"To have a great team you need great individuals, but you also have to have Teachability ... In business or in sport you are a sponge or a rock. A sponge has a hunger for learning and taking on new knowledge ... building a team full of sponges will lead to an exciting and vibrant environment where new ideas flourish and the norm is challenged".You cannot teach someone something if they think they know it already, and you can't share knowledge with someone who doesn't want to know. They are like a Rock - the knowledge just bounces off. The sponge however is thirsty for knowledge and will soak up all they can find.
Binary thinking is a lower level form of cognitive understanding, as put forward by Kieran Egan, which he calls Mythic Thinking. More complex forms of thinking are: Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic. But binary, or mythic thinking, is an easy sell. It appeals to our emotions which we developed as children. Binary thinking blinds us. It’s not black and white, or right and wrong, or even Left and Right. Human society is many shades along various spectra.
“Every day I’m told our society, our system, has two sectors: the public sector and the private sector — the former referring to government and its agencies, the latter to the market system and its businesses. I’m also told that one sector or the other, or both in partnership, say as a public-private hybrid, offers the best way to deal with this or that domestic policy problem.
Our politicians, policymakers, and media commentators constantly rely on this public-private framework when they talk about fixing America’s health, education, childcare, housing, welfare, infrastructure, energy, communications, and environmental issues. Some proposals call for broader government programs; others urge more privatization; a few recommend improving public-private collaboration.” —David Ronfeldt
Thinking of our triform society as only Markets and Government (Institutions) ignores the influence and potential of families, communities, and the volunteer sector. Public-Private Partnerships are not inclusive. They ignore the Civil sector. And now we are in need of a fourth, networked, sector — the Commons. Before we can start developing new metamodern structures for our global challenges we have to recognize our first sector, and give it voice. Voting every four years for a (mostly) binary choice is not a voice.
‘The importance of managing knowledge was highlighted during the 1990s in De Beers. Ilana, a young metallurgist, was given a project. Ilana found the solution in a visionary internal report written in 1971 – an idea that appeared before its time. The innovative solution radically improved diamond recoveries and cut costs – the new technology was rapidly deployed across the group’.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“For years, a small hand lettered sign hung on the West wall of McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. It read, ‘The important thing is to acquire perception, though it cost all you have.’” —Eric McLuhan, Poetics on the Warpath 2001 —@McLinstitute
If education is to be measured against the standard of sustainability, what can be done? I would like to make four proposals. First, I would like to propose that you engage in a campus-wide dialogue about the way you conduct your business as educators. Does four years here make your graduates better planetary citizens or does it make them, in Wendell Berry’s words, “itinerant professional vandals”? Does this college contribute to the development of a sustainable regional economy or, in the name of efficiency, to the processes of destruction?
Data ownership is an individual solution when collective solutions are required. We will never own those 6m predictions produced each second. Surveillance capitalists know this. Clegg knows this. That is why they can tolerate discussions of “data ownership” and publicly invite privacy regulation.
What should lawmakers do? First, interrupt and outlaw surveillance capitalism’s data supplies and revenue flows. This means, at the front end, outlawing the secret theft of private experience. At the back end, we can disrupt revenues by outlawing markets that trade in human futures knowing that their imperatives are fundamentally anti-democratic. We already outlaw markets that traffic in slavery or human organs.
“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.” ― Jean Paul-Sartre
CBC News: So, you think you’ve spotted some ‘fake news’ — now what? [good resource]
The tricky part of spotting disinformation is that it might not look fake at first. Here are a few things you should ask yourself while you’re reading or watching:
Does the story seem too good (or bad) to be
Does it seem to confirm stereotypes about a group of people?
Does it seem to confirm my beliefs?
Are the details in the story thin or unavailable?
Does the body of the story match the headline or tweet?
When was the story published? Is it new? If it’s a few years old, why is it circulating now?
Does the story have a named writer or producer?
Does the video have a named producer or editor?
Does the person appearing in the video have a real name or a nickname?
Have I heard of this organization before?
What do I know about this organization?
Does this organization have contact information? What happens when I try to contact it?
Does this organization have reporters and writers who can be found on social media? Can I see their bylines on the organization’s website?
What is the domain name (web address) of the website? Have I heard of it before? Can I look it up? Does it sound like the address of a similar website with a different ending?
Can I find another source that confirms this information? Can I find one that counters it?
Senior people are time-poor and you should respect that and refine the art of executive briefings and crisp summaries. High level highlights and clear asks. Complexity needs time and concentration and we have no staying power for it these days. But try saying that in an executive boardroom. Try suggesting that the way we work is not conducive to making informed decisions or reflecting on challenges and opportunities. Try suggesting that working like this leaves choice to chance because the seniors can’t see beyond the next half-hour interval and the juniors churn out PowerPoint safe in the delusion that their seniors and betters will notice if something is missing, if something is wrong, if something is inadequate – and too distracted by half by a desire to be at the apex of business themselves: that magical time when they will be reading other people’s badly thought-through slides, too busy to actually help them get the work right.
“Culture is an emergent property of human groups, a new property of the whole not manifested in the parts themselves. And it arises from humans having the brains and social systems that allow for retaining and exchanging ideas.
Human culture also accumulates. This means that brains and social systems capable of coping with more and more stuff are increasingly advantaged across time. And it also means that the force that culture has been applying to our evolution has been increasing over the past ten thousand to forty thousand years. Once humans evolved to be capable of teaching and learning, they developed a parallel evolutionary strand, cultural evolution, side by side with genetic. These two strands intersect repeatedly in many places and times. Each leaves its mark on the other. ” —Nicholas Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionay Origins of a Good Society
Christakis’s ‘social suite’ is a range of traits that are common among all human societies, though not always manifested in the same way. For more information, read Howard Rheingold’s review of Blueprint. When it comes to the age-old question of Nurture versus Nature, Christakis answers that it is both, like a double helix. This is not a unique perspective.
“Cognition and our ability to think are all interwoven, and we’re a cultural species, which means one of our genetic programs is to be able to acquire ideas, beliefs and values and weave them into our brain such that they then affect our biology.” —Joseph Henrich, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition, and Co-evolution
Of these common traits in the social suite, I think that learning and teaching are the most important. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”, wrote Isaac Newton on the scientific heritage that enabled his own work. Each generation has the potential to increase our collective knowledge and understanding. Our species is really Homo discens, or ‘learning man’. I have ranked each component of the social suite to what I think is the highest value for society. If we stop learning socially, we will go backwards. Social learning is essential for human civilization.
“If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population.” —Joseph Henrich
|Image from wikipedia|
Who have you learned from?
Who have you shared this with?
|Public domain image from maxpixel|
1) Both Electricity and Knowledge have no real value until they are applied. Neither electricity in a battery, nor knowledge in someone's head, has any value until it is turned into action.
2) Both Electricity and Knowledge need to flow before they can be applied. Electricity flows in a current, knowledge flows between people.
3) Both Electricity and Knowledge need connections in order to flow. Electricity needs a grid in order to flow around a country, with generating stations connected to substations connected to houses and connected to devices such as laptops and freezers. Knowledge needs connections between people, and connections from people to stored knowledge. Connections can occur within communities of practice, for example; these are KM's equivalent of the power grids that cross a country.
4) The connections need to be closed in a circuit. I am thinking of power circuits now - the sort of things we built in school, with light bulbs and batteries. Knowledge also needs to be part of a closed loop; knowledge is applied in action, but is also created through action. Consumers of knowledge are also producers of knowledge, and the flow of knowledge needs to form a closed learning loop.
5) The flow of electricity and knowledge both need to serve the needs of the consumer. The person who switches on their laptop expects the electricity to arrive. The person who asks a question of their Community of Practice, or types a query into a search engine, expects the answer to arrive. In either case, if this does not happen, the consumer loses faith in the system.
6) Both electricity and knowledge can flow into and out of storage. Electricity can be stored in batteries at a small scale, and at a larger scale in technologies such as pumped storage schemes. Knowledge can be stored in knowledge assets and knowledge bases.
7) The storage needs to be efficient. You need to get out what you put in, as much as possible. Efficient batteries can power computers as well as cars nowadays. Efficient knowledge assets are also needed. You can never store all the knowledge of a topic in documents, videos and other files, but the percentage that you can store needs to be easy to use, and rich in context and content.
8) The storage can go out of date. We have all looked in the battery drawer and found batteries that are leaking, that have become corroded, and that will no longer work. And I guess many of us have looked in knowledge bases and found knowledge that is so out of data as to be worthless. Our knowledge storage system needs to be kept fresh and up to date, old knowledge needs to be thrown out, like old batteries.
9) Both electricity and knowledge need a generation capability. There needs to be a mechanism for generating electricity, and a mechanism for generating new knowledge. The old mechanisms used to be centralised generation - a power station or an R&D department generating electricity and knowledge respectively. Nowadays generation of both electricity and knowledge is becoming more decentralised. Consumers can become producers, with local solar panels and local windmills producing electricity locally. Similarly consumers of knowledge can also be producers, with processes such as After Action Review and Lessons Capture producing knowledge locally.
10) Introducing a country-wide electrical grid is a massive undertaking, with the construction of pylons, substations, power lines and meters. Similarly introducing a company-wide knowledge grid is a big undertaking, with the creation of communities of practice and project-based learning systems, the introduction of new roles and process and new technologies. Both systems require maintenance - by the Transmission System Operator, and by the Knowledge Management Team. And after a few years, we being to wonder how we could ever have lived without them!
To an older culture, a newer one often looks amoral, as morality guides older cultures. To a newer culture, older cultures appear to be primitive, lacking complexity. But each culture has its pros and cons. The challenge in developing what Lene Rachel Andersen calls ‘metamodernity‘ is in taking the positive aspects of previous human cultures in order to create a global culture that can deal with the complexity of technology, climate emergency, and evolving political situations.
The Nordic Bildung perspective of societal evolution aligns with David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Model, which I have discussed in: understanding the shift. Andersen suggests we can build upon the positive aspects of each previous societal form in order to create a metamodern society. We do not need to destroy the old ways.
Connection to nature
Metamodernity is about “networks of meaning” and “… allows that phenomena can have both absolute and relative meaning and significance.” “Furthermore, metamodernity can allow us to appreciate the entire human experience as a connected whole. It can allow us to seek out different kinds of knowledge in different places for different purposes.” Andersen encourages each of us to keep our current meaning making, but acknowledge that, “I will never have the full picture, no matter how meaningful my current meaning making is to me, it is only one perspective on the world”.
This approach is similar to Kieran Egan’s cognitive levels and reflects the last of these — Somatic, Mythic, Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic.
1. Somatic — (before language acquisition) the physical abilities of one’s own body are discovered, as are our emotions; somatic understanding includes the communicating activity that precedes the development of language; as the child grows and learns language, this kind of understanding survives in the way children “model their overall social structure in play”.
2. Mythic — binary opposites (e.g. Tall/Short or Good/Evil), images, metaphor, and story-structure are prominent tools in pre-literate sense-making.
3. Romantic — the limits of reality are discovered and rational thinking begins, connected with the development of literacy. Egan connects this stage with the desire to explore the limits of reality, an interest in the transcendent qualities of things, and “engagement with knowledge represented as a product of human emotions and intentions”
4. Philosophic — the discovery of principles which underlie patterns and limits found in data; ordering knowledge into coherent general schemes.
5. Ironic — it involves the “mental flexibility to recognize how inadequately flexible are our minds, and the languages we use, to the world we try to represent in them”; it therefore includes the ability to consider alternative philosophic explanations, and is characterized by a Socratic stance in the world. —The Educated Mind
While we do not need to destroy the old forms, we must also guard against their dark sides. Andersen warns about the pitfalls of each societal form, and we can see examples throughout the world, as we collectively deal with the current shift.
Andersen describes the Bildung approach to education as a core way for society to shift to metamodernity. It focuses early childhood education on understanding the world through stories (Egan’s Mythic understanding). Late childhood education is focused on socialization and more complex understanding (Egan’s Romantic understanding). Teen education can focus on specialization and a deep understanding of specific fields (Egan’s Philosophic understanding). Finally, adult learning is about developing diverse perspectives (Egan’s Ironic understanding), or what I would call a perspective of perpetual beta.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
The major challenge for a metamodern approach to take hold is in politics, which is deeply rooted in previous societal forms. Andersen concludes that metamodernism has the potential to enable us to clean up the messes we have made and pass on a better world to the next generations.
“If any of this is going to happen, we need to create the educational, Bildung and cultural institutions that allow us to be meaning making at a sufficiently high level of complexity. That anchor is locally, nationally, continentally, and globally. We also need to be at least bilingual so that we can enjoy both deep cultural roots where we grew up and the ability to have deep and rich conversations with people from around the globe. Politics must be about our understanding of the world, and money must be a means to increase our meaning making and expand our symbolic world and our horizon.”
This is why I keep promoting personal knowledge mastery as one method of meaning making in our connected world.
The Internet Time Alliance Award, in memory of Jay Cross, is presented to a workplace learning professional who has contributed in positive ways to the field of Informal Learning and is reflective of Jay’s lifetime of work.
Recipients champion workplace and social learning practices inside their organization and/or on the wider stage. They share their work in public and often challenge conventional wisdom. The Award is given to professionals who continuously welcome challenges at the cutting edge of their expertise and are convincing and effective advocates of a humanistic approach to workplace learning and performance.
We announce the award on 5 July, Jay’s birthday.
Following his death in November 2015, the partners of the Internet Time Alliance — Jane Hart, Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn, and myself — resolved to continue Jay’s work. Jay Cross was a deep thinker and a man of many talents, never resting on his past accomplishments, and this award is one way to keep pushing our professional fields and industries to find new and better ways to learn and work.
The Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award for 2019 is presented to Michelle Ockers.
Michelle describes herself as “passionate about modernising learning in organisations”. She has experience supporting workplace learning inside large organizations as well as a freelance consultant. Michelle helps to inform the industry through her public speaking and workshops. She is not afraid to try new methods and get her hands dirty, as she did in promoting social learning at Coca Cola Amatil, trading in her sneakers for safety shoes to better understand the work environment. For the past year Michelle has been posting a monthly summary of “What I Learned“, setting an example of continuous learning.
Here is Michelle in her own words
“The idea of a learning environment is that you’re reducing friction, to make it easier for people to learn, and in particular to learn while they work … So it’s about enabling people to learn continuously, to have a more fluid sharing of knowledge, to be able to access the resources they need, in the flow of work and to be able to do their job.”
It is with great pleasure that we present the fourth annual Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award to Michelle Ockers.
Michelle will be presented with the award in the city of Brisbane where she now lives.
|Image from ROverhate (pixabay.com) via needpix|
Communities play a significant role in how we relate to others and perceive ourselves. I am a member of several online communities and manage one myself — the perpetual beta coffee club. Communities are more than social networks. Our open social networks may be great places for serendipitous connections but they are not safe places to have deeper conversations or to expose our points of view. Communities of practice, which are often short-term, can provide the connective space between long-term loose social networks and 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.
There is also a dark side to communities — they can strengthen bias and help hate groups to not just form but take action.
“Charlottesville was planned on Facebook,” [Professor] Squire [Elon University] said. “Extremists are definitely using Facebook groups to plan physical, real-world events or just to make their lives a little smaller, to find friends.” —Reveal News
Communities can reinforce prejudice.
“[Professor] Crothers [Illinois State University], who has spent hundreds of hours alongside law enforcement officers researching another book, said the very nature of police work can make officers susceptible to conspiracy theories. Cops are being lied to constantly, he said, both by the civilians they have to deal with every day and often by the departments for which they work. In the end, he said, it can become hard to separate fact from fiction.” —Reveal News
Large communities can make hate socially acceptable.
The majority of U.S. hate crimes motivated by religious bias are anti-Semitic, and Reveal’s investigation found plenty of anti-Semitic activity in private groups. But the public nature of the Islamophobic activity on the platform resonates with Squire’s observation from years of monitoring Facebook: that anti-Muslim hate speech is “the last accepted form of bigotry in America.” —Reveal News
Seb Paquet noted that social media enable “ridiculously easy group-forming”. Not all groups are for the good of society. Not all communities are there to promote democracy. We should all be aware of the dark sides of communities.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent".
“There’s no room for argument about whether hate-filled internet message boards encourage real-world violence: they do, and none more so than 8chan. It normalises racism, misogyny, and extremism – and helps turn nightmarish, loud-mouthed talk of action into reality.” —Destroyer of Worlds
This examination of the 8chan online community shows how anonymity can breed a very dark social structure that is impossible to control, even for the founder. It seems that even if this community was shut down, a new one will be created, as evidenced by the rapid migration of the Gamergate harassment group from 4chan to 8chan. The disruption of civil society becomes the raison d’être of these types of communities.
It is the structure of a chan site itself that radicalises people. “The other anonymous users are guiding what’s socially acceptable, and the more and more you post on there you’re being affected by what’s acceptable and that changes you. Maybe you start posting Nazi memes as a joke… but you start to absorb those beliefs as your own, eventually,” Brennan [8chan founder] says. “Anonymity makes people reveal themselves, but because there are other anonymous users – not just one person in a black box – it also changes what they reveal.” —Destroyer of Worlds
There are many calls for policing by the platform owners of these communities, which is why the 8chan servers were moved to the Philippines. We are also hearing calls for the policing of major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and even individual blogs. But will this solve the problem or merely create new ones? Cory Doctorow weighs-in with a possible view from the near future.
“I shouldn’t have to publish this in The New York Times.
Ten years ago, I could have published this on my personal website, or shared it on one of the big social media platforms. But that was before the United States government decided to regulate both the social media platforms and blogging sites as if they were newspapers, making them legally responsible for the content they published.” —NYT 2019-06-24
Is it possible that there may come a day when I cannot write a blog post like this one, in order to have a ‘safe’ Web? How can we address the influence of a community like 8chan —”a place with a structure that made it a perfect petri-dish for violent misogyny and all kinds of hateful ideologies to germinate and spread” — while maintaining freedom of speech and the free spread of ideas, even controversial ones? I am certain the answer is complex and nuanced, and I am afraid that politicians and corporations may push us to more institutionalized control and less individual freedom.
We need to have outside voices that challenge the status quo. For example, Michael de Adder, a political cartoonist, had his 17-year contract with a newspaper chain cancelled with no notice or reason. However, many people say the reason was obvious.
“Wes Tyrell, a political cartoonist and president of the Association of Canadian, said, “Although [de Adder] has stated there was no reason given for his firing, the timing was no coincidence.”
He noted that the Trump cartoon did not appear in the newspaper but its popularity across social media likely caught the eye of the Irving family, which has a monopoly on New Brunswick’s papers. Their companies — which include oil and gas, shipping and transportation — are worth an estimated $10 billion, making them among Canada’s richest families.” —HuffPo 2019-06-30
Understanding our new media surround is the challenge of the network era. Reverting back to our governments or markets to address these new challenges will not serve civil society. We need distributed and networked responses to online disinformation, fearmongering, hate, and fake news. For example, the Wall Street Journal has 21 people dedicated to analyzing deep fakes. The better, but longer-term, solution is that each citizen be engaged in understanding media, so that we have millions fulfilling this role.
Avoiding societal deception in the network era requires an aggressively intelligent citizenry. We need to learn how to work cooperatively to deal with the complex problems facing us that cannot be addressed through our existing tribal, institutional, or market structures. Understanding the effects of pervasive networks like social media is an essential literacy.
Each citizen has to be informed through active engagement in the digitally-mediated society. We no longer trust experts — evidenced by the mistrust of ‘elites’ — so we have to consciously develop our own expert networks that we do trust. This requires effort, such as the discipline of personal knowledge mastery. Our networks can make our sensemaking much easier in the long run. Without personal knowledge networks, we are at the whim of whatever current outrage is flowing through the social media platforms.
We have to create a fifth estate that is not an institution, nor a slave to the markets, but a true network. We need to become real networked citizens. It means thinking for ourselves. We are not alone. Billions of us are connected by the technology that could deceive us. Let’s not let it. We can either work to build a civil society or live in an emerging panopticon. Media in a networked society are much too big to be left to the platform owners or even journalists.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” —David Bohm, via @cogden
@jhagel — “If you don’t follow the news you’re surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom you disagree — you misjudge preferences of political adversaries by under 10%. If you follow the news, you’re terrible at understanding your adversaries.” — discussing — study shows Americans have little understanding of their political adversaries—and education doesn’t help
“Unfortunately, the ‘Perception Gap’ study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear one another: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers.”
@mekkeokekeroke — “The year is 2019. Breitbart publishes stuff that should be on 4chan. The New York Times publishes stuff that should be on Breitbart. Teen Vogue publishes stuff that should be in the New York Times.”
“The Nazi strategy of destroying vital research was intentional since it erased the power of the knowledge contained within. Even now, the current administration struggles to find the adequate information to support its own LGBTQ policies, underscoring the importance of reliable information.
The Nazis exploited existing laws to attack the LGBTQ community, but the legacy of their enforcement practices lingered for decades. It took East Germany until 1968 and West Germany until 1994 to repeal the laws Nazis used to persecute LGBTQ people. Modern-day Germany only just officially voided those charges this June.”
“What’s potentially more problematic with the classist nature of green production and consumption is that urban hipsters pride themselves as being ‘woke’ about sustainability issues, while simultaneously alienating the rural and overseas agricultural, peri-urban, and manufacturing classes, without whom ‘hip’ lifestyles would not be possible.”
“As machines enable us to do more things for ourselves, they eliminate service jobs without necessarily eliminating service work. Automated self-service technologies enable us to work directly with a company without interacting with its employees. The travel agent no longer books my flight; I do. That job disappears, but not necessarily the work. These interactions may not feel like work, since we engage in it voluntarily and aren’t compensated for doing it. Shopping on Amazon or booking flights on Expedia feels more like consumption than actual work, but that is only because our notion of work has yet to catch up with an automated service economy.”
1) The one in five people who instinctively "get" KM.About 20% of staff are supporters of the idea from the beginning. Their response to KM is an enthusiastic "Yeah!", or even "Hell Yeah!". When you talk to a room full of people about KM, the "KM Light Bulb" will switch on over the heads of about a fifth of your audience. That 20% will become your allies, your supporters and the early adopters.
2) The 3 in 5 people who don't care about KM one way or the otherThey don't get it instinctively, the light bulb doesn't switch on. Their response is "Maybe". They will engage in KM if they have to, if it's part of the job, of if everyone else is doing it. If they don't have to do it - if KM is voluntary, or "encouraged" - they won't bother. They have better things to do. They just want to get on with their job. For these people, we need to make KM "part of the job".
3) The remaining 1 in 5 who really don't like KM at allThey are the firm "No"s. They think it a waste of time, or a personal threat, or a way of "stealing their ideas". These people will resist KM, unless it is made unavoidable and fully embedded into performance management so that their job prospects suffer if they refuse to share.
Firstly, if you introduce KM from the bottom up, you only reach about 20% of the people.If you introduce some new KM tools and allow people the time and space to use them, then KM behaviours will emerge, but only among about 20% of the population (this 2016 blog post suggests 24% average adoption). You will get a lot of buzz, you will find some exciting projects, but you are preaching to the choir. The KM fans will create a KM bubble, but you won't penetrate the rest of the organisation, so 80% of the knowledge remains untapped and unmanaged. A 2013 Gartner report showed even worse figures, and concluded that a "Provide and Pray" approach has just a 10% success rate.
Secondly, you need to use the 20% of enthusiasts to make the case to managementManagement are not going to set the expectation or the requirement, unless they believe KM really adds value. So use the 20% who are your supporters and early adopters to conduct the pilots, deliver the benefits and write the case studies that will convince management to set KM as a corporate expectation. Use this resource as a stepping stone to the next step. To continue the ecclesiastical metaphor, its OK to preach to the choir, if you then use the choir to produce the required miracles that will convince others.
Finally, you won't complete the journey until KM becomes inescapableIf the company is committed to KM, then the last 20%, who really don't like it, need to know that their future is at risk if they continue to avoid or sabotage the KM efforts. If you let KM remain optional - if you let people avoid it with no sanction and no follow-up - then the word gets round, the 60% stop doing it (as they have other things to get on with), and you get to the "the tipping back point". Soon there's nobody in the church except the choir.
In meetings, bloody meetings I covered some common issues with how meetings are conducted and also provided some ways to address these. Another form is the silent meeting, put forth by David Gasca at Twitter and used at Amazon as well. These meetings are based on the common phenomena that most attendees do not read material in advance and that a slideshow is not the best way to convey complex information. Instead, a ‘table-read’ narrative of not more than 6 pages is presented at the meeting and attendees start by silently reading this document.
This type of silent meeting requires:
Gasco says that, “The rule of thumb for when Silent Meetings are great is for any complicated decision that requires deep thought.” They can also work with a large number of people. The key to a successful silent meeting is a good Table Read. It is harder than creating a slide presentation.
A common Strategic Narrative Table Read often involves mixing and matching the pieces below:
Meeting Agenda: What is the purpose of this document and this meeting? What is the meeting process?
Background: What are we here today to discuss? What is the problem we’re trying to solve and what is the background information we need to know?
Principles: What are the parameters for solving the problem? Do we have core company, team or product principles we need to ensure we keep in mind?
Options identified that can solve problem: What are the potential ways we can solve the problem and what are their pros and cons?
Recommendation: What is the team’s recommendation for solving the problem and why? What does this imply as next steps?
Discussion questions: Where do we want to focus the discussion? Are there clear decisions that we want to make or areas that we want input on specifically?
FAQs: This is where Frequently Asked Questions get documented. I’ll elaborate more on this below but this section is where you can put details that are relevant to a subset of the audience.
Appendix: Put anything here that you want to keep track of for later but don’t really need the audience to read for the meeting. Some typical examples includes, research details, data tables, glossaries, etc.
Another source of knowledge about planning and conducting meetings is Liberating Structures — 33 different meeting types for Revealing, Analyzing, Spreading, Planning, Strategizing, and Helping. The site links to free mobile applications — Google Play & Apple App Store — that explain what each structure is good for, how to conduct the meeting, and the rationale behind it. I have only used one so far, but plan to test out more of these.
There is no longer any excuse not to run better meetings.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
The Colombia business unit of a big multinational was going through a major re-organisation. We helped them to "learn before" this exercise (which turned out to run very smoothly) and afterwards we captured their knowledge, and the knowledge from others that we had captured on their behalf, in a "knowledge asset"; a classic Codification step. As always, the knowledge asset was careful to "keep the name with the knowledge", so the knowledge was not anonymous, but was credited to individuals.
About a year later, the Venezuela business unit needed to go through a similar restructuring, and began to do their own "learning before".
Venezuela first began to access knowledge by working their personal networks, and calling people in Colombia that they just "happened to know". But before long, one of the Colombians told them about the knowledge asset and sent them the web address.
Now Venezuela had full access to the knowledge of the whole company.
Initially the 15 top-level guidelines were the most useful part of the knowledge asset, as it gave Venezuela and overview of the things they needed to consider. The "links to people" allowed Venezuela to target the correct people to call for further details; many of them in Colombia, but other people around the company as well.
As Venezuela went further into their exercise, they went further into the detail of the knowledge asset, and started to use the check-lists and artifacts. Venezuela were able to complete their restructuring in seven weeks, where it had taken Colombia three months.
According to The Atlantic 2019-07, the US Navy has been piloting a new way of manning its Littoral Combat class ships, which are modular by design. The crew are all multi-purpose, with several roles onboard and always learning new tasks. They operate with one-fifth the crew size of a regular ship. Specialization is a thing of the past for these crews. One reason for this is that specialized knowledge has an increasingly shorter lifespan, so generalists who are good learners can make for a more flexible, or agile, crew. This approach also has its downsides, such as fewer redundant positions onboard to mitigate combat losses, and lack of deep knowledge for some complex problems.
The key question from the article is whether this is the way of the future. Is a neo-generalist a better fit for modern workplace conditions? It’s a good question that will only be answered with time.
“Minimal manning—and the evolution of the economy more generally—requires a different kind of worker, with not only different acquired skills but different inherent abilities. It has implications for the nature and utility of a college education, for the path of careers, for inequality and employability—even for the generational divide. And that’s to say nothing of its potential impact on product quality and worker safety, or on the nature of the satisfactions one might derive from work.”—The Atlantic
Finding the right balance will take a lot of experimentation. Organizations should start testing out new models now. Learn from the Navy and others who are trying new ways of organizing work. For individuals, the ability to ‘flexibly shift’ may become a critical work skill. It’s what I call ‘perpetual beta’.
“Everybody I met on the USS Gabrielle Giffords seemed to share that mentality [constant learning of new skills]. They regarded every minute on board — even during a routine transit back to port in San Diego Harbor — as a chance to learn something new.” —The Atlantic
The article provides a lot more detail on the ship’s routine and how different sailors are employed. It’s well worth reading. Consider what Nancy Dixon had to say about changing organizational structures.
“For the first time since the industrial revolution, organizations are changing at a fundamental level. The change is very much a work in progress in most organizations. But we now have many examples of organizations that are fully functioning in an entirely new way — that is, new ideas about how the organization is designed, about how work gets done, how people relate to each other.” —Nancy Dixon
"Every contact center has a handful of star performers. You know the ones I’m talking about. They take more calls than anyone else. They respond to emails more quickly and concisely. They handle three chats simultaneously without skipping a beat... It might seem like a shocking suggestion, then, to propose taking these agents away from direct customer contact work and focus them elsewhere. Yet this might be the most valuable thing you can do to increase customer and employee satisfaction".The author, Paul Selby, makes the following suggestions for the new role for star performers:
|Buy a copy as a useful guide to KM development||20|
|Self-audit compliance against the standard||17|
|No plans to engage with it||14|
|I didn't even know there was an ISO KM standard||12|
|Seek external audit of compliance against the standard||5|
|Bought a copy to be able to advise clients aiming for it.||1|
|Bought a copy. Now thinking of how could I use THAT...||1|
|Hasn’t thought about it in a while but now thinking we should use!||1|
|If I can access through the library I would look at it but I can't afford to purchase a copy||1|
|Use it as a communications tool for senior stakeholders to get buy in for a "serious" approach to KM||1|
|Utilize audit group internally||1|
|Need to understand it better before I decide whether I need to consider it relevant in my market||1|
|Image from wikimedia commons|
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“A writer ought not to be an opinion-machine … The job of the writer is to make us see the world as it is, full of many different claims and parts and experiences.” —Susan Sontag
‘Apple: “privacy is a luxury good”
Facebook: “privacy = private comms (terms & conditions may apply)”
Google: “we need strong privacy laws that prevent third-party cookies & tracking because we are the first and only party (and we already have all your data)’
“The faux mindfulness revolution provides a way of endlessly coping with the problems of capitalism by taking refuge in the fragility of the present moment; the new chronic leaves us mindfully maintaining the status quo. This is a cruel optimism that encourages settling for a resigned political passivity. Mindfulness then becomes a way of managing, naturalizing and enduring toxic systems, rather than turning personal change towards a critical questioning of the historical, cultural, and political conditions that are responsible for social suffering.”
“In conventional economics, the concept of value creation by the public sector is largely absent. Value is created in business with the state playing a reactive role in correcting ‘market failures’ to enhance economic efficiency. The term ‘public value’ has been adopted by scholars in public management and administration to attempt to go beyond this reactive role, focusing on how public-sector managers play an important democratic role in managing a trade-off between efficiency and the engagement of citizens in shaping policy. In this paper, we argue for a more ambitious and positive concept of public value which rejects the ‘market failure’ framework and puts public value at the centre of the economy, not in the periphery. Public value, we argue, is created by public sector actors creating and co-shaping markets in line with public purpose. This direction-setting role enables public, private and civil society sectors to collaborate effectively to solve societal problems.”
Cynefin for Dummies by @rondon
|Results from the free Knoco online survey|
Why is the door squeaking?
- Because nobody oiled it
Why did nobody oil it?
- Because they did not feel it was their job
Why did they not feel it was their job?
- Because a) it was not in their job description, or b) they had no job description, and c) nobody does anything that is not in their job description, or (etc etc etc)
Why does nobody do things that aren't in their job description?
- Because (and, by now we might be getting into more fundamental issues such as positive and negative incentives, fear of transgression, lack of vision, lack of ownership; I dont know what they would be in the case of Derby Railway station)
How do we fix this?
- (and then they start to determine the actions to fix the systemic problems that lie behind the symptom of the squeaking door).
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
— Sixteen Tons
Last week marked sixteen years as a freelancer. I was traveling and I don’t blog much when I am on the road. I focus on spending time with and talking to people. Home is where I reflect and write.
It’s been an eventful ride for 16 years. Now that I have turned 60, I doubt I will change careers and get a full-time job. There’s not much of a job market left for me. In any case, I like freelancing. The only downside has ever been the financial uncertainty. My latest trip covered three countries and I met a lot of new people. Traveling about 4 times a year helps break up my routine. If I was traveling all the time I am sure it would be less appealing. I learn on every trip and really enjoy getting to understand new organizations and cultures. Back home I try to put these experiences in perspective.
Some lessons I have learnt:
2005 — Jarche Consulting is now at the ripe old age of two years – good enough for some cheeses but still too young for most wines.
2006 — I had previously worked for an e-learning technology vendor and my conclusion on leaving was that selling software licenses and improving learning & performance were not really compatible.
2007 — The best part is the lifestyle and the flexibility while the worst aspect is constantly chasing after more work and managing cash-flow (that’s the part that people with regular pay cheques don’t understand).
2008 — One of my greatest pleasures is meeting people whom I’ve known through blogging. The conversations are always rich and interesting.
2010 — seven lessons (cash, diversification, expenses, etc.)
2011 — It’s been a roller coaster of a ride for the past eight years but I’m still here, freelancing, blogging and trying to figure out life in perpetual Beta.
2013 — It’s life in perpetual Beta, for people and for institutions, no matter how powerful they may be. In the network era, I don’t take anything for granted, and neither should the elites.
2016 — After 13 years, I continue to be directed by a vision of democratic workplaces for everyone. There is still a long way to go but the conversation is being advanced on many fronts.
2018 — Today I’m a very old chunk of cheese but a much better wine, I hope (see 2005 entry above).
2019 — It’s still a roller coaster ride but my networks and communities are helping me figure things out, one day and one year at a time.
The masterclass started with my definition of the knowmad: "someone who learns continuously and thereby makes smart use of the online world"The first part of the masterclass I focussed on skills for knowmads, including developing (online) identity, networking, smart use of tools and technology and application in practice: translating the online world and applying learnings. The second part I discussed the organization as a learning environment for the knowmad. Although I do know that many organizations do not actively facilitate informal learning, it was quite shocking (but interesting of course!) to hear stories from the participants.
“Just so we are clear. Medium takes your content, rolls it up into a pretty SEO friendly package for themselves and sells it. Oh, and turns us all into seals waiting for someone to throw us a fish in the process. If you are lucky, you might even get a cut. You know. Like the sort of cut artists get on Spotify. Profit share I think the cool kids call it.”
The Atlantic — Social Media Are Ruining Political Discourse
“The politics of flow likely will continue to redefine political discourse in our country. Flow makes video games and social-media sites more engaging, but the phenomenon might already have refashioned political discourse and permanently changed the institutions that depend on reasoned debate. And yet, flow’s engagement is so gratifying for so many, it’s difficult to let it go. Even if the public decided that the civic costs of social media outweigh the private pleasures, it might be too late, and too hard, to turn back. If it triumphs, the best we can hope for is a new breed of media-savvy AOCs with good ideas—and a sensitivity to the cost of expressing them in social-media form.”
“There are abundant examples of other simple, immediately implementable solutions to enhance transit capacity from around the world. In Boston, parking lanes are converted to bus lanes during peak periods, significantly cutting down travel times on heavily used bus corridors. Calgary has implemented transit signal priority so that some buses receive extended green lights at certain intersections. This has produced up to 10 minutes in travel-time savings each way. Montreal has transformed movement by relentlessly building an extensive network of safe cycle tracks, allowing cycling to become a genuine transportation option, even in the cold of its winters. An estimated 536,000 Montrealers use their bikes as a method of transportation – just more than 30 per cent of the city’s total population.”
“Previous work experience generally is not a good indicator of how well employees perform in a new organization,” Van Iddekinge said. “Our research found a very small relationship between the amount or type of experience that employees possessed when they came into a new organization and how they ultimately performed in that job. There’s almost no relationship in most cases.”
Ernst & Young [UK] Removes University Degree Classification From Entry Criteria As There’s ‘No Evidence’ It Equals Success
“Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment.
“It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”
“I knit in city council because it helps me concentrate. Tonight I decided to knit in red when men spoke; green for women. Day 1 results.” —@MontgomerySue Mayor of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce
In understanding the shift, I wrote that as we make this transition — from a market-dominated to a network-dominated society — the confusion of post-modernism clouds our vision of a positive future. The traditional political Right wants to go back to the Pre-modern Era — dogmatic, faith, truth — while the traditional political Left wants to stay in the Modern Era — doubting, science, facts. However, the way ahead is to a Meta-modern Era — seeking, knowledge, combining. This new path may be the most difficult because creating a status quo is more difficult than maintaining an existing one.
“Though Indivisible and similar groups succeeded in electing a US Congress in 2018 with the greatest racial and gender diversity in US history, and #MeToo succeeded in toppling some of the most powerful sexual predators in the media industry, the Green Movement, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter offer more complex cases of the disruptive power of digital technology.
In these cases, initial digital mass mobilizations were blocked from consolidating and institutionalizing their gains. In all four instances, digitally enabled protests often resulted in conservative rebounds of varying duration, from former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s crackdown on the Green Movement to the rise of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt to the election of President Donald Trump in the United States.” — Why Conservatives Dominate Digital Activism-Review
The great work of our time is to design, build, and test new organizational models that reflect our democratic values and can function in an inter-connected world. This will be a more difficult task than many people may have imagined. But understanding the challenges is a first step in overcoming them. This was a topic of conversation here in Zagreb yesterday at the Croatian Chamber of Economy. The power of the status quo weighed heavliy on all discussions about change.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
Many of the changes we face today are similar to a time when a new communications technology came along and changed the face of Europe — print. The Protestant Reformation saw the rise of religious wars, which were later followed by the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment. An age of exploration and colonialism followed, which brought not just gold and silver to the coffers of Europe, but new foods such as potatoes, to fuel the Industrial Revolution.
Today the world is dealing with another new communications technology — electric, now in its digital form. It too is and will continue to change a now globally connected society. These changes continue, with the concurrent challenges of natural resource depletion, pollution, over-population, and the effects of climate change. We are now all members of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village”. What happens in one remote location can be felt across the world through our collective digital nervous system. Our sense are overwhelmed.
The impact of the electric revolution, which started with the telegraph, are now evident and reactions vary across societies and cultures. For example, new technologies and scientific breakthroughs show great promise while these new discoveries put into question older scientific work. This is a natural process for scientists but this can be jarring for citizens, many of whom seek solace in certainty from those selling easy answers, such as anti-vaxxers or homeopathic healers. We humans have difficulties dealing with complex answers.
Marginalized groups are now able to break through broadcast media and are questioning the status quo. Rapid changes in traditional, often patriarchal, values increase the appeal of populism and xenophobia. Meanwhile, surveillance capitalism has many of us acting like prisoners in a panopticon. The “strategic and purposeful production of ignorance” becomes appealing for both purveyors and buyers.
What can we do? The answer may lie in Marshall McLuhan’s media tetrad. We can use it to examine the effects of technology. Of particular interest is the Retrieve quadrant. One aspect of work that these digital technologies, that now make up our collective nervous system, are retrieving is a new way of organizing for work — artisans and guilds. No single person can make sense of all the emerging global complexities alone. We need to work, and learn, together. Humans evolved to live and cooperate in small groups. Reconnecting is how we can make sense together. But we cannot rely on these alone.
We need to find these trusted groups — communities of practice — to help us make sense in a connected world. At the same time we have to reach out and cooperate in larger global networks so that we can understand the diversity of our common humanity. Curiosity about people yields empathy. The answer to populism is not a return to the old ways, nor an ironic post-modern shrug, but rather a new meta-modernity — multi-layered, relational, & global.
I started Friday’s Finds in May 2009 as an attempt to capture what I was finding on Twitter, as I had joined that platform in December 2007. I felt that I was making a lot of connections but at that time it was difficult to search and retrieve tweets. So I started curating weekly compilations. After a few years these became fortnightly and remain so. Next week marks 10 years of my Friday’s Finds. I now have a decade of links and references that I have found to be of professional or personal interest. I often search these in my ongoing research or for client work. They add to my social bookmarks on Diigo. Last year I compiled a list of the best finds of 2018. You can also go back and see what were the best finds of 2013.
Here are some finds from the previous fourteen nights [a fortnight].
@GeorgeMonbiot — “If you asked me: ‘which industry presents the greatest environmental threat, oil or media?’, I would say ‘the media’. Every day it misdirects us. Every day it tells us that issues of mind-numbing irrelevance are more important than the collapse of our life support systems.”
“In solving a problem, you often have to make connections between two things that aren’t usually connected. You know, E.M. Forster, the novelist, was asked, “What are your words of wisdom for future generations?” He said, “Only connect.” … Your brain often suppresses such idle connections because you’re busy with the business of the day. You’re doing whatever you’re supposed to do. But there come times when you’re no longer doing what you’re supposed to do and you’re just kind of rambling, making strange connections.” —Pete Seeger
“Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment.
“It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken.”
“It would be trite to draw the modern parallels too tightly. Nevertheless, there are similarities with today’s Brexit-derived politics that cannot just be dismissed. Here, as in Weimar, extra-parliamentary politics exerts great influence. Here, parties of the left and the right that could have cooperated to help uphold public trust in the wake of the referendum have not done so. Here too, large parts of the centre-right are intimidated by, and increasingly share, many of the prejudices of the far right.”
The following series of tweets by @HoarseWhisperer is an incredibly good examination of how people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) control those who work for them. I am sure many of us have witnessed similar behaviours in toxic workplaces. Naming and understanding these behaviours can help us deal with them. I have expanded some abbreviations and highlighted what I think is the key insight.
I worked for a severe narcissist for a while. I just realize I’ve never written specifically about that experience. Not sure why I haven’t since I’ve written endlessly about narcissistic personality disorder. May be relevant given everyone in the White House has a narcissistic boss.
I was recruited by an impressive-seeming firm for a specific job. I passed on it. They approached me about a second. Passed on that one too. The more I rejected them, the more interested the CEO became. Courted me. Took me out to dinner. Flattered the crap out of me. I took the third job he offered — in truth, against my better judgment at the time. As soon as I arrived, I discovered some pretty insane things. One of the big clients I was supposed to work on … didn’t exist. The company existed. They weren’t a client.
What I came to learn was that the 20 partners had all devised strategies to manage their abusive, manipulative, severely narcissistic boss. I eventually came up with names for them. One was ‘Proclaim and Disclaim’. The partner would boldly announce something that would please the CEO and then immediately begin walking it back. Would announce he landed a big new client … and then say the deal was in process … and then hitting some obstacles … and then sidelined … but coming someday. The non-existent client I was supposed to inherit was one of those ‘Proclaim and Disclaim’ deals. The CEO truly didn’t know that the partner was just blowing smoke up his a** each and every day as a strategy. It worked.
Another strategy was the ‘Kick the Can’. Most partners used that one. They would appear to readily agree to things the CEO wanted and then give the appearance of pursuing them while actually doing nothing other than managing that appearance. Narcissists are easily manipulated by people who they believe admire and respect them. The CEO had dual Ivy degrees. So did most of the partners (not me!). This was a ‘smart’ guy being manipulated by smart people. Narcissists are easy to manipulate despite being manipulators.
The more sycophantic and admiring someone seemed to be, the more the CEO loved them and the less their manipulations were scrutinized. The ‘Proclaim and Disclaim’ dude was a senior partner despite none of the things he proclaimed ever materializing. It was … wild. Partners who questioned the CEO or pushed back on his demands became targets. The CEO would separate them from the flock. He’d run a little whisper campaign to let the other partners know that he was ‘disappointed’ in the target. The partners would then distance themselves from the target while privately agreeing with them. The partner would go through a period of trying to handle the increasing pressure put on by the CEO. They would be tormented, stressed, suffering — and out on an island. Eventually, the target would be fired. They would go through a bruising, damaging, hurtful downward spiral first though. The survivors knew the cycle. As soon as someone was marked, they were done. Questioning the CEO was a death warrant.
I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I landed. I’m a sycophant for no one so the CEO quite predictably went from love-bombing to souring on me quickly. Unlike his other victims though, I understood his deal. Straight narcissistic personality disorder. So, I countered his efforts to put me under additional pressure and eventually checkmated him by putting him in a position where keeping me around threatened his facade but so did firing me. I backed him into a corner where he knew I could either leave happy and his facade would be safe … or I could leave unhappy and become a public detractor in places where he couldn’t control the narrative. Protecting the facade is a narcissist’s kryptonite.
He eventually, very begrudgingly ‘pushed me out’ on my terms. No joke, getting there was the best strategic work of my career. The other partners … the survivors … those folks with dual Ivy degrees … he screwed every last one. Sold the company. Cheated them all.
Fast Company — You feature money management company Baird as being a possible antidote to what’s happening. [Baird has a “no-assholes” policy for its employees.]
James Aaron [movie director] — The problem is that we reward assholery. I found that in Silicon Valley, there’s a huge tolerance for the asshole genius. Everyone wants to be Steve Jobs. What we provide in the film is the alternative to that model. A company like Baird is beating the competition three to one in terms of profit. [Baird chairman Paul Purcell] says, “We can take the long view because we are our own shareholders. We don’t have to be greedy.” I pose the question, “Do you have to be an asshole to be a great artist, architect,or whatever?” And the answer is, “No.”
Let’s collectively stop celebrating and tolerating assholes.
In writing almost 100 posts on innovation since 2007, it’s time to put the core observations together into a cohesive narrative. Here goes.
Innovation is fifteen different things to fifteen different people.
“An innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations.” —OECD
As Marina Gorbis concludes in The Nature of the Future, “much new value and innovation will move from commodity-or-market-based production to socialstructed creation.” 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. Tim Kastelle says that, “Innovation is the process of idea management.” Effective knowledge networks are composed of unique individuals working on common challenges, together for a discrete period of time before the network shifts its focus again. The network enables infinite combinations between unique nodes. For example, better connections enabled a high school student to create a better cancer diagnostic tool. Connected discoveries will be the hallmark of the network era.
The connection between innovation and learning is evident and we cannot be innovative unless we integrate learning into our work. It sounds easy, but it’s a major cultural change because it questions some common assumptions about work —
Revolutionary innovation never happens alone, no matter what genius tries to do it. Kurt Vonnegut described the three types of specialists it takes to start a revolution, none of whom can succeed in isolation.
First type – a true genius: “a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation.” By themselves they are just lunatics.
Second type – a thought leader: “a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad.” By themselves they are unsatisfied.
Third type – the integrator: “a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people.” By themselves they are ignored.
Steve Borgatti explains that radical innovation only comes from networks with large structural holes, which are more diverse. This is why our social networks cannot also be our work teams, or they become echo chambers. In our work teams we can focus on incremental innovation, to get better at what we already do. Communities of practice then become a bridge on this network continuum, being part individual and part interactive — “if radical innovators are too well connected to the network, they can get swamped by the prevailing wisdom. As a result, radical innovation is facilitated by sparser and clumpier networks — as in a skunk works.”
Steven B. Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, observed that, “innovation prospers when ideas can serendipitously connect and recombine with other ideas” and that the “secret to organizational inspiration is to build information networks that allow hunches to persist and disperse and recombine”. Innovation requires both goal-oriented collaboration and opportunity-driven cooperation, because complex problems cannot be solved alone. Implicit knowledge, that which cannot be codified or put into a database, needs to flow.
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. Social learning in the workplace is necessary for any business. Innovation is a social process and the openness and transparency of our organizations and society can enable more connections which can foster innovation.
“The premise that innovation prospers when ideas can serendipitously connect and recombine with other ideas, when hunches can stumble across other hunches that successfully fill in their blanks, may seem like an obvious truth, but the strange fact is that a great deal of the past two centuries of legal and folk wisdom about innovation has pursued the exact opposite argument, building walls between ideas, keeping them from the kind of random, serendipitous connections that exist in dreams and in the organic compounds of life … [in a network environment] people can concentrate on coming up with new ideas, not building fortresses around the old ones. And because these ideas can freely circulate through the infosphere, they can be refined and expanded by other minds in the network.” —Where Good Ideas Come From
Innovation requires lots of connections and copying.
“It turns out that to develop a ‘cumulative culture’ – technology that constantly ratchets up in complexity and diversity – a species needs to be able to share information very accurately. It doesn’t matter how much novel invention takes place, unless those inventions are replicated accurately then they die out before they can be built upon.” —Prof. Kevin Laland, University of St. Andrew’s
Innovation is all about connections. At a certain point, not enough connections may even destroy the innovations we have made. History has shown this.
“If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population.” —How Culture Drove Human Evolution
To innovate we need to work on the structures and systems that promote imitation — open access to information, wide distribution of knowledge, and easy copying. The focus of innovation has to be on we, not me. If we can make our knowledge-sharing networks stronger, then human nature can take care of the rest.
Tim Kastelle confirms the need for sufficient connections. “We need input from people with a diversity of viewpoints to help generate innovative new ideas. If our circle of connections grow too small, or if everyone in it starts thinking the same way, we’ll stop generating new ideas.”
New ideas come from openness. In complex and changing markets, innovation has much higher business value than merely coordinating internal tasks or improving processes. In trusted networks, openness enables transparency, which in turn fosters a diversity of ideas. Supporting the creation of social networks can increase knowledge-sharing which can lead to more innovation, because chance favours the connected organization.
Organizational leaders should ask themselves if they are adequately connected.
Organizational performance improvement is comprised of reducing errors and increasing insights, according to Gary Klein. These insights can lead to innovation. Based on 120 case studies he reviewed, Gary Klein identified five types of ‘triggers’ that produced insights.
Insights usually come while working, resting, and playing — not in a classroom. Innovation is connected to learning, but not necessarily formal education and training programs. It’s more about enabling people to learn together by providing the tools and the space.
The Little Black Book of Innovation describes four traits of successful innovators.
Gunther Sonnenfeld’s great planning paradigm takes a similar approach to the above — from Observation, Insight, Belief to Breakthrough.
Innovation is not a process. It’s more of an attitude focused on curiosity, learning and experimentation. To innovate, constraints have to lifted, but this can disrupt the status quo.
“Catalysts are bound to rock the boat. They are much better at being agents of change than guardians of tradition. Catalysts do well in situations that call for radical change or creative thinking. They bring innovation, but they’re also likely to create a certain amount of chaos and ambiguity. Put them into a structured environment and they might suffocate. But let them dream and they’ll thrive.” — The Starfish & the Spider
In 2012, after a decade of looking at innovation in organizations, James Gardner said that first people have to be personally motivated — “the old ‘what’s in it for me?’ [WIIFM] question”. “In other words, if it personally affects us, we care about it. If it doesn’t, we might care a bit, but we are much less likely to take action to change things. He went on to state that, “I have not been able to find any regular correlation between well adopted innovation processes and actual innovation outcomes, and I’ve been looking pretty hard. And here at Spigit, we’ve got hundreds of data sets to look through.”
A focus on processes and error reduction — such as Six Sigma — actually gets in the way of innovation.
“Fifty-eight of the top Fortune 200 companies bought into Six Sigma, attesting to the appeal of eliminating errors. The results of this ‘experiment’ were striking: 91 per cent of the Six Sigma companies failed to keep up with the S&P 500 because Six Sigma got in the way of innovation. It interfered with insights.” —Gary Klein
Process improvement is a tool set, not an overarching or unifying concept for an organization. Process improvement is a means and not an end in itself. The fundamental problem with process improvement methodologies is that you get myopic. Methodologies like Six Sigma are great for speeding up assembly lines or minimizing errors, but they fail to produce insights.
Traditional innovation processes take many ideas, and through elimination, narrow these down to a few. But successful innovators do the opposite and — “break things down into their essential features, and then try to visualize the effect of different combinations, orientations, and application approaches” — according to Steve Flynn in The Learning Layer.
Innovation is like democracy, it needs people to be free within the system in order to work. Empowering knowledge artisans to use their own cognitive tools creates an environment of experimentation, instead of adherence to established processes. Look at a start-up company and you will see it is filled with knowledge artisans, using their own tools and connecting to outside social networks to get work done. They can be programmers, marketers, salespeople. Their distinguishing characteristic is seeking and sharing information to complete tasks. Knowledge artisans not only design the work, but they can also do the work. There is no innovation assembly line.
“So it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy in terms of successful innovation. The one constant is that you have to be open to change and new points of view. Innovation is continuous.” —Shaun Coffey
Value creation in the 21st century is having ideas, connecting people and ideas, and trying new things out based on these ideas. Not only do these activities take time, they are highly social, as success often depends on who we work with. Instead of asking, what have you done for the company this week, we should be asking what ideas you have had, who have you discussed them with, and what have you done to test them out. We also need to promote loose connections through communities and social networks.
“[Musical] Production company networks with a mix of weak and strong ties allowed easy communication but also fostered greater creativity because of the ideas of new members of the group and the synergies they created. Thus, the structure of the network appears to have a strong effect on both financial and critical success.” —Connected
In Organizations don’t tweet, people do, Euan Semple talks about Trojan mice, an idea he got from Peter Fryer at trojanmice.com. These are small change initiatives, that do not require the coordinated effort of something like a Trojan horse:
Trojan mice, on the other hand, are small, well focused changes, which are introduced on an ongoing basis in an inconspicuous way. They are small enough to be understood and owned by all concerned but their effects can be far-reaching. Collectively a few Trojan mice will change more than one Trojan horse ever could.
There is an art to spotting a Trojan mouse — you need to develop a critically trained eye. Seeing things differently, and seeing different things, is a powerful experience. And once you do, you can set your Trojan mice free to create the results your business needs.
Here is how five companies fostered innovation. We can learn from them but should never copy them.
I would like to conclude with this observation about the nature of creative knowledge work.
“Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.
Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
—Jay Cross (1944-2015)
That spark of brilliance often comes from reflection. 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.
“Innovation comes from slack. Slack comes from saying no. If you’re afraid of both, no startup bubble technique is going to help you.” —Cory Foythree pillars of leadership
“Hierarchical authority is much more effective at securing compliance than it is in fostering genuine commitment.” —Peter Senge
Senge and his team have identified three types of leadership in organizations.
Leadership today is all about making the network more resilient. It is helping the network make better decisions. Executives can ensure that local leaders have the time and space they need to experiment. Executives can appoint and support networkers or community managers. Then they can focus on setting the example, modelling and not shaping their enterprise.
“network leadership is about working together to make sure that people in the network are connected in a way that encourages flows of resources, information and support to every part of the network” —June Holley
This is a cooperative model, where executives set the example and exert influence through reputation and not positional power. This is a model that promotes diverse thinking and therefore drives innovation.
Executives cannot really direct any organization, unless it is very small, because the nature of organizations ensures that those at the top do not understand what is really going on, as Tim Harford notes in — Adapt: Why success always starts with failure:
“There is a limit to how much honest feedback most leaders really want to hear; and because we know this, most of us sugar-coat our opinions whenever we speak to a powerful person. In a deep hierarchy, that process is repeated many times, until the truth is utterly concealed inside a thick layer of sweet-talk.”
All that any executive can directly control is compliance whereas a transparent organizational structure lets everyone ensure compliance. “Transparency makes ambition,a healthy spirit of competitiveness, and group or peer pressure, possible.” —Niels Pflaeging.
Learning and experimentation have to be let loose. The path for executives is clear, simple, and aligns with the wirearchy principle — “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.”
Three pillars for executives in leadership positions are:
My introduction to organizing meetings was in the military, where different types of meetings had standard structures. The Orders Format was something any officer could recite from memory. During officer training we were shown the 1976 John Cleese film, which was updated in 1993 — Meetings, Bloody Meetings. Cleese, a manager, is convicted in a dream of the following:
In conversations with friends and colleagues in many organizations over the years, it seems that not much has changed since the 1970’s. Now we can add in the standard conference call scenario of constant interruptions as people check in after the meeting has started and the chair starts all over again.
Here was my observation after a day of meetings in 2008 — two meetings in one day. One was traditional. Use the telephone, get everyone on the same page through lengthy discussions, follow up with e-mail, work several iterations, many phone calls and lots more email. No one uses social media in their work flow. Getting paid for this work. Conference call — almost three hours. The other meeting was between three bloggers, all who read each other’s writing and understand their perspectives. The idea is to try a new initiative and see what happens. Invest some time but no money. Initiate first discussion on a collaborative web document. Get going now. Conference call — one hour. Which meeting was successful? Which got me more excited?
Two types of behaviours are necessary for knowledge flow in the network era workplace — collaboration and cooperation. Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, though they are complementary. Cooperation differs from collaboration in that it is sharing freely without any expectation of reciprocation or reward.
Collaboration is working together for a common objective, often externally directed by management or a client. Collaboration includes — Coordinating tasks with minimal time & effort, Finding people best suited to solve a problem, and Participating in meetings for maximum impact & minimum wasted effort. If we cannot collaborate well we often cannot find the time to cooperate, which is where we can gain insights for innovation. Having well-run meetings makes for the better use of everyone’s time.
An interesting approach to meetings is put forward by Atlassian in a post on running effective meetings. This article provides lots of tips and concludes — “focus your energy on the real ingredients that make for effective meetings: purpose, engagement, safety, and results.” The flowchart on whether to schedule a meeting is worth putting up in every manager’s office.
A much more detailed approach to conducting meetings is based on the observations and conclusions in the book, Reinventing Organizations. The related Meetings Wiki provides good guidelines from several companies. I don’t agree with colour-coded maturity model provided, but there are still good examples that we can learn from here.
A variety of meeting formats for different purposes
- Team decision-making meetings at Buurtzorg
- Holocratic Governance vs. Tactical meetings at HolocracyOne
- On-boarding meetings / Departure meetings as at CC&R
- Appraisal meetings
- Conflict resolution meetings
- Listening to purpose meetings
- Large group reflections at Heiligenfeld
- Culture/Values meetings
- Praise meetings at ESBZ
When you look at the seven facets for organizational knowledge flow, conducting more efficient and effective meetings is probably the easiest facet to improve. We know how to run meetings better. Everyone should understand the principles behind each type of meeting. Just these few cited sources can provide a framework for having better meetings. The challenge is in adhering to core principles. Everyone should know just how much a meeting costs.
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” ―Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time
@EskoKilpi — “When managers think about diversity they typically look for diversity of gender and race but the real goal should be diversity of thinking, diversity of mind.”
“Technology can potentially improve education, dramatically widen access, and promote greater human creativity and wellbeing. Many people rightly sense that they stand in some liminal cultural space, on the threshold of great change. Perhaps educators will eventually learn to become better teachers in alliance with AI partners. But in an educational setting, unlike collaborative chess or medical diagnostics, the student is not yet a content expert. The AI as know-it-all memory partner can easily become a crutch, while producing students who think they can walk on their own.
As the experience of my physicist friend suggests, memory can adapt and evolve. Some of that evolution invariably involves forgetting old ways, in order to free up time and space for new skills. Provided that older forms of knowledge are retained somewhere in our network, and can be found when we need them, perhaps they’re not really forgotten. Still, as time goes on, one generation gradually but unquestionably becomes a stranger to the next.”
Built to Shill — The fiction of convenience makes cities less livable
‘Hyperobjects [e.g. the real estate state] are so massive that they have a way of bending things to their will: they are a wedge issue in politics, a monopoly in the market, a gravity well in the solar system. We feel too small and weak to confront them. Instead, we carry out our lives in hypocritical doublespeak: acknowledging their destructive power but doing nothing to stop it. Where you keep your money (no matter how little) where you live (no matter how humble) always feeds the hyperobject. This enormous thing is also deeply sensual and personal: You may hate capitalism but love your childhood home and use the laws of land ownership to protect it and keep it as your own. You hate Uber, but your car is in the shop and it’s the only way to get to work on time. This is, in part, why Morton says that “the time of hyperobjects is a time of hypocrisy.”’
“If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.” —Stephen Hawking
“You will not achieve an informed public simply by making sure that high quality content is publicly available and presuming that credibility is enough while you wait for people to come find it. You have to understand the networked nature of the information war we’re in, actively be there when people are looking, and blanket the information ecosystem with the information people need to make informed decisions.” —danah boyd
So concludes danah boyd in an excellent piece on what lies beneath the current flood of fake news: agnotology — “the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”. Anyone who is concerned about the erosion of democracy as a result of the fragmentation of society though fake news, propaganda, or conspiracy theories should read this article. The conclusion is that we cannot achieve this by merely spreading good information.
Using McLuhan’s laws of media we can see that the digital information ecosystem extends emotion through these manufactured media spectacles, as the Christchurch murderer did. Traditional journalism with its attempts at presenting both sides is obsolesced by the very nature of its assumption of a neutral point of view. Return to nature movements, such as anti-vaxxers, retrieve the pastoral impulse for an imaginary kinder and gentler society. We are left in a state of constant doubt as conspiratorial content becomes easier to access on platforms like YouTube then on solid scientific information.
This is an information war. Understanding this is the first step in fighting for democracy.
“Growth is not linear and it doesn’t happen in discrete phases marked by convenient external characteristics” — which is why maturity models are wrong — according to Christiaan Verwijs, specifically looking at agile models.
“Of course, maturity models are meant to simplify the complexities of reality. But what is gained by squeezing such a messy, non-linear thing as the professional growth of individuals, teams, and organisations into an easily digestible model that allows us to feel like we’re making decisions based on something tangible? Oh, wait ….
Maturity models are the best friend of consultants. They are easy to understand and may seem very profound at first. It’s an easy way to make a good impression. This makes them excellent snack food for consultants, and for the organisations that are looking for easy answers to their complex problems.” —CV
Are maturity models useful? Is there a more useful model we could use?
“Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.” —George Box
One flaw in maturity models is they provide a specific point at which we are assumed to be mature, and imply we have nothing else to learn or improve. We can still have indicators of experience or capability to show where we are in our competencies, without a maturity model. For instance, my model of 7 facets for organizational knowledge flow can be used to show where we should focus our professional development for the next period of time. This can be established for each team or group.
We could use the same model to identify which group is doing some facet very well, and then get them to teach or support other groups. Sometimes the best teachers are those who are just slightly ahead of us. For example, Google employs a Googler-to-Googler program so employees can teach each other. This program is based on a model that assumes that learning is continuous and never ends. These employees are already mature enough to teach each other. They just need time and support to do so.
One thing about models is that we will not know if they are useful unless we try them out. As they say — your mileage may vary.