Tag: Harold Jarche

Do You Need a Mentor or a Network?

Maria often works from her local coffee shop. She always engages in a bit of people watching while she’s there. For the last two months, she’s been observing Jack, another frequent patron of the coffee shop. Jack meets clients for a coffee at least once a month. Maria is impressed by how effectively Jack builds relationships with his clients, and she wanted to learn more about his strategy. Although they’ve never spoken before, Maria decided to approach him after his latest client left.

Woman and man shaking hands in a coffee shop

“Hi, Jack. That was a great closing you did with Priya. I’ve seen you here a bunch of times, and I’m always impressed with your work.”

“Um, thanks.”

“I’m so inspired by you! Will you be my mentor?”

“Uh, what?”

“Will you be my mentor? You know, meet with me for an hour or two a week, answer my questions, coach me so I can improve my skills? What do you say?”

Jack packed up his laptop and bag. “I’m sorry, I don’t know you. That’s a big time commitment for someone I just met. Besides, I need to go now. But here’s my card. Why don’t you email me so we can set up some consulting? I’ll send you my standard rates.”

Maria left the coffee shop feeling a bit deflated and surprised that Jack didn’t agree to be her mentor. She wasn’t quite sure what went wrong.

Requests for Mentors

If you saw this behavior in a coffee shop, how would you feel? It would be a bit bizarre, wouldn’t it? We don’t go up to strangers and ask them to donate hours of their time.

Online, however, these sorts of requests are commonplace. Here’s a sampling of messages I’ve received in the last few months:

  • “I’ve been on the lookout for experienced professionals such as you who can offer professional advice/opinions and if possible act as a mentor to our team.”
  • “I was basically looking for some kind of mentor as this field is very new to me. “
  • “Would you be interested in mentoring me on this project?”
  • “Will you mentor me in instructional design and e-learning?”
  • “Given the experience and skills you have, I am sure you are the right person to guide / mentor me.”

I receive so many requests to mentor people that if I mentored everyone who asked, I’d never have time to do any actual instructional design work. It’s just not feasible to spend that kind of time one-on-one with everyone who is looking for a mentor. When people ask me to mentor them, I wonder if they really understand what they’re asking. Do they really expect months of free consulting? Their requests are the online equivalent of Maria badgering Jack in the coffee shop. I try to answer a few questions for free, but a long-term relationship would mean taking time away from paying clients. It’s flattering. I just can’t do that kind of mentoring.

Personal Learning Networks

What do you do if you’re new to the field and need some help though? Rather than looking for a single mentor who will spend hours working with you (a pretty big commitment to request of a stranger), work on building your personal learning network or PLN. A PLN is basically a group of people you’re loosely connected to, usually online, who support you in small ways. You can help your PLN by sharing helpful resources or answering questions yourself as you’re able. Instead of asking a single person for a significant amount of time in a one-way mentor relationship, you find a large group of people who can all help you a little bit.

Kathy Schrock’s guide to creating a PLN is one place to start learning about PLNs. This concept has taken hold more in K-12 education than in the workplace, but I think the ideas and strategies can work for people in any field. Harold Jarche’s PKM (Personal Knowledge Mastery) model is a related but more comprehensive structure for workplace learning. In Jarche’s Seek – Sense -Share model, you Seek knowledge from your network and Share what you learn back to the network. That network could be called a PLN.

Whether you call it a PLN or something else, most of us in today’s workforce aren’t going to have a single one-on-one mentor who guides and shapes our careers. That’s the old way of learning in a hierarchical organization. In a networked world, our lifelong learning should take advantage of the availability of the network. In fact, you can probably learn more from a network than from a single person, even if you only learn a small amount from each individual in your network.

Your Network

Where do you find your network? How do you connect with people? How do you share what you’re learning so the relationship is reciprocal?


LearnTrends: Personal Knowledge Management

These are my live blogged notes from Harold Jarche’s LearnTrends session on Personal Knowledge Management. My side comments are in italics. Update: The recording of this session (and the rest of LearnTrends) is now available.

Sense-making with PKM

When he moved to consulting and didn’t have an IT department and those resources, he realized he had to do something different.

Idea from Will Richardson: what do you do when you read a blog post and come across an interesting few sentences? What do you do with that system?

PKM is a set of problem-solving skills for work, focused on getting things done but not necessarily task focused

Personal directed learning as well as accidental, serendipitous learning

Too much information

More important advances in the future will be our advances in dealing with information & problem solving, not in computer technology (he was quoting someone–didn’t catch who, and this is only a paraphrase)

  • Big KM = enterprise KM, lots of structure
  • Little KM = processes used by distributed teams
  • Personal KM = ad hoc, DIY, cheap/free

A PKM Method

Not the only method–not something to force people into, just one way. Basically, this is Harold’s way of dealing with the flow of info

Internal processes

  • Sort
  • Categorize
  • Make Explicit
  • Retrieve

External processes

  • Connect
  • Contribute
  • Exchange

Interesting discussion in the chat about whether if you don’t pay for services if you can trust it. I asked if that included open source tools too–basically he trusts libre tools but not gratis ones

Harold uses different tools for different purposes

  • Google Reader to pull everything in. Used to use Bloglines, accumulated lots of saved items but never looked back at them. He forces himself to not have too many interesting things in the “holding pen” at a time.
  • Delicious: what he uses to save things instead of Bloglines
  • WordPress
  • Twitter
  • Ning

Don’t worry about missing something interesting; somebody else will pick it up or you can ask someone in your network about it later. In the network, good things come back around.

Important to have a data backup plan. This is related to the trust issue–I’m more likely to trust services that let me get my data out to back it up somewhere.

Make the data searchable and shareable with others

When you bookmark on delicious, you can also see how others have tagged it

Over time, your practices change. For example, he now makes clearer blog titles so in 3 years he can find info easily, rather than being witty in his titles

If you follow dull people on Twitter, Twitter will be boring. He is collecting his “best of Twitter” in his “Friday Finds” each week. He uses favorites throughout the week and looks for patterns and groups. Makes it explicit by posting to his blog.

Other models for PKM

Different models will resonate with different people

Urs Frei: spiral model

Web Tools for Critical Thinking (Dave Pollard)

  • Observe & Study
  • Participate
  • Challenge & Evaluate
  • Tentative Opinions

People worry about putting ideas out there b/c not polished & edited, but you have to get out and participate.

It doesn’t make sense to work through this on our own–we should be sharing and working through things together

PKM is very much individualized process–we have to figure out how to make sense of things

As citizens, PKM is part of our social responsibility; we should be learning about issues together


How does PKM relate to L&D organizations?

Too much of our training has been “we’ll tell you where to get the info.” We can’t assume that we will know all of that anymore.

Social bookmarks are an easy first step–lots of people can have a purpose for this

Social bookmarking sites are less often blocked by corporate firewalls. However, getting people to use the tools is a bigger challenge than IT lockdown

Need to find ways to give people some personal control within any system. What is effective for one person may not be for another.

Difference between PKM/PLE/PLN: PKM is more work-focused

Jay Cross: we have cast the IT department as the bad guy for too long. IT is focused on an entirely different set of goals from most of us.

Virginia Yonkers observed that Harold’s tools are mostly text–someone asked about multimedia in his PKM. He takes pictures, is starting to do slides, may do YouTube in the future