Your Destiny? Personal Learning, Networks, and Working Out Loud


Lisa’s last blog post Personal Learning Is in Your Future offered a rich mix of springboard ideas and resources. Its breadth made me ponder how best to build on her post.  It reminded me of the dilemma faced by consumers in super-sized stores. How to pick just one item from the many possibilities!

The New World of Work

Eventually, I decided to start with Lisa’s justification of why we must become responsible for our professional development and learning with Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM)—seek, sense, share.  The new world of work requires us to

  • Develop our skills and know-how (because the internet affords us opportunities to customize our personal learning to make it more relevant, timely, and low-cost than ever before, and employers want to hire ready-to-work employees)
  • Keep up with the digital world (because communication and collaboration tools, social media, learning routines, and digital literacies are necessary to our future employment)
  • Work collaboratively online (because we are more effective working with others to produce the right outcomes for employers and ourselves)
  • Operate in a flexible, contract employment—project based and short-term—context (because employers are moving away from full-time, long-term employee commitments)

The Power of Networks

Lisa cited experts on personal learning vs. personalized learning (Stephen Downes) and using social media for learning in networks (Harold Jarche and Donald Clark). The accumulation of ideas made me look more in-depth at the impact of networks on the seek and share phases of PKM.  Then, Harold Jarche published his Bring Your Own Network post earlier this week which guided me further. It asserted:

“The day when a single person can work alone, without any help from others, is fast disappearing.” 

 “In today’s digital economy, you are only as good as your network.”

“So what would help us know who has the network to deal with complex and changing work? The Seek > Sense > Share framework of PKM could provide some insights. Map the network of people who could help in the event of a problem or decision.”

Jarche’s push to assess the scope of one’s personal networks for dealing with “complex and changing work” could benefit us in two ways: one, we might learn that our networks are not nearly as strong as we think they are (as Lisa and I learned from being in Jarche’s PKM course). Two, we can expand them purposefully as we seek to learn and perform with the insight and assistance of others.

Backtracking Jarche’s blog archive for a few minutes uncovered his graphic on the network era:


This graphic shows that inside organizations, we collaborate to realize important outcomes.  Our networks allow us to pinpoint expertise and engage purposefully with others to do the work.

As we work, we build implicit knowledge.

The old view of “knowledge is power” meant controlling the release of knowledge to benefit only us or our employers and clients.  It was proprietary to the extreme.

Working Out Loud

The new view is working and learning out loud. We benefit ourselves and others by talking about our work in face-to-face conversations and through online exchanges fostered by in-house digital platforms and social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Some of our working out loud may even take the form of updates to a common messaging mechanism such as Slack in use by our work group or community of practice. As the work progresses, we make our challenges and solutions explicit in quick updates.

What we are doing and learning may also be shared through blogs, ebooks, & workshops. In return, our peers and advanced practitioners can offer feedback that propels our work to higher plateaus. Their working out loud can also jumpstart and nurture our growth of knowledge and skills.

Is it clear what “Working Out Loud” is?

Bryce Williams offered this pithy formula for working out loud in 2010.

Working Out Loud   =   Observable Work   +   Narrating Your Work

John Stepper’s blog post  expanded  Williams’ formula:

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others.  When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.” 

Stepper highlights five elements: working out loud not only makes work visible, it makes our work better. It means that we lead with generosity. We build a social network through our sharing. It is all quite purposeful. In prefacing his new book on Working Out Loud, Stepper reveals that

Working Out Loud is a practice that combines conventional wisdom about relationships with modern ways to reach and engage people. It’s a very different approach to networking, and it starts with three questions: What am I trying to accomplish? Who can help me? How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationship?

I find these questions very helpful in thinking about why and with whom I wish to seek, sense, and add value by sharing.

I’d like to close with a few ideas from The Real Learning Project in Google Docs.

Real Learning was a sequel to Jay Cross’s highly successful book on Informal Learning. (We wrote about him and it here last November.) Cross intended to “help millions of people learn to learn, increase their intelligence, and realize their life goals” with The Real Learning Project.  He noted that

“Real Learning is for people and small groups of colleagues who are taking their professional development into their own hands. No instructors, no classrooms. It’s DIY learning. You will probably learn it with a pal or teammate but you’ll be firmly in charge of your own destiny.”

The experiment to build this book within a learning community ended(?) with Cross’s death in November 2015.

But I want to share Cross’s encouragement to DIY Learners on the power of the internet and graphic on forging ahead as independent learners from the book.

You must have Internet access

If you don’t have Internet access at work, change the situation. Route around it with your smartphone or iPad. Find a way to view and participate on the Net. The Internet is the greatest cornucopia of knowledge the world has ever seen.



What would you change or add to this graphic?  How are you structuring your work to learn as much as possible?  How is your network helping you learn and work more effectively?

* * * * *

Resources used in this blog post:

Jay Cross, The Real Learning Project, Fall 2015

Harold Jarche, Bring Your Own Network, April 4, 2016

Harold Jarche, Network Era Competencies, December 2, 2015

Lisa Levinson, Personal Learning Is in Your Future, March 23, 2016

Rilsonav at Pixabay for crystal ball photo

John Stepper, 5 Elements of Working Out Loud, January 4, 2014

John Stepper, about the Book–Working Out Loud, 2016

Bryce Williams, When Will We Work Out Loud?  Soon!, November 29, 2010

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  1. […] many times about the new world of work and how as independent entrepreneurs and contractors, we are responsible for our own learning assisted by the resources of the internet: people and ideas.  We believe that learning should be […]

  2. […] last week’s blog, Doris outlined the many benefits of building networks and working out loud. Sounds easy, no? If […]

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