of interlinked articles that were really helpful. In my travels I also made some related discoveries: one about the need to revisit the standard model for professional development and another that adds insight into the level of vulnerability required for networked work (including some thoughts on how to work on it).

“…implementation has boiled down to two components: individual skills & organizational support. Effective organizational collaboration comes about when workers regularly narrate their work within a structure that encourages transparency and shares power & decision-making. I have also learned that changing work routines can be a messy process that requires significant time, much of it dedicated to modelling behaviours.”

  • Another good piece from Jarche describing why creativity stems from cooperation—it’s not enough to seek collaboration when the work is complex.
  • Clark Quinn has taken the above and run with it, tentatively plotting out the skills and behaviours needed to become a networked organization (or ‘coherent’, as he describes it). UPDATE: Jay Cross has expanded on this work here.

My takeaway: There needs to be both individual and organisational support to foster a networked organisation, and that work begins with individuals seeing the value of working differently. I suspect what I’m sure I’ve heard before—but perhaps hadn’t fully made sense of—that narration of one’s work comes first to demonstrate the value of sharing learning on-the-job and establish trust.

Shell’s Method of Introducing Networked Work

I learned that Shell also has an innovative method to build capacity for networked work. They’ve successfully implemented this withgeographically di sparate teams to help them to work and learn together to deal with complexity. I don’t think there is copyright attached to this work, so I’ll share my notes:

  • Employees refer to a checklist to determine whether a problem is complex enough that neither they could solve it alone, nor could a manager—that it warrants presenting the problem to other team members using the following protocol:
  • The ‘presenter’ prepares ahead to present the problem to two other ‘peer consultants’, who refrain from problem solving and instead ask deep, probing questions to help the presenter to determine the best solution.
  • The result of this increases net learning and knowledge flow beyond one-on-one (reciprocal learning). Having more than one ‘consultant’ holds the peer consultants in check from rushing to solutions, as opposed to asking probing questions. This also works for examining why something went well.

The result:

  • Parties are better acquainted with each other’s work
  • Parties tap into the wisdom and experience of the group
  • Parties learn to see each other as resources
  • Assurance gained that colleagues aren’t alone in their issues (despite geographic isolation, in Shell’s case)
  • Team building effect (trust and support develops)

Introducing the protocol requires facilitation. This process needs to be facilitated in front of the entire team first (at least once or twice) to ensure that all parties know how to use the protocol.

A few alternatives for the facilitation piece:

  • Alternative 1: This can be scaled up a bit, but recommend no more than 10 people and time accordingly. This gives more time to the consultants but can be overwhelming for the presenter.
  • Alternative 2: Can do a large group and run parallel groups (groups of 3 in room). Do 3 rounds. Break into 5 or 6 groups.

NOTE: Virtual teams should try to have videoconference or some other way of having all parties see one another given the level of risk involved in initial practice sessions.

Other Discoveries

Friday’s Finds: November 9th Edition

A visualisation of those who mentioned a public health organisation on Twitter. Organisations are increasingly operating in a similar way.

My week had me thinking a lot about resistance to change while I continued to read about the new skills and abilities we need to possess in contemporary organisations. Our working methods are changing—we are collaborating more and more in matrix situations and we are working more virtually. What’s the delay to networked, knowledge work?

A few related things that I read this week:

        • Two more general articles on why it’s important to ‘expose expertise‘ in organisations and some of the ways that collaborative technology can enable this new way of working. However, employees will need to ‘learn how to learn’ in this way in order to do so. How can an HRD practitioner demonstrate the strategic value of this to decision-makers for the initial buy-in needed to enact this shift?
        • It’s not enough to have just have the technology, it’s a culture change. Lessons learned from other large organisations’ fostering of collaborative workplace methods.
        • Julian Stodd discusses our need to become ‘agile’ learners in order to be adaptable to rapid change.
        • “Routine workers might need organised and designed learning solutions; but knowledge workers (can) organise their own learning…” – Jane Hart.
        • Harold Jarche suggests why we need to get on board with this as learning professionals.

Questions that developed:

        • What holds us back—as individuals and as organisations—from developing the capacity to work collaboratively?
        • Does this come down to fear, and if so, can it be overcome by modeling the new working behaviours and showing openness to help others to do the same? Knowledge Management (KM) expert Dave Snowden says that ‘…just sharing and having conversations will not scale, easy to argue with hindsight … Curiosity is a key point.’ So, overall thinking must change. But how?
        • Is support best championed at the top or can change come from the bottom? Or is it situational? Kotter’s change management theory suggests that it starts at the top by creating a sense of urgency.

What has been your experience?

November 2nd – Friday’s Finds

Today’s post is brief…!

Great thinking:

  • This week I made the most obvious of discoveries through a couple of conversations: Knowledge sharing *is* communicating. (Sometimes we overcomplicate things.)
  • More on heutagogy: This article provides a framework from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy, the latter of which is a core competency for the 21st Century—a must read! Note: I’ve been reading that we’re no longer in a knowledge economy: we are in a collaboration economy.
  • One of the reasons I’d love to learn how to conduct a network analysis is to uncover connections and relationships that are hard to locate otherwise—it’s so related to Knowledge Management (KM)! I also thought that this observation of the potential impact of networked arrangements on organisations in this article was particularly interesting: “…interconnectivity is beneficial but also brings in vulnerability: if you and I are connected we can share resources; meanwhile your problems can become mine, and vice versa”. Is this a dark side of networks?

Interesting Finds:

  • The etymology of the Personal Learning Network seems to go back as far as 1998. Thanks Clint!


Friday’s Finds (Oct 26th)

Historical archaeology at Champoeg State by gbaku, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  gbaku 


In keeping with my promise to keep seeking, sensing and sharing as much as I’m able, here’s my October 26th edition of Friday’s Finds.

Great Thinking:

  • Harold Jarche proposes that organisations operate in a system of networked unmanagement. Provocative stuff! I liked this: “How to solve problems together is becoming the real business imperative. Sharing and using knowledge in new ways is where business value lies.”
  • What does it mean to become a collaborative, networked organisation? Jane Hart explains. (SO good)
  • “…we have been ‘educated’ to reject [our] human nature and instead of sharing our knowledge not only for our very own benefit, but that of others, we have been taught how we need to protect it, to hoard it from others, because ‘knowledge is power’ and if we release our knowledge, we release our power, when we know it’s rather the opposite: knowledge SHARED is power.Luis Suarez (of IBM)

New concepts:

  • I learned that heutagogy takes andragogy one step further. I still wonder how learners can develop the ability to self-direct and continuously learn. I’ve ruminated on this in an earlier post, and Jeff Merrell took it further with his recent post on digital literacy. Have any thoughts?

Friday’s Finds


I’ve been inspired to start sharing some things that catch my attention each week. Here goes!

It’s been a heavy week of organisational Knowledge Management (KM) boot camp for me…

Great Thinking: 

  • How do we avoid hoarding info that we don’t use & make sure the good stuff is easy to quickly access? I like James Tyer’s thinking about Personal Knowledge Management in his blog last week & I was happy to see him discuss the results of his experimentation here. Currently trying this out… 
  • The power of vulnerability (it’s the best way to learn). If you have 20 minutes to spare, it’s worth it.
  •  “Stories are the best delivery mechanism for knowledge” Benjamin Ellis
  • “The value of knowledge is in the network [comprised of individuals], not the artifacts” Stephanie Barnes


  • I found a great KM conference (#kmw12). By reading about the presentations & asking clarifying questions from experts who were chatting in the backchannel, I was able to further refine my thinking about how KM can work in the organisational context. I Storified some of the good stuff here.

A follow-up to a post I wrote last year. Jeff says it better than I do and relates it to digital literacy. Great stuff!

Brian M. Lucey

Last week, in The Irish Times, an opinion piece was printed on third level education. Penned by Paul Mooney, sometime President of the National College of Ireland, and now back as a fulltime management consultant. To put it mildly it was…astonishing. Fuller than straw men than a wizard of oz convention, it has been mercilessly critiqued. Even the comments below the fold in the Irish times run 10-1 ‘against’ his broad thrust.  I have yet to see a comprehensive piece defending it. Richard Tol, no friend of lazy academics, opened a debate on Irisheconomy, where the public sector is not exactly flavour of the month, and yet the overwhelming perspective of the commentators was that while for sure there were and are issues of concern in irish higher education Mooney’s article was so over the top as to be risible.  The estimable Rob Kitchen, socioeconomic geographer and writer of excellent crime novels on his

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