Posted by: Gillian | November 19, 2009

You too are in a learning wirearchy

There’s still something vaguely surreal about participating in a webinar where the presenter has an English-sounding name but is speaking in flawless French from San Jose, California.  Jon Husband, at yesterday’s LearnTrends first session in French, discussed the notion of wirearchies which are very relevant not just to people in the workplace but also to learners in a more individual sense.  (Jon also has a podcast for which I’m trying to find a valid link.) That means you and me.

We all know (some of) the online world of social networking which is often informal, where context affects what we say, write or show and where our purpose informs our choice of network. (Tony O’Driscoll later elaborated on this.)  We all know that organisations are changing because of this.  Vincent Berthelot talked of a return to synchronous learning; not this time face-to-face but online with a global community. Clark Quinn and Jay Cross discussed the effects this has on organisational learning.  What struck me most clearly throughout it all was the effect on social capital and the implication for what you and I care to learn, how and why.

Sticking to the individual aspects for now (Harold’s PKM still resonates), wirearchies matter more than hierarchies because:

  1. Performance matters more than knowledge
  2. Knowledge underpins performance (so you need it!)
  3. Knowledge can be acquired anywhere
  4. Knowing where to look gets you there faster
  5. Being a node (connection point) in a wirearchy both helps you reach information faster from other nodes but also to pass on that information to others that, in turn, may help connect you to bigger nodes.

This wiring diagram analogy is useful as it depersonalises the process of learning.  The old lessons of the formal classroom where you worked to be better than the kid in the next desk – or gave up – have gone.  Starting from a position of ‘how do I best achieve what it is I want to do’, be that weighing a black hole or making a Windsor chair or increasing turnover, the answer is in the connections.



  1. Hi Gillian; not sure what podcast you’re looking for but I’m sure we can send you the link. Just let me know.

    • Thanks, Harold. Email on its way.

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