For the last few days I have been revisiting the notes in my Evernote notebooks and deleting things that are now outdated or irrelevant to me. Usually when I can find some time, I go through this process a few times a year. I find it cathartic to release myself of information that no longer serves my needs. It started a short conversation on Twitter with Bruno Winck (@BrunoWinck) and James Tyer (@JimboTyer) on the importance of doing this as a Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) practice. James even wrote a great post on the topic called Don’t Be Afraid to Delete Your Information Dump.
And that’s exactly what I was doing.
In the process of clearing out my “Personal Learning Network” Evernote notebook, I stumbled upon an article called Story of an Idea by Professor Alec Couros (@courosa) who I had met back in 2012 at a Personal Learning Environment Conference run by Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz). To this day, that particular conference and his key note presentation on personal learning networks, remains one of my career highlights because it set me off on a journey to where I am today.
As the only person from the corporate world attending a conference of academics and educators, my world had opened up. They excited and inspired me with a new way of thinking and new ideas. They talked about things I had never heard being talked about in corporate learning and development conferences. Most of all, the conference attendees were using social media, social networks and live streaming. They were connecting and sharing ideas with people half way around the world in Portugal. These things were unheard of in the world of corporate learning back in 2012.
My mind was abuzz with the possibilities for corporate learning and recall excitedly talking to my manager and my colleagues about what I had learned. Was this the missing piece – the use of personal learning networks in our work?
The article by Alec Couros was about the Networked Teacher but it got me thinking about the Networked (Knowledge) Worker – in particularly, how my own personal learning networks have helped me move from learning to collaboration.
The Networked Worker Learns – and Finds Work – From the World Around Them
Much has been written about the skills required of knowledge workers working in a networked world. In particularly, Dion Hinchcliffe’s (@dionhinchliffe) post on What Are the Required Skills of Today’s Digital Workforce and Harold Jarche’s (@hjarche) Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and the 2020 Future Skills Report are articles I refer to often.
Story of an Idea resonated with me because I have been working on a new one-to-one coaching program that I will start promoting in the new year. The coaching program is to help people to ‘future proof’ their skills by helping them to build their own ‘Personal Collaboration Network’.
I’ve called it collaboration rather than the word, “learning” because in my experience in the world of work, what started off with a global personal learning network (a network of people whom I learn from and share learning with) over time has actually become a trusted network of collaborators – some of whom I’m now working with on shared projects and clients.
Also, to many people learning = training = classroom and formal education – and that is a concept I’d like to move away from.
I believe building our collaborative networks will be a key critical skill for knowledge workers and freelancers.
I’ll have more information about this coaching program early in the new year but if you want a glimpse of it, check out Activate Your Personal Collaboration Network.
It got me thinking about my own move from personal learning networks to collaboration networks and how they have helped me in my work, career and my freelance life – and now I’d like to share my experiences with others through this coaching program.
Using the Vitruvian Man from Leonardo da Vinci, I created my own diagram that supported my own journey of becoming a networked worker. I wrote down all the various networks, communities, tools and platforms I used to connect with others to build my personal networks.
I deliberately chose this diagram of man enclosed in the square and the circle as a metaphor of being in the corporate organisation working, learning and collaborating from others within the firewall only.
Outside of the circle, I wrote all the open source and public networks, social tools and communities I accessed regularly and quickly realised how rich and diverse they were so that they could expose me to different and diverse insights.
No wonder I felt restricted and bored in my corporate role. Like the Vitruvian Man, I was spinning in my own echo chamber behind a firewall.
It was much more exciting to be a part of different groups, speaking to people from different background, industries and experiences to get perspectives that I hadn’t heard about nor even considered previously.
I believe that some organisations have not connected the dots between the important relationship between their employee personal networks outside the firewall and solving organisational issues.
Too often they expect their employees to be creative and innovative and at the same time, deny them the access or discount their personal networks. Some may mistakenly believe that a 20+ year veteran of work is set in their ways, not as creative, agile or innovative as the young graduates without taking into account that these people have diverse networks and extensive relationships in their own local or business communities but who may not have a social or online presence because they weren’t provided the guidance, training, support or reason for creating them.
These ideas only impact trust and creates power plays that don’t serve the individual or the organisation.
It reminds me of a post I wrote two years ago called How to Pitch the Value of Personal Learning Networks to Your CEO and even back then I wanted to remove the word “learning” out of it to simply make them “peer networks”.
But what’s the problem that peer networks are trying to solve? What’s the value of peer networks to an organisation? To an individual?
These were the questions that were floating around in my head trying to figure out a new services to support my clients in 2016. It’s taken me 18 months from leaving the corporate world to making the connection between the importance of my PLN has played to my current role and all I had to do was to sit back and see how the relationship with my network has evolved over the years to become one of learning to one of collaboration and co-operation and these are the patterns:
- My personal learning network consists of people from a variety of networks across different industries and professions from around the world, some of whom I’ve met in person, others not.
- In my network, I now have collaborators – people I trust and respect, who are experts in their own field or profession and whom I may never have met in person.
- With these collaborators, I work with them on different projects with clients and we exchange and share information which helps our mutual interests and passions
- These collaborators are the first people I call upon if I have a question related to their field; or need to link into their own networks
- These collaborators have become my friends
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Have you got a personal story to share of how your PLN has shaped you and your work through mutual collaborative projects? Is this your experience too?