A Brave New Era: Harold Jarche on Perpetual Beta — Our New Normal

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A brave new era: what does it look like?

“The 21st century — and many things we have been expecting for the near future — suddenly hit us with a vengeance in 2020. Now we need to connect, adapt, and find our new normal. Perpetual Beta 2020 is another beginning.” wrote Harold Jarche in perpetual beta 2020.

So what may our new normal look like? How can we build a better future now?

That’s what Harold Jarche explores in his latest book, published in the Summer of 2020.

I participated in his community of practice, ‘Perpetual Beta Coffee Club‘, completed his workshop ‘Personal Knowledge Mastery‘ in 2020, participated in the workshop again in March 2021, and kept reading his blog.

I understand the value of communities as I am engaged in a few global ones, and when I read Harold Jarche’s words:

“Communities play a significant role in how we relate to others and perceive ourselves. Communities are more than social networks. Communities of practice,  which are often shorter-term, can provide the connective space between longer-term loose social networks and often temporary work teams. Communities are connectors. 

They are essential. We all need an inner circle to support our learning and make sense of our experiences.

With that in mind and practice, the new normal may be connected to the Renaissance, as Jarche observes:

“Our current era has certain similarities to the European Renaissance of the 14th to 17th centuries. The Renaissance brought wonderful new discoveries — universities, astronomy, print — as well as new challenges — the pox, war, mass slavery . Our age is bringing similar discoveries — nano materials, gene therapy, artificial intelligence — and new threats — Covid-19, extremism, climate change. Today, we are in desperate need of diverse thinking.”

To do so, Harold suggests taking control of our modern professional development approach:

To see the frontiers of our knowledge, we need time to interact, converse, reflect, and experiment. Doing so in a conscious way can help us master the fourth industrial revolution. We are each responsible for our learning. As the authors of The Age of Discovery say — “Don’t just get an education. Make one”.

In other words, learning is crucial as we navigate through the new era:

“Learning is the key to facing our current and future technological, environmental, and societal changes. Developing these new skills requires learning that is rather different from existing training and education systems. This is learning that is informal, requiring significant amounts of implicit knowledge, as well as social sensemaking.

Critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration skills are not developed in a vacuum. These are permanent social skills.

For example, the discipline of personal knowledge mastery is a unified framework of individually-constructed enabling processes for sensemaking in complexity. PKM is staying afloat in a sea of information buoyed by knowledge networks and guided by communities of practice. It is the number one skill set to help each of us make sense of our world, work more effectively, and contribute to society. The PKM framework — Seek > Sense > Share — enables professionals to become knowledge catalysts.”

We learn to make sense, add value and innovate.

What the heck is innovation? Jarche writes:

“Innovation today is people making connections. Innovation is dependent on learning in networks. Social learning is about getting things done in networks. It is a constant flow of listening, observing, doing, and sharing.

Effective working in networks requires cooperation, meaning there is no fixed plan, structure, or direct feedback. Through social learning we can co-develop emergent practices. Social learning is how we move from transactions to relationships and foster knowledge mobilization.

Innovation is inextricably linked to both networks and learning. Innovation is not so much about having ideas as it is about connecting and nurturing ideas. Innovation specialist Tim Kastelle says that, “Innovation is the process of idea management.

At the heart of innovation lies social learning. Harold reminds us about that:

“Social learning, developed through many conversations, enables this flow of implicit knowledge. This is not ‘nonsense chat’, as traditional management might view it, but is essential for creating stronger bonds in professional social networks. Companies have to foster richer and deeper connections which can only be built over time through meaningful conversations.”

Innovation is about embracing, using flows, having a pause and reflecting. That’s what Harold notices:

“Creative work is not routine work done faster. It’s a whole different way of work, and a critical part is letting the brain do what it does best — come up with ideas. Without time for reflection, most of those innovative ideas will get buried in the detritus of modern workplace busyness.”

In a hyperconnected world, I can understand the value of reflection through this blog.

I navigate the knowledge flows at my own pace, with my network and within communities of practice. The value of social networks relies on us, as Harold underlines:

“Each of us must engage with others and develop our trusted knowledge networks. None of us are smart enough to handle all the connections in our digital lives on our own. We need to use both our human networks and our machines in concert.

Our professional connections, especially those outside our current workplaces, are our security. They will help us learn, find work, and push our professional boundaries. In the long run, the more we contribute to our social networks and communities of practice, the more resilient we will make them and in return will weave a stronger social safety net for ourselves.

Jarche finally writes at the end of his insightful and practical book:

“Our future is not in our tribes, institutions, or markets, even though each will continue to have a role in a networked society. Our future is in a connected, egalitarian global community. It is more than a social justice movement for a marginalized group.

Our new normal has to be inclusive and cooperative. We start by connecting and learning and never stopping. This is perpetual beta — always willing to learn more and to change our minds.

As we have entered another year of the pandemic, it is a book I will revisit over time while going through it and figuring out what the new normal/next normal is.

Next: Personal Knowledge Mastery Series.

Did you enjoy the post? Check out Future Skills.

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