John Moravec

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Exploring the "3rd space" of co-working and co-learning

Last week, I traveled to Utrecht, The Netherlands, to participate in the 3rd Space World Conference, hosted by, a co-working enterprise that is establishing locations throughout the world. The event was designed to introduce people to sustainable co-working, and to also connect co-working centers and thought leaders together. Knowledge sharing, the enabling of serendipity and Society 3.0 are some of the other key elements that were covered.

I provided an update on the Knowmad Society project, which really looks at how third space people — knowmads — build and interact with the third space through education, working, and living:

Reflecting on the day, our moderator, Sebastian Olma, noted:

Obviously, the people populating 3rd spaces need a set of skills, attitudes and craftsmanship that is different form the one their industrial ancestors had. So education is an enormously important topic in this context and also one that “knowmad” John Moravec could only broach at the conference. It is true that we need to be rather imaginative in this area. However, and somewhat paradoxically, we also need to be very clear about the specific parameters that we want to use in order to set up a 3rd space of education as one of imagination, one that facilitates the formation of individuals able to navigate their tech-saturated environment as active contributors rather than passive consumers.

Other important talks recorded from the event:

The livestream of the event attracted over 1000 viewers from 31 countries, and nearly 125,000 people were reached by Twitter with approximately 1.8 million impressions. The topic trended in the Dutch twittersphere, and I’m sure it trended in other countries as well. From this initial success, plans to create a global platform to connect co-working spaces from around the world. Stay tuned!

A conversation and workshop with the KaosPilots and Knowmads

For those of us in the Minneapolis area, I’m pleased to share news that the KaosPilots and Knowmads will visit with the University of Minnesota for a free event on redesigning university education.

Here’s the official announcement:

Following on the activities of the College of Design’s Design Intersections symposium (, the University of Minnesota community is invited to join in a FREE follow-up workshop, co-sponsored by the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Jandris Center for Innovation in Higher Education:

Rethinking Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota: A Conversation and Workshop with The KaosPilots and Knowmads.


Friday, March 30
9 am – noon, lunch follows
Shepherd Room, Weisman Art Museum

Registration will be limited to 50.

Join us for a FREE co-creation event at the University of Minnesota featuring global creatives from the KaosPilots (Aarhus, Denmark) and Knowmads (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) —innovative schools focused on applied creative and design thinking, business, and social entrepreneurship.
We will discuss the future of education and what it means for the University.

  • How can we rethink how we learn, share, and apply what we know in this time of accelerating technological and social change?
  • How we can apply design thinking principles to transform how we teach, learn, live and work in Minnesota?
  • How can students and faculty at the University of Minnesota be engaged in democratic, participatory ways in co-creating new approaches to teaching and learning?
We welcome the University community and others interested in education for building a creative and innovative Minnesota.

Event co-sponsors:  College of Design; Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education; Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Carlson School of Management; and the Weisman Art Museum

For more information, visit or contact Virajita Singh ( or John Moravec (

Are you a knowmad or are you just lost?

Knowmads differentiate their jobs from work. Jobs are positions, gigs, or other forms of employment. Work is longer term in scope, and relates toward creating meaningful outcomes. One’s work differs from a career in Knowmad Society. Whereas a career is something that “carries” a person throughout life, an individual’s work is a collection of activities that are backed with elements that are purposive at the personal level. In other words, the results of a knowmad’s work are their responsibility alone.

Knowmads strive to continually define and refine their work. This can be expressed through occupying various jobs, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, social activities, etc. If the knowmad makes a difference at their job, but there is little opportunity for creating change, then it’s time to move on. Without having a purposive direction to herd one’s various jobs into work, we must question if that person has found his or her way.

As we look to co-invent our futures of work, we need to look hard into what we are doing, and ask each other, are you a knowmad, or are you just lost?

Nine key characteristics of knowmads in Society 3.0

A knowmad is what I have previously termed a nomadic knowledge and innovation worker – that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Moreover, knowmads are valued for the personal knowledge that they possess, and this knowledge gives them a competitive advantage. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas the industrialization of Society 1.0 required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific in regard to task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work either at a specific place, virtually, or any blended combination. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.

In Invisible Learning, Cristóbal Cobo and I presented a “passport of skills for a knowmad” (p. 57). Refining the list a bit, I am pleased to present an update with nine key characteristics of knowmads in Society 3.0:


  1. Are not restricted to a specific age. (see note, below)
  2. Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.
  3. Are able to apply their ideas and expertise contextually in various social and organizational configurations.
  4. Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies.
  5. Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.
  6. Are open to sharing what they know, and invite the open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
  7. Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously, and can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
  8. Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
  9. Are not afraid of failure — and see their failures as learning opportunities.

The remixing of places and social relationships is also impacting education. Students in Knowmad Society should learn, work, play, and share in almost any configuration. But there is little evidence to support any claim that education systems are moving toward a knowmad-enabled paradigm. When we compare the list of skills required of knowmads to the outcomes of mainstream education, I wonder: What are we educating for? Are we educating to create factory workers and bureaucrats? Or, are we educating to create innovators, capable of leveraging their imagination and creativity?

These questions –and more– will be explored further in the book Knowmad Society, which will be released later this year.

Note: Due to current social structures that limit participation in the new society (i.e., access to pooled health insurance), the largest growth in knowmadic workers today are among youth and older workers.

Leadership and Entrepreneurship: "Knowmads challenge all structures"

De Baak‘s Ralph Blom wrote up a short interview with me for last month’s issue of Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

My favorite bit:

What skills are needed in a society 3.0?

“Because everybody is in it together it is not bounded by a specific generation. Nobody has done this before, there are no role models. We all have to co-create this together. Knowmads are highly engaged, creative, innovative, collaborative and highly motivated. They adapt fast in new situations and contextualize ideas due to situations. So schools need to find out how we can learn skills in motivation, creative orientation, being friendly, and an ungoing mindset on always keep up with technologies. All of us have to learn to share without geographical limitation. We have to create global footprints, go beyond the small communities and learn how to engage people all over the world in open and flat knowledge networks. A big cultural mindshift is needed, we have to start thinking that learning is everywhere, always and naturally. It is quit normal that even the biggest leader says: “Can you help me learn that?”. The most successful entrepreneurs do it all the time: “I don’t know how to do this. I have this idea. I want to get it to the next level. Can you help figure this out?” Innovation will not come from software and new technologies. It’s about mindware. That is our imagination, our creativity.”

Read the full interview on De Baak’s website.

Looking into 2012 – what's hot, what's not

In what has evolved into a sort of annual tradition, I again peered into my crystal ball (well, actually a truckload of reports, news articles, and a healthy dose of my own speculation) to see what we can expect in 2012. This time, however, I spoke with David Raths at Campus Technology magazine, and joined Michael Horn, Christopher Rice, and Kenneth Green in advising a “What’s hot, what’s not” list for 2012. A supplemental IT trends to watch in 2012 article is also posted on the Campus Technology website.

Read the article at Campus Technology.

Looking back: How did I do last year? In the article Five predictions for 2011 that will rock the education world, I said:

  1. “2011 will be the Year of the Tablet, but schools still will not know what to do with them.” Yup. That’s pretty much how it went.
  2. “Accelerating adoption of iPads, iPhones and other mobile technologies into social and cultural frameworks is transforming computing into an ambient experience — that is, immediate and purposive access to ICTs is available anywhere and anytime.” The trend in this direction continues, and will likely become more apparent when Apple (and others) make strong pushes into our living rooms (i.e., an Apple television).
  3. “The New Normal: The recession is officially over, but many people are left unemployed or significantly underemployed.” Indeed, we now have a human capital crisis where talents that used to support a middle class lifestyle are now obsolete. Our education systems need to lead the way in navigating this “new normal.”
  4. “We are slowly recognizing that the only constant is change, and many industries will experience increasingly rapid cycles of transformation — for humans that are ill-prepared for change, this could mean more socioeconomic turmoil and unemployment. 2011 will give us a taste of what’s to come.” Upgrade yourself or buckle in. 2012 could be rough.
  5. “People are mobile, too. Rapid developments in mobile technologies also enable society to become much more mobile, and we will see this reflected in the workforce, of which the leading edges will exhibit Knowmadic qualities.” Vivek Wadhwa, Tom Friedman, and others have been outspoken on the need to retain skilled knowledge workers (in the United States). So far, I can’t tell if anybody’s been listening…

The university as a flag of convenience

This morning, Inside Higher Ed posted an article by Steve Kolowich on students from universities around the world earning credit by participating in an experimental Stanford University course that is being broadcasted at no (additional) cost:

That A.I. course was the flagship of a trio of Stanford computer science courses that were broadcast this fall, for the first time, to anyone on the Internet who cared to log in. This made Stanford the latest of a handful of elite American universities to pull back the curtain on their vaunted courses, joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project, Yale University’s Open Yale Courses and the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcast.Berkeley, among others.

The article continues to describe the MOOC (“massive open online course”) scene, and how the online broadcasting of courses is causing institutions and students to question our traditional approaches to teaching. This is nothing new, as these activities have been going on for at least a decade. BUT, toward the end of the piece, Kolowich strikes gold:

“I don’t think its significant that ‘Stanford’ is doing this, I think it’s significant that [Stanford Professor] Peter Norvig is doing this,” says Michael Feldstein, a senior program manager for Cengage Learning and author of the popular education technology blog e-Literate. “He’s essentially using his reputation in the field to provide his stamp of approval on a student’s performance, independent of his institution.”

This raises the question, are we starting to see a shift away from organizing higher education around institutions, and instead reorienting toward a greater focus on individuals? Where we see the knowledge and expertise of individuals emerge and shadow institutions, will particular universities be sought out as mere flags of convenience for nomadic (knowmadic) faculty and their students, who, likewise may not be fully connected with a particular institution?

For non-elite universities, this presents a challenge. Unable to attract “top shelf” faculty, they will likely not be able to collect as much attention or potential revenue from MOOCs and other online initiatives. Instead, I predict they will pursue one of two pathways:

  • Subscribe to courses broadcasted by Stanford, MIT, and the other elites at the cost of shrinking their own teaching faculty.
  • Focus on doing what they do best: Provide industrial-style education at high cost.

For talented faculty at non-elite schools, can they afford such affiliations any longer?

Read Kolowich’s article at Inside Higher Ed.

An Invisible Learning travelogue

The world is indeed flattening, and we are very happy. Since March, Cristóbal and I have presented Invisible Learning in a dozen countries, and at more than 35 events for debate and discussion. The outcomes from the project exceed our expectations — and, more importantly, open the debate to a wider and global level. Some examples that inspire us:

…and more

In less than three months since we opened the book for free access online, we’ve had about 9,500 downloads that we know of — and many, many more that we do not know of. Others are sharing the book alike, including Google Books and OpenLibra. And, it is already attracting great citations. As we embraced a unique approach to blending traditional and “new” publishing, we look forward to seeing how others will respond to our distribution approach.

We look forward to many more conversations in 2012, and we want to thank everybody that helped make Invisible Learning a success. We especially extend our thanks to Hugo Pardo, the XXI Transmedia team, the University of Barcelona, and the University of Andalucia for providing the support to make this project possible.

And, a short video about what’s coming next:

Knowmads and the next renaissance

From TEDxBrisbane: Edward Harran shares his personal story into the knowmad movement: an emerging digital generation that has the capacity to work, learn, move and play – with anybody, anytime, and anywhere. In his energetic talk, Edward gives us a compelling insight into his story and highlights what the knowmads represent: the beginnings of the next renaissance.

Eddie has written more about his experience at TEDxBrisbane in his blog.

As for me, I’m very, very pleased to see the knowmads concept catching on around the world.

Last week in brief: BIG things brewing

A lot has happened in the past week, and I feel that bits and pieces are coming together to form a huge break from the mainstream in human capital development in the Netherlands. In brief:

On Monday, I visited TEDxDelft at TU Delft. The day was very well organized and included a selection of talks from a book maker, an astronaut, constructors of a high tech opera, a parkour exhibition, and a talk by Marcel Kampman on how to close what he calls the Dream Gap. Marcel provides 9 ideas to tackle the issue, including re-organizing TED so that it it focuses on T-shaped approaches to EDucation (hence, T-ED), that work to connect people-to-people in knowledge creation and sharing. Smart idea.

During the lunch break, Marcel and I also got together and recorded videos for each others projects. Here’s what I had to say for the Dream School initiative he’s playing a major role with for Stad & Esch:

Stad & Esch & Onderwijs & John Moravec from Stad & Esch on Vimeo.

(I’ll post my video interview with Marcel in a future post, which will include his TEDxDelft talk, as soon as it becomes available.)

On Tuesday, I visited the UniC school in Utrecht, which flips the use of technology in the classroom around to allow students to engage in learning activities that enable them to follow their own passions and interests. They bring in their own laptops or tablet devices, and spend their time on individual and team learning projects that are guided by faculty that do more to attend to their learning rather than trying to manage it. Jelmer Evers showed me around, and explained that because higher level students are required to take a standardized learning exam, they must unlearn everything the school has taught them so that they can complete the tests in an industrialized manner. Jelmer writes about this difficult situation on his blog, and fears an NCLB-like nightmare in the Netherlands may be emerging:

So far so good. If it was up to a lot of teachers and students, learning would take place more outside of the school as well. But reality is different of course. That’s where the inspection comes in. The education inspection is an organization which visits schools. In general it sees to good educational practice and particulary it audits “weak” schools which produce bad grades, most notably exam results. We’re a new school and those results are continuously improving. So in the end I think we’ll do fine (and our students better in the ways that count as well). The thing is, a lot of the skills that we focus on aren’t captured in the official results and a lot of people are scrutinizing us to see if we will be able to produce these results. We had a real nice discussion with the inspectors of course and they were very generous, but in the end it is the “result” that matters. In fact there is an ever increasing focus on results and testing, like in the United States.

Wednesday centered on a collaborative workshop at the Third National Self-Organization Day, organized by Stichting Zelforganisatie in Rotterdam, with Edwin de Bree and three students from the Sudbury education schools in the Netherlands. I spoke about Invisible Learning, and Edwin moderated a panel discussion and “speed dating”/Q&A session between the students and the workshop participants. Later in the day, Ronald van den Hoff gave a talk on his vision of Society 3.0. One interesting projection I took with me: He projects that 45% of the workforce will be comprised of knowmads or engaged in knowmad-like work.

On Thursday, my journey continued with a visit to the NHL Hogeschool in Leeuwarden for a day-long workshop on Knowmad Society and Invisible Learning, entitled “MEAT with John Moravec.” The group of faculty and students at NHL, lead by Jooske Haije, was a lot of fun to work with, not only because they are working to implement ideas from Invisible Learning and Knowmad Society into their own institution, but also because the group were excited to remix and share new ideas. I was delightfully surprised to find that they had made morning snacks out of the brain imagery that Cristóbal Cobo and I originally intended to use for the cover of our Invisible Learning book. The faculty are fired-up on making invisible learning visible, and I look forward to hearing about they will present from the workshop to an assembly celebrating the school’s 40th anniversary later this month.

Later, in the afternoon, I joined the Otava Folk High School in Finland for a talk on Invisible Learning via Adobe Connect:

On Friday, we began to bring all these pieces together. Ronald van den Hoff hosted a round table on education in Society 3.0 at Seats2Meet in Utrecht. In the world of educational innovation, with various stakeholders and initiatives largely operating independent of each other, we recognized a need to better connect and integrate the work and thinking of all key players — including students. With interim futuring activities to keep us thinking and acting, our group will again meet in January and March to plot next steps. Already, Ronald has pledged in-kind support from Seats2Meet International to support the initiative, coordinated by Annemarije Bakker, so I am quite optimistic about what we may accomplish in the coming months.

During the second half of the day, I traveled to Amsterdam with Thieu Besselink for a quick visit to the Waag Society and the Creative Learning Lab, where they have recently released a book entitled Open Design Now: Why design cannot remain exclusive. As they describe it, the book:

surveys this emerging field for the first time. Insiders including John Thackara, Droog Design’s Renny Ramakers and Bre Pettis look at what’s driving open design and where it’s going. They examine new business models and issues of copyright, sustainability and social critique. Case studies show how projects ranging from the RepRap self-replicating 3D-printer to $50 prosthetic legs are changing the world.

Finally, upon hearing that Otto Scharmer was visiting Amsterdam, I crashed the final minutes of the Crossing the Tipping Point congress:

I apologize to anybody that may have been upset that I didn’t register before stoping by (I wish I had known about the event sooner!), but I really enjoyed meeting all of you. :)


Throughout Northern Europe, and, in particular, in the Netherlands, I sense a real push for creating educational reforms that will enable the countries to leapfrog beyond old industrial paradigms to 21st century innovation and knowmadic paradigms. In these countries where education policies are so deeply rooted in the old Prussian tradition that aims to produce loyal factory workers and government bureaucrats, perhaps we can also find the greatest potential for meaningful change and leadership in developing Society 3.0.

The stars seem to be aligning for this shift. And, when it happens, it will be big. The right people are connecting to bring new ideas to the table, and are generating new ways for generating positive futures. For leading, facilitating, and hosting many of these conversations, I extend my greatest gratitude especially to Seats2Meet International, Ronald van den Hoff, Iris Meerts, Jooske Haije, and Edwin de Bree. Thank you for making this happen!

(I’ll be back in January.)