It’s the network …

I presented on Managing in a Networked World at DevLearn 2011 today in Las Vegas.

How do you manage a workforce that is both nomadic and collaborative? In a 24/7 always-on- and-interconnected world, do we need to rethink the industrial-workplace social contract that’s based on hours worked and being on-the-job ? Join Harold Jarche to discuss how these and other trends mean a shift to perpetual Beta, where learning is the work.

A total of four people attended, as compared to about 50 for a session this morning on some new learning technology tool. Many of my conversations with training/learning professionals have shown a general lack of interest in management, leadership or business issues. Too many learning folks are interested in the tools of THEIR trade and not the businesses they are supposed to serve.

Thinking like a node in a network and not as a position in a hierarchy is the first mental shift that’s required to move to a collaborative enterprise. Nurturing Creativity is now a management responsibility. The old traits of the industrial/information worker were Intellect, Diligence, and Obedience. The new traits of the collaborative worker are Passion, Creativity, and Initiative. These cannot be commoditized. People cannot be creative on demand. The collaborative enterprise requires looser hierarchies and stronger networks. What does that mean for learning & development?

The learning delivery model is being obsolesced by ubiquitous connectivity and diverse social networks. If learning professionals do not participate in the emergent leadership of the networked enterprise, they will be outsourced and sooner than later, automated. There is no room for those who just do their job within their job description (these were industrial-age constructs). The automation of physicians and lawyers was discussed during this morning’s keynote. What makes instructional designers et al, think they are any different? The 21st century workplace is all about understanding networks, modelling networked learning, supporting and strengthening networks.

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9 Responses to “It’s the network …”

  1. Natalie Laderas-Kilkenny

    Thanks for sharing this presentation. Training people who are highly conducive to learning via networks is an exciting prospect to me as an Instructional Designer. I currently work with an audience/workforce that is very temporary (yearly turnover). So it’s a group that needs to get knowledge and training fast. I’m wondering if creating good guided community discussion areas around identified training needs will be important for them. The audience is primarily under 29 years, so I’m assuming that they’ll get the online communities, but I’ve been proven wrong in the past. Our biggest challenge is getting the organization to really get the value of ‘informal learning’ and not poohpooh it. Any re-branding ideas for I.L.?

  2. Craig Crick

    Thanks Harold. I was one of the fortunate four (albeit a latecomer) who attended your session. I really appreciated our discussion.

    You’re absolutely right about learning/training professionals often focusing too much of their attention on the latest and greatest learning technology and not enough on what matters most to the businesses and people they serve.

    It really is about TRULY understanding the business and adding value by helping connect people together to build robust learning networks. The relevance and “seat at the table” of learning professionals hinges far more on that reality than it does on the tools. Thanks again!

  3. Simon Fowler

    I wish I could say I’m shocked at the attendance at your session compared with a session on a new tool.
    It must feel pretty exasperating, Harold.

    I don’t know if you saw this post on google+ by David Gray (http://bit.ly/uGHv3T) linking to a study that showed formal structures still drive most communications. I would think/hope Valdis Krebs and others would have contrary data, but given most people start within formal (and, hierarchical) structures I can imagine in so many cases nothing but bald necessity will shift people’s practices and mindsets about work, learning and management.

    My sense is that even networks will have structure (formed and governed by purpose and relationship) even if it’s an emergent structure, and even if the structure changes over time. So the challenge here seems to me about how to enable the transition from the current formal-hierarchical to the networked. Because that change isn’t going to be instantaneous and there will be overlaps between the two ways of managing.

    I don’t get to your blog as often as I’d wish so I’m sure you’ve addressed these questions in the past.

  4. Matt Kinsella

    In a lot of the companies I have been working with lately I have been trying to explain to managers that they need to stop measuring people by when they arrive in the office and/or how many hours they are in front of the computer. Too many staff are not doing much but because they turn up early and leave a little late they are the star employees. I have been telling the management to measure individuals by performance and how many “widgets” they produce, get done, chase, enter in the system, send off (or whatever they are doing) in a day. That way the company can get over half the staff to work remotely half the time and save a small fortune on office space. I get looked at blankly by managers who have never done any training in management and they have no idea what to do with the information I am giving them.

  5. Tim Wright

    Harold – interesting and useful and in the main true IMHO. My cautionary notes would be that in the absence of a network environment and in a hierarchical one – which is still the case in may orgs – “There is no room for those who just do their job within their job description (these were industrial-age constructs).” – is true as long as management has also entered the post industrial age and doesn’t use this as an excuse for exploitative behaviour. WRT to “tolerance for ambiguity” – agreed although the phrase is often used as a mask for poor management; and on slide 3 would that not be “safe fail” probes as opposed to “fail safe”? Nice article and FWIW – I would have attended your session :o)

  6. Harold Jarche

    Thanks, Tim. You are correct, Slide 3 should read, “safe-fail” probes (it was very early in the morning when I edited these slides, as my presentation did not include all of this text). I’ve edited the slide presentation to reflect this.

  7. Rob Paterson

    So frustrating Harold – yours is a great talk and I love your presentation.

    You are not alone. I find that most people find these ideas impossible. I think we speak gibberish to them.

    I have all but given up on hoping that they will change. I fear that they have to be utterly crushed as germany was in 1945 to wake up from their dream state.

    Better to focus on the few who get it and we all then help each other. What will make it happen is when the new destroys the old. And education is such a great place to start as their deal is so costly and so useless

    • Harold Jarche

      I’m still slogging along, Rob. I’m told that about 300 people will attend my session in Toronto next week, so that may balance things.