Working Notes of a Practising Neo-Generalist (#4) — On Personal Knowledge Mastery (or 2016: A year in writing)

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“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” — Marcus Aurelius in Meditations, Book 6:21 (translated by Gregory Hays, The Modern Library, New York)

On Personal Knowledge Mastery (or 2016: A year in writing)

Harold Jarche’s online course in Personal Knowledge Mastery, made me realise the importance of working out loud. I had already been building an archive of blog posts, articles, talks and numerous other things that got my interest on Twitter, but this was still ‘implicit knowledge.’ Besides, it wasn’t even ‘my’ knowledge, as my tweets were (and are) mostly re-tweets. I merely use Twitter as an online archive, based on the twitter streams of more or less a hundred accounts — interesting people, journals, magazines, and ‘what have you.’ I still do.

All the things I re-tweeted I had read, watched, or listened to, and pondered on (this is also why I can’t follow much more than a hundred accounts). The connections — made in notebooks and above all my head — became, and still become explicit through my work with clients. This is where my thinking as ‘comprehensivist’ — as a ‘specialist’ in curiosity, traversing multiple domains, and sensemaking — pays out.

But there are always ways to work out louder. So, at the beginning of 2016, I decided to make my thinking explicit by writing a weekly curation, called Random Finds. Since the first one in week 5, I have written 43 (I missed one week, and have combined a couple of others). With a read time of ten to twelve minutes, on everage, I don’t expect to attract a large audience. But I don’t really mind. Writing my Random Finds has actually made me a better reader, which, in turn, allows me to make more meaningful connections — not only between ideas and concepts, but also between and with people.

During 2016, I also wrote a chapter on corporate innovation labs for Daniel Egger’s book Future Value Generation, and I started writing a column for Intrapreneurship World on innovation and entrepreneurship. Writing these has helped my find my own voice, which is, when it comes to (corporate) innovation and all things related, rather critical. I have come to realise, not for the first time though, how much of it is bollocks. (And also, if you want people to read it, you need to use the word ‘disrupt(ion)’ in the title. Quod erat demonstrandum.)

In my first three Working Notes of a Practicing Neo-Generalist — I borrowed the title from Gregory Hays, who in the introduction, page xxxvii, to his translation of Meditations, refers to Marcus Aurelius’ work as the “working notes of a practicing philosopher” — I have become more personal. These are my stories, and I owe much of it to Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelsen, the authors of The Neo-Generalist. My interview for their book, and the many conversations I have had with Kenneth, made me much more aware of my ‘onlyness’ — a term coined by Nilofer Merchant, meaning the “thing that only you have, coming from that spot in the world in which you stand, a function of your history and experience, visions and hopes. It is everything that you have coming from your past, that only you can see.”

Looking back at last year’s tweets, I can see this ‘change’ happening. They are less about ‘doing,’ more about ‘thinking’ — about philosophy, meaning, purpose, ethics. But maybe I should say about ‘thoughtful doing.’

In 2017 I will continue my search for truth, beauty and goodness — a search for enduring human values that matter. Now, more than ever, it seems.

What I wrote in 2016

These columns were originally posted on Intrapreneurship World between September 19th and December 13th, 2016.

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helping leaders navigate complexity with confidence & clarity of thought | varius multiplex multiformis

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