February 16, 2022

Harold Jarche on personal knowledge mastery, the Seek, Sense, and Share framework; networked learning, and finding different perspectives (Ep9)

“Choose the sources that are going to disconfirm what you think. You need to have the people who are going to challenge your thinking so you don’t go down a single rabbit hole. That’s the trick. That’s the art in doing this. “

– Harold Jarche

Robert Scoble

About Harold Jarche
Harold Jarche has been an independent consultant for the past 20 years working with individuals, organisations, and governments to improve collaboration, knowledge sharing and sense-making.  He is the author the Seeking Perpetual Beta e-book series and runs the very popular Personal Knowledge Mastery online workshops. In this episode, Harold shares his Seek, Sense, and Share framework; insights on network learning, finding different perspectives, and far more.
Website: jarche.com

Blog: Harold Jarche

LinkedIn: Harold Jarche

Twitter: @hjarche

YouTube: Harold Jarche

Book Series

Seeking Perpetual Beta

What you will learn

  • What is Personal Knowledge Mastery (01:33)
  • How is Personal Knowledge Mastery different from Personal Knowledge Management (04:26)
  • What is Networked Learning (07:26)
  • What is the Seek, Sense, and Share Framework and its practice (10:35)
  • How the Seek process helped Harold make sense of Covid (22:22)
  • Why he chooses sources that contradict what he thinks (26:02)
  • How to make sense of complex issues with many diverse opinions (28:56)
  • What is Harold’s daily routine (32:35)
  • How to synthesize and add value to information (38:20)
  • What is the difference between networks and communities (43:33)

Episode Resources


Ross Dawson: Harold, it’s awesome to have you on the show.

Harold Jarche: It’s great to be here, Ross.

Ross: We’ve known each other for a long time. One of our common interests has been what you have framed as personal knowledge management, or in your case, personal knowledge mastery. Can you explain what personal knowledge management is and how you came to that?

Harold: It started when I started freelancing, which was in 2003. One of the challenges I had is that I live in the middle of nowhere; I’m about 1000 kilometers from Boston no or Montreal and major cities, I live out in the Atlantic, Canada. One of the challenges I had was, how do I stay current in my profession? How do I stay connected to people? And how do I not spend a whole bunch of money? I came across the work of several people, particularly Lilia Efimova, who was doing her doctorate about knowledge sharing through blogging at the University of Twente, Netherlands.
There are a few other people who were talking about that, at that time, Denham Grey, who was working for IBM, Dave Pollard, who was working for Ernst and Young as the Chief Knowledge Officer. I was reading their stuff. I saw, particularly with blogs, because that was the technology of the time, that it was possible to connect with people without actually having to see them, without having to travel or anything like that. My budget was pretty well close to zero for travel.
I started writing about PKM, just on my blog and sharing it mostly for myself, because I really didn’t have much of a readership. What transpired over time, was that I started taking a look at the discipline of how do we make sense of our knowledge, of our experiences? How do we build knowledge networks? How do we have others help us make decisions? How do we understand the constant flux of, which is increasingly more so today, of information, and particularly disinformation over time? I basically was writing for myself. I was putting it on the blog and basically just talking out loud to nobody. But several years later, probably, I’ve been writing about it for at least five years, I was contacted by the fellow who’s in charge of leadership development at Domino’s Pizza. He said this is really interesting stuff you’ve been writing about. Do you think that we could incorporate what you’re doing, and use it in our leadership training? I went to Domino’s head office, and we worked on this for a period of time.
It was when the light went on that this is a thing that could help a lot of people. I kept working on the model and putting stuff out there. I had a whole bunch of half-baked ideas, which really was the process of PKM. I came up with a higher framework, using the alliterative terms of Seek, Sense, and Share, and then shifted from personal knowledge management to personal knowledge mastery, because I did not want to be directly linked to the knowledge management world, which was still very much about codifying information and pumping it out to people, whereas PKM is the opposite, it is people making sense, and then floating it up, sharing it with others, and what emerges from those conversations and relationships, then, is that shared knowledge base.
It’s been 14 years or so that I’ve been working on that. It’s a work in progress. But now it’s been used with a lot of different organizations. We just finished implementing the trading education program. It’s very much a cohort-based learning program at Citibank. We’ve run several thousand people through that. It has four modules. What’s interesting is that the first module is based on curiosity, which becomes the underpinning part of Seek, Sense, and Share, which is, at first, you have to be curious about people and ideas. That’s where we are today with it.

Ross: Personal knowledge is developing your knowledge as an individual, as you say, immersed in information. It’s particularly interesting that you are, as you say, so isolated yet you are still on the edge of change. There are a lot of different directions to go but one of the first things is how do you define your own expertise? What it is that you choose to keep current with?

Harold: There are two areas. One is distributed work or what some people call remote work. I’ve been working remotely for 18 years now. I think that I’ve learned a fair bit about that, and it can help organizations and help people develop different skills. For example, one thing that I’ve learned about working in a distributed way is that asynchronous communication becomes critical. You can’t spend your whole day in Zoom meetings talking to people, you have to find ways of sharing information, not in real-time. We as bloggers understand that we’ve been sharing information asynchronously a lot. I think that the asynchronous communicators, the ones who do it well, are really going to do much better in this emerging remote workplace.
The other one is networked learning. It’s working with other people and connecting to other people. In a lot of cases, it’s learning from people with who you don’t have a work or collaborative relationship. It’s like you and me, we share freely with each other. Over time, we’ve learned from each other, but there’s no deal in it or anything like that. What we’ve done is that we’ve built a relationship, which becomes very important when it comes to, if I want to know something specific, I know that I can call you up and say, Hey, Ross, can you explain this thing to me because this seems to be your field of expertise. More and more, that is where we’re all going, is that we’re only as good and as smart as our networks, and the network learning is a two-way street, is that you have to give in order to get. That is a big challenge that I find, particularly with organizations.

Ross: Network learning or network knowledge is a critical part of this. Of course, we can pull up the news feeds and say how did that give us so much? What is that process? How is it that we build those networks? As you say it is this give and take, or is it simply just being able to find the right people and to share and build that relationship? How does that happen in practice?

Harold: My colleague, Jay Cross talked about this a lot. Jay was a champion of informal learning. Jay often said that the building block of learning is conversation. That also becomes the building block of trust. It is that the more conversations you have with someone, the more that you trust them. There’s research in the pharmaceutical research space, that shows that people only share complex knowledge if they trust other people, so you have to build these webs of trust, one person at a time, or somebody connected through somebody else, who knows somebody else. That is how we make sense of what’s going on, particularly, good media literacy, that one of the first things you do is you take a look at it, and you say, Okay, what’s in it for this person? Who’s paying their bills? Why are they pushing this message or something like that?
That’s where the trusted relationships that we’ve built over time, become good filters to find out… I might get some mainstream news about what’s happening in Australia, but I can send you a note and say, Hey, this is what they’re saying is happening in Sydney, is that really happening? And you get back to me and say, it’s not quite like that; actually, it’s a little bit more nuanced. I find that these international relationships that I have, have really helped me to make sense of the world, and have been really good in understanding this very complex pandemic, that we’re still working through the fourth wave here.

Ross: I want to come back to the pandemic and the sense-making around that, but perhaps, your framework of Seek, Sense, and Share, and, of course, this is something which you teach and you help people in organizations with, but as you’re in practice, as you’ve created this from your practice, could you take us through that framework, and what those phases are, and how should we develop those capabilities?

Harold: Yes. Seek, as I mentioned with the Citi project, is based on curiosity. It is that you have to find ways in which you can seek out diverse opinions. First of all, when I start teaching people this, I often use Twitter as an example. I say, Okay, start on Twitter. Point number one is why are you using Twitter? Is it to learn about something? Is it to connect to a community? It could be, Oh, I want to see what’s going on in my local community. Then I usually recommend finding 20 to 30 people who are talking about whatever it is that you’re interested in.
It’s a little bit of a shotgun approach to start with. Then start paying attention to what they’re doing. You don’t have to engage yet, you’re still seeking. Then you can tune those signals; you can amplify the ones that are giving you good information, and you can decrease the noisy ones. Then you can take a look at, Am I getting the same information from these people? Am I getting diverse enough perspectives on it? And again, it’s that noise-signal ratio that you start adjusting a little bit. That’s a little bit of an art, though, there are some techniques to it.

Ross: How do you amplify or turn it down?

Harold: One thing like in my case, is that, because I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s hard to go back to day one when I did this, but I’m always on the lookout for people whose perspectives are different from the norm that I’m following. I may come across somebody who’s talking about learning and education, maybe training, and remote work and stuff like that, but they’re located in North Africa, or maybe they’re located someplace in Asia, where I really don’t have many connections, so I’d say, I should follow that person, and see whether or not I’m getting a more diverse perspective on that area.
I’m constantly on the lookout for people on the fringe, or people who are not giving me similar messages. I’m also then cutting back on sources if I’m seeing that all they’re doing is that they are talking about the same type of stuff. One thing that I’ve done over the years, is that I used to follow a lot of sources of information, whether it was a news feed, or aggregated comments and stuff like that. More and more, I’m connected to individuals, and I want to see what their perspective is on it. That’s where it really comes in handy.
One of my network connections is Valdis Krebs. Valdis is an expert on organizational network analysis. If I have questions that are related to network analysis, I just send a message to Valdis and I say, Valdis, this is what I’m looking for, where should I start looking? What may be is a seminal document or resource that I should start with? He then refers that back to me and says, No, you should start here, check this out, don’t look at that, do those kinds of things. More and more over time, I’m finding it’s those trusted human relationships that really become my major filter to make sense of what the heck’s going on, particularly as we see the rise of misinformation, and disinformation, and propaganda in social media.

Ross: Is the next phase then sense?

Harold: Yes, it is the next phase, and it’s the hardest phase. A lot of people take a look at your bookmarks or your social bookmarks, and see what you’ve got, and how many 1000s do you have, and what have you done with it? It’s like, Well, I just got them. That’s not very good. You’re getting all this input, which is fine, but are you going to be able to take any action on what you’ve learned? And to do that, I think sometimes you have to put out what I call half-baked ideas, and get feedback on them. Quite often, I may put those out on my blog. or I may share them inside some private communities. The nice thing about private communities is that if you put a stupid idea, you won’t get attacked by the trolls, who are all over social media right now. Sense-making, again, as a blogger, it’s been relatively easy. If you have an affinity for writing, then blogging is a really good and easy way to put some of your ideas out there, and get feedback from people as well.
There are other ways of doing it. We’re seeing that a lot with platforms like TikTok, where people are putting out these short videos. I was reading about one person; what they do is at the end of the day, they would drive to work and on the way home, they would talk out loud to themselves about how the day went, what they learned, and what they were going to do about it. I guess it might get some funny looks if you’re doing that on the bus. I’m not too sure. You need to find a medium by which you can make sense of what is going on, and that could be having regular conversations with people.
I think in some cases, this podcast series is part of what you’re doing in terms of thriving on overload. How are you making sense of it, one way that you’re doing it is that you’re getting various perspectives from a lot of different people. I presume that you’re going to be looking at synthesizing this as well. I think that for anybody who’s in any profession, particularly with the changes that we’re seeing, things like climate change, Australia and Canada are getting whacked pretty hard with it right now, is that how can we make sense of this world, who do we pay attention to, what’s important, and it becomes difficult.
It’s when I run my workshops, the sense-making part is the part that we really talk a lot about, and it’s you need to find your own medium. In some ways, it’s like becoming an artist, so you’re going to be a painter or a sculptor. You won’t know unless you try and do it for a while.

Ross: The next phase is share; though, it sounds like in a way that sensing involves sharing in many cases, if you are, for example, blogging, as you say, or throwing out these trial balloons for people to bounce off.

Harold: Yes. The share part has various aspects to it. One is that by narrating your work or working out loud, or whatever term you want to use, is that you’re exposing yourself. There was a book written about it 10-15 years ago, and they called blogging, naked conversations, and it is kind of like that. By putting yourself out there, you’re also making yourself a target, where people will be able to criticize you. That’s the Share part, why it’s good for me to share, is because I’m going to get feedback.
We’ve even seen this with students, the difference between the students submitting a paper to a teacher is very different than the student posting it online for the world to see. A lot of teachers have found that if the students put their work out into the general public, they actually put a heck of a lot more effort into it because they know that a lot of people are going to see that.
I think that’s the same thing with any professional, you have to get out there. Then there’s the other part of it. It is that if we all share, if we all do this, in a free way, as we do with the blog, we’re actually helping to make the network smarter. We’re all doing our own little bit. I think that that has been one of the challenges in our more established democracies. People are leaning towards demagogues and populists, and there hasn’t been the voice of reason, or it’s been drowned out.
We need more and more individuals to be able to contribute to those kinds of conversations and have those relationships, so I can talk to somebody who’s on a different part of the political spectrum; we can still respect each other, we can have nuanced conversations, and not be screaming at each other. That again becomes part of why sharing is important.
Of course, there are real challenges. I know women who are quite active on social media and they’ve had to block 10s of 1000s of trolls and attacks. That’s the nasty nature of it. Finding the right balance, finding the right platforms becomes important. I share different things inside my private communities than I do on my blog or on other social media. It becomes a balancing act of sharing enough information, making enough sense of this stuff, and also you still got to get things done, that becomes important.

Ross: As you know I’m a deep believer in the Share part, on lots of levels; personally, in contributing to the global brain and all these wonderful things. But I think there are many people who would say, is that necessary? It takes time, people might not respond in the right way. That Seek, Sense, and Share, is that for everyone to do?

Harold: If you think about living in civil society, participating in a democracy, and if it is that the people who can be articulate are not sharing, where are other people going to get their information from? I find that if you’re not helping to make your network and your community smarter, then you may wind up with a dumb network that’s making bad decisions like voting for demagogues or going down the populist simplistic route. In a networked society, I think it’s part of the social contract. It also is something that is not taught in schools at all. That’s really missing. I’ve implemented PKM in one educational institution so far. I’m not doing really well in that.

Ross: You mentioned before about the pandemic, I think that’s something which everyone is trying to make sense of. It’s not as if we can really truly make sense of it. It’s only a moving target with new data or new information and new insights. Partly, we want to understand what’s going on in our nation, in the world. But also, how do we keep ourselves and our family safe? How have you seen all this being applied by you and/or others in terms of making sense of what we’ve experienced this year and last?

Harold: The pandemic hit, we got locked down. The first thing I did is I is I phoned my son, my son is a microbiologist, works as a research scientist, and going like, What’s all this stuff? What’s going on? So he explained a little bit to me. I started following the WHO, CDC, and the Canadian Public Health as well, to get the information. Then some weak signals came out that the WHO is political? Of course, it is, because it’s a member-nation organization. The CDC was a little bit slow on that, and you start taking a look at who are these people, and you know they’re researchers, and they want to make sure the research is perfect, and then start getting conflicting information.
I found a couple of people who were a bit on the edge, and one of them just happened to be a person that I’ve been connected with on Twitter for a long time, so I knew her. That’s Dr. Trisha Greenhalgh, who teaches Primary Care Medicine at Oxford University. I started following her. Trisha suddenly started going off and criticizing the word that WHO was saying, and in early 2020, she and a team of 36 other scientists and physicians, put out a paper talking about that the COVID or the Coronavirus is airborne. Whereas, we were here washing things down, putting up Plexiglas barriers and things like that, and it showed quite clearly that this wasn’t working.
I started following her, connecting to other people, actually, I wound up having a Twitter list called Pandemic. It’s off of my Twitter profile. I’ve got about a dozen people from three, four different countries with experience all over the world, who basically have gone a little bit against the mainstream because one thing is that they don’t have bosses who force them to toe the party line.
I have been six to 12 months ahead of what has come down through official channels. We were masking when nobody else was. We then started getting the higher quality masks when people were wearing cloth-ones and things like that. It’s this little network I’ve got; some of these people follow me back, most of them don’t. But they are trying to help make the network smarter and passing on really good research and information about the nature of this pandemic. I’ve realized that every authority, every institution has its own agenda, and you have to know what that agenda is. Then you have to figure out how can you make the best decisions for you and your family. I found my little pandemic Twitter list has been pretty darn good. I’m kind of happy with that.

Ross: It sounds like this is choosing your sources.

Harold: Yes, choosing your sources, but also choosing the sources that are going to disconfirm what you think, so you need to have the people who are going to challenge your thinking so you don’t go down a single rabbit hole. That’s the trick. That’s the art in doing this. It’s having people who are on the outside, or who have differing opinions, not dumb, not total nut job opinions or anything like that, but people who see things differently. An interesting one that I follow on the edge because I’m very deep into things that are important to me, the pandemic has suddenly become important; but I’m also interested in climate change like anybody else.
I’m following the arguments, the discussions, and conversations around nuclear energy as a good short-term alternative to adding more CO2 into the air. It’s interesting to watch how people have entrenched positions, and there is very little middle ground in this. Anyway, it’s a place where I poke a little bit and try to learn, but diversity becomes really, really important. It is having diverse sources of knowledge, particularly when we’re dealing with something that is complex, like climate change, or the pandemic.

Ross: At one point you said, there were just a dozen sources in the pandemic, so this is not a very wide net. You’ve been very careful in curating that list of sources.

Harold: Yes. It started with a few people. I’ve got folks in the UK, US, Canada, and every once in a while I tweet out and I say, Okay, this is who I’m following. Is there anybody else I should be following or anything like that? I’ve removed a couple of people; I’ve added a couple of people. But for the most part, the ones that I’m following are people who are in the business of communicating and information. They’re putting out a lot of stuff, and they’re referring to a lot of other sources. As one individual having 50, or 100 of these things to go through, it would be too much. I would definitely add to it if I came across something or someone that could add to the conversation, and the knowledge, that is being shared there. But yes, finding your limits becomes important as well. Again, if you’re spending all your time seeking and reading, and not doing anything about it, that’s not very helpful.

Ross: In terms of the sense-making, you have diverse sources; take the nuclear energy as an example where you’ve got a lot of polarized opinions, not a lot of mil of ground, it’s a burden, it’s a responsibility; how do you then make sense of this complexity when you’ve got all of this diversity of opinion? I think that this goes to the point where people will say, Oh, it’s easy, when all my information sources agree, then I don’t need to have a difficult cognition of working out what’s going on. But I suppose that is one of the challenges as it becomes more diverse. It leaves us with the burden of trying to continually sort through that.

Harold: Again, you have to say, what am I making sense of? Am I just reading this to read it and understand it? Am I going to try to put these diverging or diametrically opposed opinions and try to find some middle ground on that? I have a degree in education, but I’m not an educator per se. One of the things I did when the boys were in school was I started connecting with people who were talking about un-schooling, de-schooling, the big homework question, is homework valuable? Does it detract from learning? And I collected a lot of information about that. I used that to make sense of how should we be helping our boys in school? I’m not really interested in it anymore. I’ve parked that one over on the side.
I think part of it in the sense-making is what are you doing with the information and the experiences that you’re living through? Probably one of the easiest things that I recommend, and one of the activities we do in my workshops, is I get people to take a look at a situation. Let’s say, it was the riots in the US last year, then get information from multiple spectrums, then put that together, and try to ascertain the validity of each one of the perspectives and where there are disagreements and things like that. Another easy way, in terms of sense-making, that I found is writing book reviews.
When you’ve read a book, write about it, write what you think what’s important about it. I found that has just been helpful with other people. I have those reviews on my website where you asked me, Look, I’m really interested in a book, and I said, I read a really good one, several years ago, let me pull it out. It’s there, it’s on my blog, and all I have to do is share the link. That makes it a minimal effort for me, in terms of the sharing. Sometimes sharing is sharing at the right moment. But if you’ve got nothing to share, that’s not very helpful.
The nice thing about the blog is I can write it but also I can share something. I know, I’ve used some of your posts from 10 years ago, that I still share in presentations or conversations saying, check this out here. Had you not read that and had you not made it easy for sharing, it would be difficult for me to disseminate that.

Ross: Yes. Digging a little bit into the detail of what’s in a day for you, an information day for you? Do you have a routine? Do you look up particular sources at particular times of the day? What happens in the day in terms of information input, or assessing or working with it?

Harold: Usually, the places I go, for sure, are my private communities. I’m a member of three online communities and they’re focused on different things. If there’s anything new in those, I will definitely check that out. I also manage a community called the Perpetual Beta Coffee Club, and we’ve got about 70 members in that. As the moderator and convener of that, I’ll check out what’s going on there. Then I use an aggregator. I use Feedly right now. I’ve got about 75-100 sources, and usually, at least once a day, I’ll go through the aggregator and see what’s new.
I’m pretty quick. It’s like new, interesting, then if there’s something, I’m going like, oh, I want to do something with this, I put things into a very small holding tank because I know that holding tank would get really big. It’s like this is something I want to read in-depth or this is something that I think I can comment on or I can connect a, b and c here together, and those are blog posts to be written or things to be shared within my communities, I get those in there. Then I use Twitter. I usually check Twitter fairly frequently, unless I’m working. What I found pre-pandemic, was interesting; because I had two routines. I had my at-home routine, and then I had my travel routine. While I was traveling, I was only seeking and collecting stuff. When I got home, that was when I would be doing the sense-making and the sharing.
Now my routine is focused on whatever my priority happens to be. Let’s say my priority this week is writing some of my own material or maybe it’s client work, maybe it’s preparing a presentation, those kinds of things. If I have a presentation that I’m getting ready to do, maybe a month from now, I’ll have that part. Then I will also have an eye to my feeds, into my conversations, go, Oh, hey, that’s an interesting connection, I think I can put that into this idea that I’ll be conveying in the presentation. It’s fluid. The other thing is to not compartmentalize. I don’t compartmentalize work, non-work, leisure, and things like that. For me, it’s one brain and it’s one flow as it goes through. I hope that kind of answers it.

Ross: Yes, absolutely. Let’s say you’re going through an aggregator and you find something that you want to read more about later. Do you use a note-taking system? Do you tag it? Do you bookmark it? How do you then follow up?

Harold: Short term, I bookmark it, and I just put it into my menu on one of the browsers, because I use multiple ones. The thing is, that gets full really quick, so that forces me to do something with it. Because I used to use aggregators and Bloglines years ago, and it had that save for later function. Then one day I’d take a look, I have 700 save for later items, I’m not going to read any of these things. That’s why the things that I save, I put into a very small container. Things that I think could be useful, but I’m not going to do anything in the short term with, I then put them into the social bookmarks system. I use Pinboard right now. I really like Pinboard, because it’s super simple. Also, you have to pay for it, which means that the fellow who runs it is going to be around for a while, so I’m not going to lose my data, and it’s quite easy to export on that.
Pinboard is handy. I use it quite often with my clients. It’s that my client is interested in something, let’s say it’s remote work, so as I find articles and references on remote work, I will tag them; I will highlight pieces of the text and put them into Pinboard. Then the client, they’ll see some interesting stuff on that, I can take a bunch of those, stick them together, put a separate tag on top of it, the client’s name, let’s say or something like that, and give it to them. Now I have this curated list of 10,15, 20, whatever things, that are relevant to them. That’s the asynchronous sharing. I’m getting this stuff, I’m adding some value to it with my comments, with my tagging, with highlighting of text, then at the appropriate time, when someone needs it, I can give it to them. I’m not dumping them information that they may need six months from now because they’re not going to read it.

Ross: You talked before about synthesis. Actually, you said, I will be synthesizing some of these conversations, which is absolutely true. But that’s again, the challenges we have is how do we synthesize, build our mental models, and so on? Of course, you create some visuals, some diagrams, or some frameworks. I know, that’s part of your practice but what is that process of cogitation or laying things out or writing them or drawing them? What is the process for you of synthesis, of building effective mental models?

Harold: You can add value to information in a lot of ways. An easy and a low value add would be categorizing stuff, which is fine. Let’s say you find 50 sources of information about something, and you can find the top 10, or you can categorize it as type A, type B, type C, that makes it easier for you to share, it makes it easier for someone else to say, Oh, this is pertinent to me, and it also makes it easier to come back to sometimes and say, Oh, yes, I remember I put those things down there, and now is the time for me to do something about that.
Another way of adding value, particularly if you’re doing client work, I’ve done this many times, is that I will read a very deep paper research document or something like that on a topic, and I will pick out what is pertinent to the client. I say, Okay, they talk about these kinds of things, this I think is really of interest to you, and this is why I think it is. That’s again, a nice way to add value to the knowledge. I know that you’ve talked about this as well over the years. Just another way of doing it is to present it. I think we’re seeing that a lot particularly in the younger generation with TikTok, is that they’re taking some complex thing that’s happening in society, and in 30 seconds, and quite often in a humorous way, they’re synthesizing the key points. I’d say, Oh, that’s what it’s really about. I think that’s a really good value add.
I think synthesizing it, presenting it, presenting it in a different way, presenting it to a certain audience, categorizing it, summarizing it, those are all ways that we can make sense of it. Jony Ive gave a presentation when he became The Oxford Cambridge fellow in information or something, that was about three, four years ago. I read his speech which was quite good. He talked about the development of the iPhone and the challenges between design, shipping, and things like that. I took all of that, and I highlighted what I thought were the key parts, because he talked about how important curiosity is, but then it has to be balanced with the resolve to solve the problem, and to ship, and to deliver what it is that you’re doing. Yes, you can go, Oh, look, a butterfly, but you still have to build the iPhone and get it out there.
Then I actually matched that up with my seek, sense, share model, and he’s basically doing that. He’s out there seeking information in his networks. He’s also focused on collaborating and getting work done. In the middle, he has this group of people from multiple disciplines who are learning from each other, who are sharing in this private space what’s going on, because the design is different from engineering, is different from marketing and all those things, but they all have something to add to it. He talked about during the day is that you’re constantly going from that out there curious, this is an interesting idea that may be fruitful later, all the way down to what is it that we’re going to get done today? And he says it’s this constant dance between curiosity and resolve. For me making sense of it, putting it, adding a visual, helped me convey that.

Ross: Yes, the process of distillation; I think as you’re trying to get it in that 30 second TikTok is a nice way to frame it because if you can pull something into that, then that’s a real act of synthesis.

Harold: Yes, and there are some really good folks doing it. The challenge, just to digress a bit, is how do you keep up with all of them without going down the rabbit hole.

Ross: What’s your response to that question?

Harold: I ignore a lot of stuff. That’s basically it.

Ross: We could talk for hours because you have such depth here. I’ll obviously point any listeners to your website, Jarche.com, and your work. In terms of just wrapping up here, Is there anything else, which we haven’t talked about yet, which you think is critically important in being able to understand how it is that people can thrive on overload? I think we’ve covered a lot of really good territory, in terms of your framing of this, but what else is really critical to understand so that people can prosper when we have so much information, so much we need to make sense of?

Harold: We’re seeing it right now, on social media, people are saying I’m leaving social media, I’m going into this private forum or something like that, it’s the difference between networks and communities. I firmly believe that we need to be engaged in both. A network is like the Wild West, and it is filled with trolls. Twitter is a network. Facebook is a network, no matter what they say. But these are really good places to get divergent opinions, and you are going to get Sturgeon’s law, 90% of everything is crap. There is going to be a lot of crap out there, but also balance that with a community, a community that serves its members, that is there for its members, that’s run by its members, and where there are trusted relationships, and you can stick your head out there, say something stupid, people may say, Harold, that’s stupid, but they’re going to say it in a nice way, like in a family way. It’s where you can feel comfortable doing those kinds of things.
I think that folks who are in the learning business should really be focused on helping to develop communities, to support the communities, to help other people find communities, because things are moving so fast, we need to have safe places where we can share information. It’s both communities and networks, and don’t confuse the two. A network is not a safe place, but it’s a place where you could get some really interesting ideas.

Ross: That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for your insights, Harold. To your points earlier, I’ll probably, quite likely will ping you with an email, with a question here or two along the way.

Harold: By all means.

Ross: Thank you so much for your time and your insight. It has been a great delight to talk to you again, Harold.

Harold: It’s always nice to talk to you, Ross. Thank you.

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