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 2020 is presented to Andrew Jacobs.
Andrew is determined that learning and development should be an integral part of business activity. He is currently employed in a challenging position inside the UK government. But Andrew continues to blog at Lost & Desperate. In 2013 his blog was one the 50 most socially-shared learning and development blogs. In spite of his work demands, Andrew continues to share through his blog and on Twitter. He also speaks at industry events and shares what he has learned. In his previous work, Andrew became an expert at improving workplace learning with almost no budget.
Much in the spirit of Jay Cross, Andrew is constantly questioning the status quo. In his own words —
“If LnD help them learn, they won’t need learning.
If they don’t need learning, LnD aren’t required.
Therefore, to be required, LnD shouldn’t help them learn.
Why do LnD still market a once and done approach to learning?
Can’t sell? Learn this.
Can’t comply? Learn this.
Can’t coach? Learn this.
Can’t manage? Learn this.
Can’t lead? Learn this.”
It is with great pleasure that we present the fifth annual Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award to Andrew Jacobs. Andrew will be presented with the award later this year in the city of London.
Incentives must be used prudently. One international high-tech firm used contributions [to a knowledge base] to determine raises. Just before year-end evaluations, the system broke down with an overload of hastily composed submissions, many of them meaningless.
There are less expensive and more effective ways to encourage information sharing. For example, 25,000 Xerox field service technicians around the world contribute to the company’s Eureka database of maintenance tips. The incentive is “to become known as a thought leader” or expert in the field, says [Carol Kinsey Goman, president of Kinsey Consulting Services, a human capital consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif]
Sandy Mauceli, a spokesman for Xerox, says: “Although financial rewards were tried by various organizations early in the Eureka program, that generally did not drive the intended result. The motivation for employees to submit Eureka tips is really the recognition by their peers of being able to solve the really difficult problems.”This reinforces the message that linking financial rewards directly to knowledge publication results in an overload of poor quality material.
For the next few weeks I will be taking a break from blogging. I will still post my fortnightly Friday’s Finds but I will focus my writing on some offline projects and take some time off to reflect. In the meantime, if you are craving something to read, there are over 3,000 posts on this site.
Check out my book reviews and synopses to add to your own reading lists.
These topics may be of interest:
See you after my blog hiatus How G2 got knowledge sharing to work
"People wanted knowledge shares to be standardized – not random. They also didn’t like sacrificing their lunchtime for learning. Instead, employees wanted to see that G2 leadership valued knowledge sharing enough to take time out of the actual workday".
"A few of these sessions were successful because people came eager to learn and share. But Friday afternoon is a difficult time to focus, and everyone, including me, shifted focus from sharing work knowledge to sharing what their weekend plans were".
"Our creature does three major things: First it estimates/calculates, what we believe to be all the pertinent parameters of the simulation as well as a few other quantities that we believe to be useful.... Second it uses some of these parameters to estimate the expected payoff for performing each action in its repertoire. Once it has a best exploit chosen from its repertoire it compares the value of Exploiting to the value of Observing...... Lastly a machine learned function, takes into account N_observe and the estimates on the reliability of observing and P_c to adjust the value of Observing accordingly. Our creature then chooses whichever action has the higher perceived value, Observing or Exploiting. As a side note our creature only Innovates when it has an empty repertoire and observe doesn't work, which typically is only on the first turn of a simulation".
"It seems a successful strategy rests primarily on the amount of social learning involved, with the most successful agents spending almost all their learning time observing rather than innovating"
"Avoiding spending too much time learning either socially or individually was
just as important. Between a tenth and a fifth of their life seemed to be the
optimal range. If they did more learning than that it seemed that life was just
passing them by."
"Successful strategies were also good at spacing out learning throughout the agents' lives. The winning strategy, Discount Machine, stood out because it did just this. It seems packing all your learning into the early part of your life is not a great idea - we need to keep updating our knowledge as we go along".
"You don't need any clever copying rules. You can just copy anyone at random. Other individuals are doing the filtering for you. They will have tried out a number of behaviours and they will tend to perform the ones which are reaping the highest rewards."
"To become the winner of the tournament you .... have to weigh up the relative costs and benefits of sticking with the behaviour that you have, versus inventing a new behaviour, versus copying others. That requires assessing how quickly the environment is changing, as this gives you an idea of how quickly information will become outdated".
"In variable environments (the winner) placed a higher value on more recently
acquired information and discounted older information more readily".
"Another attribute of the most successful strategies is that they are parasitic. This is the essence of social learning - somebody has to do the hard graft to find out how to do things before other people can copy them, so it only pays to learn socially when there are some innovators around. Indeed, in contests where (the winning) agents were able to invade the entire population, they actually ended up with a lower average pay-off than they did in contests where the conditions allowed some agents with more innovative strategies to survive, so providing new behaviours to copy".
|Image from wikipedia|
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
Lyall Taylor — “Garry Kasparov once said that one of biggest mistakes chess players make is trying to ‘undo’ a bad move, when in reality, once a bad move is played, it is already a whole new game and an entirely fresh mindset is required.”
Peter Stoyko — “I think of sunk-cost as being too invested in a wrong path and reluctant to make a change of course. This is acknowledging a wrong change of course then trying to get back on the old path, which is no longer relevant because the course change sets up new strategic considerations.”
Gideon Rosenblatt —
“Untruth — lie
Double down — lie, repeated
Pivot — stopped lying
Tongue in cheek — realized that lie went too far”
Tim Minchin — “If someone writes an article you disagree with, here is an option that a lot of you seem to have forgotten: read it, then have some thoughts about it.
Then have some thoughts about your thoughts. Critically assess your intuitive reaction. Then see if there’s any elements of the piece that you might agree with. See if it might even — god forbid – adjust your view. Just a tiny bit.
Give to the writer all the credit & generosity of interpretation you would give a friend. Apply to yourself all the criticism you’d intuitively direct at an enemy. Then wait a day. Perhaps read the article again.
Then, before deciding to post about it on twitter, consider: am I signaling my virtue? Am I just polishing my brand? Am I going to be inadvertently boosting the signal of something I wish had less exposure?
Am I just fishing for ‘likes’. Do I have a strategy whereby I might effect positive change? Is my interpretation unique enough to add to the debate? Am I just fueling ineffectual anger? Have I noted my biases? Have I applied humility? Then think, maybe I’ll have a tea. Then go make a tea. Then drink your tea.”
“The saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is usually used standalone in a sort of slight against generalists as lesser than specialists.
But the original full saying is quite enlightening:
‘Jack of all trades, master of none, oftentimes better than a master of one.'”
“Working from home is not an option for every job, but there is clear evidence that it can have major advantages in the right applications and with the right workers. And as we show in this report it also can have a positive impact on the environment.”
So concludes the June 2020 report, Technology at Work v5.0 — The New Normal of Remote Work, published by Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions [Disclosure: Citi is a current client]. The report has many contributors and is focused on what remote work now looks like in view of the ongoing pandemic. Like most companies, Citi has had to adapt to “the new normal of remote work” but is in no hurry to return to the previous work situation.
“We will use data, not dates, to drive decisions: Any decisions about returning to the office will be dependent on data, including local medical data. We are not, nor will we be, focused on hitting specific dates …
One approach won’t fit all: The timing and ways we come back to the office will vary based on location, office setup, resources and medical guidance. For high risk or vulnerable colleagues, we will continue to take extra precautions. For those with family and childcare needs, we will remain flexible.” —Citi HR Operating Committee
At one hundred pages, the report covers a lot of ground with 11 chapters —
The focus is both internal and external to Citi with sections by global experts in their fields, who also include historical perspectives on the shifting nature of work. The report includes details and data, citing a wide variety of sources. This is not a marketing document.
An unexpected section dealt with the political situation in the USA. It shows that in cities more likely to vote for Donald Trump, there are fewer jobs that can be done remotely.
“As shown in Figure 25, COVID-19 is set to accelerate regional income disparities. And with the U.S. Presidential election coming up on November 3, 2020, it is noteworthy that the places where President Donald Trump has his electoral base rank relatively low in jobs that can be done remotely. Cities where more people voted for Trump relative to Hillary Clinton (Figure 26) as well as where Trump made the largest gains relative to Mitt Romney’s result in 2012 (Figure 27), are more exposed to the restrictions on movement and travel to curb the spread of the virus. This might also explain why Trump is particularly keen for the lockdown to come to an end.” —p. 52
It’s also interesting to see a corporate perspective on the Zoom video collaboration platform, which had recently received severe criticism for its security features. The bottom line, even for multinational corporations, is that it is easy to use. With most employees working from home, companies do not need extra barriers to get work done.
How has the technology improved over the last 5-10 years?
“The two biggest changes are Zoom and livestreaming. Zoom’s ease of use revolutionized usage for corporates and buy side firms with firms like OpenExchange providing interoperability to major banks such as Citi to allow for much greater video usage into previously approved platforms. Security is critical of course and Zoom’s recent issues temporarily allowed competitors such as Webex and Teams to gain some traction. Having said that, the release of Zoom 5.0 with 256 AES encryption and better use of waiting rooms has allayed most such concerns and Zoom’s upward trajectory has renewed.” —Mark Loehr, CEO of Open Exchange
Business real estate will be affected but it is not certain how much. The need for people to work together, especially for essential aspects of work that Citi’s President, Jane Fraser, describes as — collegiality & belonging, apprenticeship, and intangible connections — will not eliminate the need for physical business spaces.
“The key new piece on information added by the virus is that logistically, systems have been able to cope with almost whole cities working from home. Combined with the forced accelerated resolution of other work from home challenges (e.g., changing communication lines), office markets face a likely acceleration of flexible working for many more than previously thought.” —p. 76
As for airlines and travel, the near future does not look good. This should surprise nobody. Travel will be restricted and fewer people will fly less often. I would expect luxury travel to increase somewhat and budget travel to decrease significantly.
“Pulling this new forecast together with our previous analysis a 1% reduction in corporate travel volumes impacting airline profitability by 10%, we believe the airline industry (even assuming some highly optimistic cost cutting and lower fuel costs) will struggle to remain profitable.
In fact, we could see a scenario where the majority of long-haul airlines undergo a gradual nationalization process. This is on par with what is currently enjoyed in the Middle East; where destinations and jobs are in the airline industry are largely controlled by the respective governments.” —p. 93
In my area of professional interest — workplace learning — the company’s perspective is similar to much of my own work, as reflected in my blog posts over the past 16 years. Basically, work is learning, and learning is the work.
A Question to Cameron Hedrick, Chief Learning Office at Citi
If more employees work from home in the future, what opportunities, challenges and solutions do you see for Learning and Development?
1. Learning technology: While we’ve invested in distance learning technologies, we need to rethink the durability and effectiveness of said technologies in a world where distance work and learning is even more pervasive. Examples include: high bandwidth video with breakout room functionality/chat /whiteboard access; adaptive learning development platforms; peer-to-peer video content; and asynchronous/cohort based platforms such as Nomadic.
2. Collaboration tools and practices: I think we’ll see increased use of collaboration tools — both synchronous and asynchronous. The fatigue associated with long duration video events will drive greater adoption of efficient, ‘off meeting’ collaboration. For example, collaboration tools such as Slack, Yammer and MS Collaborate can be used to prepare for meetings, rendering the actual video time for discussion and debate versus the conveyance of information. I also view learning experience platforms such as Degreed and Edcast as essential collaboration tools given they enable communities of practice to ‘spring up’ around specific areas of interest.
3. Meeting management: Better meeting constructs, a more thoughtful approach to attendee composition, and meeting pre-work will become the norm.
4. Inclusion will be a greater challenge: Soliciting and truly hearing and acting on diverse opinions can be difficult in proximate environments — you have to really work at it from a distance.
Most people would like the option to work from home, most of the time. This is especially true for knowledge workers. They have tasted it, and in spite of the challenges of being forced into what I would prefer to call ‘distributed work’ — they like it.
“In fact a survey by Gallop has found that three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once restrictions have lifted. Technology has allowed many workers to work remotely from home in comfort, with communications platforms allowing people to have virtual meetings with their team and clients, with just a click of the button.” —p. 100
This report is worth reading and keeping, especially for the references. Let’s take a look in 12 months and see what the future looks like.
|A screen sub-panel from the lessons management hub|
showing value assigned to lessons
|Covid Equipment to GeorgiaFrom IAEA image bank via flickr|
|Texas instruments calculator, image from wikimedia commons|
Leadership in a networked world is making our networks and communities smarter so they are able to make better-informed decisions.
In early 2020 New Brunswick’s Education Minister, Dominic Cardy, worked very hard to make his network smarter.
“When Canada’s chief public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, was talking about there being no need to “panic,” and raising alarms instead about the internet-wacko fringe targeting Canadians of Chinese descent with racist comments on social media in late January, a little known Progressive Conservative education minister in a small Maritime province was fully panicking. Cardy was preparing to pitch his premier’s top aide on the need to take drastic action to stop a killer virus …
Cardy kept on talking, and over the next few weeks, he and Leger would talk some more, until the premier’s staffer asked him to put together a report on the virus and be prepared to present it at a caucus retreat on Feb. 24 …
“The COVID-19 virus will arrive in New Brunswick and may be already present given the unreliability of tests, the weakness of Canada’s public health response to date and the nature of our open society,” Cardy wrote. “This is not a question of if, but when.”
After his presentation the premier asked Cardy what he would do. “Shut everything down,” was his reply.
Cardy, the canary in a COVID coal mine, initially came under fire from the New Brunswick Medical Society, for pushing measures some physicians perceived as overly drastic steps.” —National Post 2020-05-08
The Minister is once again trying to make his network smarter but is meeting fierce resistance in making vaccination a mandatory requirement to attend school and eliminating exceptions based on moral or religious grounds. The initial bill included a section that invoked the Constitutional Notwithstanding Clause, so that it could not be challenged in court.
Cardy said the bill is intended to pre-empt what he calls “an organized, well-financed lobby out there that’s intent on derailing efforts to protect vulnerable children.”
He told reporters the clause will avoid “expensive court costs” resulting from charter challenges “by folks who’ve got nothing but conspiracies and medieval fantasies to base their arguments upon.”
The bill would eliminate the ability of parents to exempt their children attending public schools from vaccinations on religious, philosophical and other non-medical grounds. —CBC News 2010-11-22
That clause was struck down yesterday —16 June 2020.
Liberal [Party] MLA Chuck Chiasson lays his cards on the table on Bill 11, the vaccination legislation: bill is “attacking the very foundation of our Charter” by removing rights and freedoms, he says. “Once the freedom is gone, it’s gone for good.”
Alliance [Party] leader Kris Austin: as a parent myself, I’m hard-pressed to vote for a bill that would take away parental rights.
[Green Party Leader] David Coon: the result of this bill will be that the children of those misinformed anti-vaxxers will be educated at home, by those same parents. “I can’t speculate” on how they’ll home-school but the goal is protecting students’ health.
Many people arguing against the Bill are promoting education instead. But education does not work. Facts are not enough. For example, a mandatory education class in Ontario, Canada — complete with videos and health care professionals to advise — has been useless in getting parents to accept vaccinations for their children.
‘But since it was introduced in 2017, thousands of mothers and fathers have dutifully watched the video, collected their “Vaccine Education Certificate” — then continued to duck the shots.
As one public health manager put it: “We had a zero percent conversion rate.”’ — National Post 2019-03-15
There needs to be a dominant narrative to counter “folks who’ve got nothing but conspiracies and medieval fantasies to base their arguments upon.” A new frame is required, not factual counter-arguments. This is how George Lakoff explains it, “1) Repetition strengthens the synapses in neural circuits that people use in thinking 2) Whoever frames first has an advantage 3) Negating a frame activates and strengthens it.” —@GeorgeLakoff.
Debating with anti-vaxxers only strengthens their position. It’s incredible to currently see an increase in anti-vaxxers during a global pandemic, but this is how the collective human mind works
“Most of us are already aware of the direct effect we have on our friends and family; our actions can make them happy or sad, healthy or sick, even rich or poor. But we rarely consider that everything we think, feel, do, or say can spread far beyond the people we know. Conversely, our friends and family serve as conduits for us to be influenced by hundreds or even thousands of other people. In a kind of social chain reaction, we can be deeply affected by events we do not witness that happen to people we do not know. It is as if we can feel the pulse of the social world around us and respond to its persistent rhythms. As part of a social network, we transcend ourselves, for good or ill, and become a part of something much larger. We are connected.” —Connected
We mostly go with the crowd, for better or worse — “Sorry to break it to you but arguments and facts don’t change people’s minds. It’s been proven neurologically that only relational warmth, not a war of words, can light up our neocortex awakening us to something new.” —@danwhitejr
Medical researchers understand the need to counter narratives with narratives. Building a better narrative takes time and human connection.
Lesson 2: don’t bring a fact to a narrative fight
Experts and health professionals can arm themselves with white papers, peer reviewed studies, and symposia; but if these are our only weapons, we will only ever get so far. In an era in which experts are increasingly distrusted, the “we know best” mindset is counterproductive.
Those wishing to encourage vaccination need to identify and amplify the stories that emerge from the real lives and lived experiences of people in their communities (to start, they need to listen for them). It is no coincidence that the most effective climate advocacy in the world right now comes from the improvisations and stories of a 16 year old girl rather than the strategic plans of a generations old institution. —BMJ: New Power versus Old
The price of not developing a better narrative around vaccination is disaster.
“The MMR vaccine immunises against measles, mumps and rubella … A steady fall in the uptake of the MMR jab means the UK has now lost its measles free status, just three years after the virus was eliminated.
Currently, only 87.2% of children have the second dose of the vaccine.” —Sky News 2019-08-19
In the long run, society has to continuously work to counter the ‘stupid’, who will always be with us.
Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
And its corollary:
A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.
We can do nothing about the stupid. The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.
Declining societies have the same percentage of stupid people as successful ones. But they also have high percentages of helpless people and, [Prof. Carlo] Cipolla writes, “an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity.”
“Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the [stupid] fraction and makes decline a certainty,” Cipolla concludes. “And the country goes to Hell.” —Five Universal Laws of Human Stupidity
|Image from wikimedia commons|
This means being opportunistic and ensuring that every interaction is helpful. In Nations and Regions, this involved not being proud about the type of support the KM team provided; typing flip chart pads of knowledge exchange events for busy community hosts was just as important as facilitation and event design. Loaning out KM team members is also a great way to build relationships and foster knowledge flow.
Select approaches that enable people to stay within (or to step just outside of) their cultural comfort zone. BBC staff are naturally excellent networkers. This meant they would foster excellent CoPs provided they had the focus and support from dedicated community hosts.
This case study [in Tom's book] was written using KM terminology as it has an informed readership. In contrast the BBC’s N&R Sport champions simply saw themselves as people who wanted to improve their story telling by meeting more regularly to discuss their output. The KM team did not therefore talk about "strategic CoPs with hosts promoting knowledge sharing" as this would have not have meant anything to them at a personal, local level.
This is particularly important – but difficult - when your help is no longer required with ongoing activities, and when those involved become self sufficient. You can't foist yourself onto people, so an easier inroad to maintaining contact is to ask if you can learn from the great work they are doing. People always appreciate recognition of their efforts. Further, profiling their activities via e-bulletins draws in people who aren't yet interested in knowledge sharing but want to keep up to date with what's going on.
The most successful CoPs are usually those who receive some KM team support and who nominate and train community hosts. Some people argue that the best groups "just evolve". This is true in some cases, but it is a high risk option for business critical knowledge sharing. It's fine to have a little formal behind the scenes effort to enable the informal contact to flourish. We call this being "formally informal". It is no different to splitting up groups onto different tables at events!
The GPLs and Sport champions were successful because they had knowledge sharing performance objectives, budget and a percentage of their time to devote to the role. Why leave something of strategic importance to the chance that people might have time to focus on it?
The KM team were careful about the language used but still had some credibility-busting moments (including an appearance in Private Eye magazine). Only two KM team members had programme-making experience but they were focused on developing social tools and did not work directly with the team members who provided internal consultancy. This hampered the consultancy side, who were criticised for marketing services and producing training materials that were "not for" programme makers. Seconding staff members from the areas you are supporting to help translate into their local language is a much better approach. It also builds well-trained KM ambassadors in the business when their secondment ends.
This ensures you maximise all interactions with staff potentially interested in knowledge sharing. In-house KM teams should think like an external consultancy group. The BBC's KM team didn't do this until the end. As they became overloaded with work they found that knowledge sharing between team members became difficult and opportunities were lost.
Analyse what is likely to be the predominant knowledge sharing solution used in your business, and provide KM team members time and resources to up-skill. The BBC's KM team needed to be well versed in CoPs from the outset. Whilst their learning grew over time, it meant the early adopters such as N&R Sport didn't benefit from some key learning. For example, the KM team discovered late on a key CoP statistic which is that only around 15-20% of your community will be regularly active at any one time. This is critical because, when trying to secure funding for community activities, many hosts set unrealistic expectations with their senior sponsors that large numbers of people will be active. If you set a target of, say, 50% of your invite list attending every community event over six months then you will fail as that is not statistically likely. This could have meant some CoPs failed at the first hurdle.
The thinking that got us into this mess will not get us out of it. If we are to create a new economic order it has to move beyond civil society, governments, and markets. A quid pro quo between private firms and public authorities will only reinforce the status quo.
“A new economic order requires an explicit quid pro quo between private firms and public authorities. To prosper, firms need a reliable and skilled workforce, good infrastructure, an ecosystem of suppliers and collaborators, easy access to technology, and a sound regime of contracts and property rights. Most of these are provided through public and collective action, which is the government’s side of the bargain.
Governments, in turn, need firms to internalize the various externalities their labor, investment, and innovation decisions produce for their communities and societies. And firms must live up to their side of the bargain – not as a matter of corporate social responsibility, but as part of an explicit regulatory and governance framework.” —Project Syndicate 2020-06-11
A quadriform society includes the networked commons in a four-way sharing of power and influence. We have seen this already with the global response to the pandemic that mobilizes local communities and connects global research, often in contradiction to national governments. Networks share knowledge faster than markets or institution and can do so on a global scale.
“First, individuals are empowered to become co-creators, co-producers, and co-distributors of information for the benefit of their communities … Second, the accessibility of these knowledge products enables innovation. The release of patents under an open license means that inventors and manufacturers can build needed solutions without the worry of a lawsuit. Open-source projects lower barriers to access, and allow people to use these tools to help themselves or those around them—for example, 3D printer owners can now print medically-approved masks to combat shortages.
The pandemic response has shown the benefits of a commons-based model of knowledge production and sharing.” —Wired 2020-05-27
Whether we work in civil society, government, or the market, the way ahead is clear — use the network form to make sense locally so that it can be shared faster on a global scale. Leadership in all aspects of society is making our networks more resilient, smarter, and able to make better decisions. Networked learning is the only way we will be able to deal with this pandemic, which is far from over, as well as future pandemics. Networked learning — beyond institutions and markets — is the human sensemaking platform we need to deal with the even greater complex challenge of climate change.
|Image from Geograph.com|
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
PatrickTanguay — “School pre-covid: Teach them all exactly the same thing, sitting in rows. Prepare them for cubicle + factory work. Post-covid: Sit them at the kitchen table, on the couch, let them learn what they can amidst overworked anxious people, doing Zoom calls. Prepare them for gig work.”
@JasonHickel — “Capitalism structurally compels us to work and produce beyond society’s actual needs. And the more we produce, the more we have to consume, to mop up overproduction. Consumption becomes a structural imperative — a form of labour in itself. The consumer is not sovereign, but serf.”
“If evidence-based medicine is not the right scientific paradigm for this moment, what is? The framework of complex adaptive systems may be better suited to the analysis of fast-moving infectious diseases …
The logic of evidence-based medicine, in which scientists pursued the goals of certainty, predictability, and linear causality, remains useful in some circumstances—for example, the ongoing randomized controlled trials of treatments for COVID-19. But at a public health rather than individual patient level, we need to embrace other epistemic frameworks and use methods to study how best to cope with uncertainty, unpredictability, and non-linear causality …
To reiterate the point I made earlier, there is no doubt that evidence-based medicine has offered and continues to offer powerful insights and still has an important place in the evaluation of therapies. But its principles have arguably been naïvely and indiscriminately over-applied in the current pandemic.”
Cllr Asher Craig — “PERSPECTIVE. This haunting underwater sculpture park is a tribute to the 2 million African slaves thrown into the sea during the transatlantic slave trade. The sculptures [Vicissitudes] are at the bottom of Molinere Bay and only accessible by scuba diving, snorkeling, and glass-bottom boats.”
Like other knowledge engineers, I have had great problems in getting knowledge out of experts. Real ones are hard to find, and when you have found them, they may only be master of a small field, and be so busy that they can spare you little time....
An expert often forgets what he does, and may not know what he does. Even when an expert can describe what he does, he can be wrong. He is more likely to be able to remember actions given conditions, than conditions given actions... expert surgeons know when to operate, but have difficulty listing the indications for doing so. They need cues which a knowledge engineer has to supply.
An expert is often better at criticizing someone else's ideas than explaining his own, and may only express his knowledge in response to something he disagrees with. Knowledge engineers have to learn the expert's language: in doing so I became a particular kind of ''theoretical' surgeon, anaesthetist, and obstetrician.
I worked mostly by asking experts to comment on innumerable drafts assembled from tiny fragments of knowledge. As one expert said when I began, ''You will have to build it up comma by comma''. Looking back, it is remarkable that the task was accomplished at all. Only by combing the earth was it possible to find just enough appropriate experts.
Paradoxically, any merit in these manuals lies with the experts, and any faults with the knowledge engineer ... it is his job to spot the fault and patch it with another expert's knowledge. The sixth sense that he needs to develop is to know what knowledge is useful, and when it is likely to be faulty.
As the interface between lawyers and developers, we have to have a firm grounding in legal principles, and a concept of practice helps – we are, after all, designing tools for use in practice, so we need to understand our user’s needs. We tend to work across practice areas, collaborating closely with lawyers to understand their issues to make sure we are actually solving a problem.
But working with the lawyers in only part of the job. Once we’ve understood the legal principles at play, we have to translate that into a format that the developers can work with. LKEs are not necessarily coders, but we do need to understand the technical aspect – to understand the needs, capacities and language of developers, which is as specialised a version of the English language as that needed to talk to the lawyers.
As the legal industry begins to engage proactively with technology, the need for translators to bridge the gap between the two industries is likely to remain strong. As we get more ambitious with the technology that we can bring to bear on these problems, the role of the LKE to facilitate collaboration between the legal and the technical experts, not just linguistically but also in terms of working practices and ways of thinking, will become more and more necessary.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
Traduit par Christian Renard
This is a translation of learning in complexity & chaos
La plupart de nos structures de travail sont aujourd’hui conçues pour faire face à des situations compliquées, telles que la construction d’un bâtiment, le lancement d’une campagne ou la conception d’un équipement. Mais, aujourd’hui, nous devons faire face à des problèmes complexes qui ne peuvent pas être résolus de manière standardisée — inégalités, réfugiés, populisme, racisme. Chaque fois que quelqu’un est impliqué dans le contexte mondial de changement climatique, la situation est probablement complexe.
Dans les situations complexes, on s’appuie moins sur des plans et des analyses détaillés et davantage sur une expérimentation continue, associée à une observation et à un suivi attentifs. Nous allons désormais devoir apprendre constamment dans la complexité.
Selon le ‘cadre’ Cynefin, quand nous sommes confrontés à la complexité, nous devrions Sonder> Ressentir> Répondre, par opposition à Analyser> Donner du Sens> Répondre lorsque la situation est compliquée. Les systèmes mécaniques sont compliqués, mais les systèmes humains sont complexes. Cela signifie que nous ne pouvons pas sur-planifier, bien que la planification elle-même nous prépare à gérer ce qui émerge lorsque nous explorons des situations et des environnements complexes. Dans des conditions compliquées, nous pouvons nous fier aux bonnes pratiques établies, mais dans des situations complexes, nous devons développer en permanence nos propres pratiques émergentes.
Dans Chaos: mode d’emploi, Bruno Marion conclut que le monde d’aujourd’hui n’est pas seulement complexe, il est même chaotique:
« Jamais dans l’histoire de l’humanité un seul être humain n’a eu autant de pouvoir. Jamais dans l’histoire de l’humanité, TU n’as eu autant de pouvoir! Optimiste ou pessimiste, c’est comme être spectateur d’un film dont il semble que nous connaissions la fin, heureuse ou malheureuse. Aujourd’hui, il faut cesser d’être un spectateur passif mais un acteur dans ce monde en pleine mutation. »
Deux événements politiques récents indiquent que nous devons non seulement nous organiser pour faire face à la complexité, mais également que nous devons être résilients au chaos. Lorsque le New York Times a publié un article important rédigé par un auteur anonyme, ce fut un moment décisif dans l’histoire du journalisme. Jamais auparavant ce journal prestigieux n’avait permis un éditorial anonyme. Le Times a donné la raison de ce geste sans précédent.
« The Times est en train de prendre une décision rare: publier un éditorial anonyme. Nous l’avons fait à la demande de l’auteur, un haut responsable de l’administration Trump dont l’identité est connue de nous et dont la divulgation risquerait de compromettre le travail. Nous pensons que publier cet essai de manière anonyme est le seul moyen de fournir une perspective importante à nos lecteurs. »—NYT 2018-09-05
Peu de temps après, Bob Woodward, auteur de Fear: Trump in the White House, a qualifié de chaotique la situation politique aux États-Unis en 2018. Peut-être que le New York Times traitait du chaos du point de vue du cadre Cynefin.
(Pour rappel: dans une situation complexe, vous devez Sonder> Ressentir> Répondre et développer des pratiques émergentes Mais dans le chaos, vous devez Agir> Ressentir> Répondre et développer de nouvelles pratiques.)
Cet éditorial anonyme était définitivement une approche novatrice. Alors que beaucoup de nos professions et organisations peuvent faire face à la complexité, peu sont adaptées pour faire face au chaos à grande échelle. Promouvoir le chaos ou en tirer parti – comme le décrit Naomi Klein dans The Shock Doctrine — permet de déséquilibrer durablement ses adversaires. Alors que de plus en plus de gouvernements populistes — décrits succinctement comme basés sur un autoritarisme xénophobe – déploient leur pouvoir, nous pouvons voir davantage de ces nouvelles pratiques basées sur le chaos. En ce qui concerne les institutions qui protègent notre démocratie, la résilience au chaos et l’utilisation de nouvelles approches en matière de gouvernance sont maintenant nécessaires. Cela demandera beaucoup plus de souplesse et de créativité.
Comment les démocraties et leurs citoyens peuvent-elles se préparer au chaos probable? Ne pas comprendre le domaine dans lequel nous travaillons / vivons — Compliqué, Complexe, Chaotique – peut mener au désordre. Nous avons besoin des bonnes approches pour la situation. Nous devons développer de meilleurs moyens de gérer la complexité et le chaos — la nouvelle normalité politique.
Dans la complexité, la coopération l’emporte sur la collaboration. Collaborer signifie travailler ensemble pour atteindre un objectif commun autour d’un plan ou d’une structure. La coopération consiste à partager librement sans attendre de réciprocité directe. La coopération suppose la liberté des individus de s’associer et de participer. Les équipes de travail sont collaboratives. Les communautés de pratique sont coopératives. Le partage sur les médias sociaux est généralement coopératif — à moins que vous ne soyez dans le marketing. La coopération est également un moteur de créativité car elle permet des liens plus nombreux et variés avec les gens et avec les idées. La coopération est un comportement fondamental pour travailler efficacement dans des réseaux, et c’est dans des réseaux que la plupart d’entre nous travaillerons à l’ère numérique.
On ne peut pas dicter aux personnes faisant partie de réseaux de connaissances ce qu’elles doivent faire, elles ne se laissent influencer que par leurs pairs sur la base de leur réputation. Si les gens ne vous aiment pas, ils ne se connecteront pas. Dans une hiérarchie, il vous suffit de faire plaisir à votre patron. Dans un réseau distribué, vous devez être perçu comme ayant une valeur, bien que différente, par beaucoup d’autres.
La coopération, ce n’est pas la même chose que la collaboration, bien qu’elles soient complémentaires. Les équipes, les groupes et les marchés collaborent. Les réseaux sociaux et les communautés de pratique coopèrent généralement. Travailler en coopération nécessite un état d’esprit différent de celui de simplement collaborer à un projet défini. Cela demande de la curiosité.
Bien que tous les niveaux de complexité existent dans notre monde, de plus en plus de nos travaux traitent de problèmes complexes réels, dans lesquels la relation de cause à effet ne peut être perçue que de manière rétrospective, qu’elle soit sociale, technologique ou économique. Les environnements et problèmes complexes sont mieux traités lorsque nous nous organisons en réseaux, travaillons au développement continu de pratiques émergentes et coopérons pour faire avancer nos aspirations.
Mais la complexité extrême est proche du chaos et il semble que de plus en plus de situations auxquelles nous sommes confrontés – action politique violente, changement climatique – soient plutôt chaotiques. La complexité et le chaos nous obligent à nous structurer autour de la curiosité et de la résolution des problèmes, comme l’a fait Apple avec son approche de la conception. Nous devons construire des structures organisationnelles encore plus flexibles. Les environnements en réseaux démocratiques qui développent en permanence des pratiques émergentes par le biais d’une coopération à l’échelle du système ne suffisent pas. Face aux événements chaotiques fréquents, nous devons également organiser des hiérarchies temporaires négociées, capables de se former et de se reformer rapidement afin de tester de nouvelles pratiques. Pour ce faire, il faut faire preuve de créativité à l’échelle du système.
« Les humains ont la capacité de gérer certaines choses très complexes, mais trop souvent, nos barrières culturelles et organisationnelles nous empêchent d’utiliser ces capacités innées. Avec le chaos croissant, la créativité devient encore plus importante. «L’essence du génie est que c’est une qualité inadaptée. Les marginaux ne s’intègrent pas bien dans les chaînes de montage institutionnalisées. » —Professeur Jeffrey Sonnenfeld
Les auteurs de The Age of Discovery comparent notre époque à la Renaissance européenne des XIVe au XVIIe siècles. La Renaissance a apporté de nouvelles découvertes merveilleuses – universités, astronomie, imprimerie – ainsi que de nouveaux défis – la vérole, la guerre, l’esclavage de masse. Notre époque apporte des découvertes similaires – nanomatériaux, thérapie génique, intelligence artificielle – et de nouvelles menaces – Ebola, extrémisme, changement climatique. Aujourd’hui, nous avons désespérément besoin d’une réflexion diversifiée.
« Cherchez la différence. Le but n’est pas simplement de visiter différents endroits et de lire des choses différentes; c’est accumuler de nouvelles perspectives. Nous pouvons penser que nous le faisons déjà, mais le plus souvent nous ne le faisons pas, pas vraiment. Nous visitons de nouveaux espaces, mais apprenons-nous à les voir avec des yeux locaux? Si chaque voyage d’affaires suit le même scénario – aéroport-taxi-hôtel-bureau-souvenirs- café-taxi-aéroport – la réponse est non. Nous devons rechercher cequi est différent. En période d’extrême complexité, la curiosité est la clé du progrès individuel et en tant que société. »
Les auteurs de Creative Economy Entrepreneurs déclarent que «lorsque vous étudiez des opportunités dans un environnement créatif, vous misez toujours sur les personnes.» L’innovation provient des personnes et non de la technologie. Leurs 25 années d’expérience renforcent la valeur des relations humaines pour favoriser la créativité.
« Avec tant d’informations disponibles et de méthodes d’analyse, l’accès à la connaissance n’est plus un défi. Tout est connecté et ces connexions se produisent instantanément. Le défi de la quatrième révolution industrielle devient l’interprétation, la réflexion et l’innovation. Comment pouvons-nous créer une nouvelle valeur à partir de notre connaissance hyperconnectée? »
Les machines ne pensent pas — les gens, oui. La quatrième révolution industrielle — physique, numérique et biologique -, nécessite comme les trois précédentes un changement dans la manière dont nous concevons l’apprentissage et la soutenons. Ce n’est pas la lecture, l’écriture et l’arithmétique, ni les sciences, l’ingénierie et la médecine.
« À chaque révolution industrielle, il y a eu une révolution de l’apprentissage qui, à l’époque, avait un coût prohibitif. Cependant, le maintien du statu quo dans le passé représentait le coût d’une occasion manquée qui, dans de nombreux cas, était une fortune. »—Jesse Martin
L’innovation radicale provient de réseaux avec de grands trous structurels plus diversifiés. C’est pourquoi nos réseaux sociaux ne peuvent pas non plus être des équipes de travail, mais ils peuvent aussi devenir des chambres d’écho. Les équipes de travail peuvent se concentrer sur l’innovation incrémentale pour améliorer ce qu’elles font déjà. Les communautés de pratique, avec des liens sociaux forts et faibles, deviennent alors un pont sur ce continuum de réseaux, permettant une créativité à la fois individuelle et interactive. Pour assurer la diversité des mentalités, tous les professionnels doivent s’engager dans des activités d’apprentissage en dehors de leurs organisations et de leurs zones de confort culturel, afin d’apporter des idées et des connaissances diverses qui alimenteront la créativité.
L’innovation ne se produit pas dans une boîte de Pétri. Nous devons être connectés aux réseaux sociaux aux frontières floues qui nous renseignent sur les limites de notre connaissance. Nous devons ensuite participer activement aux communautés de pratique afin de développer une compréhension partagée entre nos pairs. Ensuite, nous pouvons vraiment contribuer en tant que membres d’équipes travaillant sur des problèmes complexes. Rien de tout cela ne coûte de l’argent supplémentaire, seulement du temps et de l’attention. Pour voir les frontières de nos connaissances, nous avons besoin de temps pour interagir, converser, réfléchir et expérimenter. Cela peut nous aider à maîtriser la quatrième révolution industrielle. Nous sommes chacun responsable de notre apprentissage. Comme le disent les auteurs de The Age of Discovery, «Ne vous contentez pas de recevoir une éducation. Fabriquez-la”.
Christian Madsbjerg, dans Sensemaking: Le pouvoir des sciences humaines à l’ère de l’algorithme, décrit la création de sens comme une interaction entre humains dans le monde réel.
« La Recherche de Sens est une pratique sage enracinée dans les sciences humaines. On peut penser que la création de sens est l’opposé exact de la pensée algorithmique: elle se situe entièrement dans le concret, alors que la pensée algorithmique existe dans un no man’s land d’informations dépourvues de spécificité. La pensée algorithmique peut aller très loin – traiter des trillions de téraoctets de données par seconde – mais seule la création de sens peut aller plus loin. »
La Recherche de Sens est un travail humain, mais nous devons aussi de plus en plus comprendre et travailler avec des machines.
« La connectivité croissante continue d’accélérer la disruption numérique et plus de tâches que jamais peuvent être réalisées à n’importe quel endroit de la planète. Entre-temps, l’augmentation des capacités de la machine commence à avoir un impact sur un certain nombre de tâches spécifiques. » —Ross Dawson
Dans le livre Only Humans Need Apply, les auteurs identifient cinq manières de travailler avec des machines. Ils appellent ça — la montée des marches. J’ai ajouté entre parenthèses les compétences qui, à mon avis, sont nécessaires pour chaque adaptation.
1. Step-up: Diriger un monde augmenté par les machines (transdisciplinarité)
2. Step -in: utiliser des machines pour augmenter le travail (apprentissage des nouveaux médias, collaboration virtuelle, gestion de la charge cognitive)
3. Step-aside: faire des travaux pour lesquels les machines ne conviennent pas (intelligence sociale, recherche de sens)
4. Step narrowly: se spécialiser étroitement dans un domaine trop petit pour une augmentation (compétence interculturelle, état d’esprit design)
5. Step-forward: développement de nouveaux systèmes d’augmentation (pensée novatrice et adaptative, pensée informatique)
Donner un sens à des problèmes complexes ne peut pas être fait seul. Compter sur nous-mêmes ou sur un petit groupe d’experts internes en la matière ne suffit plus. Les organisations doivent entretenir des réseaux externes spécialisés. Ces réseaux sont développés via des relations de confiance. Chaque personne doit d’abord être considérée comme un nœud précieux dans leurs réseaux. Cela prend du temps et des efforts. Si vous commencez par donner au réseau, il peut alors renvoyer la faveur – peut-être de manière exponentielle. Aujourd’hui, les capacités de tous les professionnels ont pour limites celles de leurs réseaux et il faut une recherche de sens agile .
« Les environnements complexes représentent un défi permanent pour la création de sens dans les organisations. L’ambiguïté continue exerce des pressions constantes sur les organisations pour qu’elles modifient leurs modes d’interaction, de flux d’informations et de prise de décision. Les organisations ont du mal à faire face aux situations précaires, aux explications équivoques et paradoxales et aux dilemmes cognitifs de toutes sortes. Cela crée une demande d’approches novatrices en matière de création de sens. Puisque l’agilité est nécessaire pour naviguer dans la complexité, nous pouvons appeler ces nouvelles approches «la recherche de sens agile. » —Bonnita Roy
L’apprentissage est la clé pour faire face à nos changements technologiques, environnementaux et sociétaux actuels et futurs. Développer ces nouvelles compétences nécessite un apprentissage assez différent des systèmes de formation et d’éducation existants. Cet apprentissage est informel et requiert une quantité importante de connaissances implicites, ainsi que la création de sens social. La pensée critique, la créativité, la communication et les compétences de collaboration ne sont pas développées en vase clos. Ce sont des compétences sociales permanentes.
Par exemple, la discipline de la Maîtrise des Connaissances Personnelles (PKM) est un cadre unifié de processus construits individuellement facilitant la recherche de sens dans un environnement complexe. Le PKM (Personal Knowledge Mastery) reste à flot dans une mer d’informations alimentée par des réseaux de connaissances et guidée par des communautés de pratique. C’est l’ensemble de compétences numéro un qui aide chacun de nous à comprendre notre monde, à travailler plus efficacement et à contribuer à la société. Le cadre PKM — Chercher> Donner du sens> Partager — permet aux professionnels de devenir des catalyseurs de savoir.
Health librarians and knowledge specialists ensure that decisions are based upon the best available evidence and encourage knowledge to be captured, shared and re-used. Multiple benefits are possible for NHS staff and organisations when they work closely with health librarians and knowledge specialists. This selection of case studies gives a flavour of this work.
On 6 June 1944 the First Canadian Army landed at Normandy. It had never been tested in battle as a formation. The complications of drills in England had been replaced by the complexity of war and the chaos of battle. By the end of August, two brigade commanders and five commanding officers had been removed as they were deemed unsuitable.
“[In Normandy] There still remained, however, that proportion of officers who were not fully competent for their appointments, and whose inadequacy appeared in action and sometimes had serious consequences.” —Breakout at Falaise
How many organizational leaders today are in the same situation as those inadequate officers in the Canadian Army — unfit for the post-invasion reality?
In a recent online session on Decision-making in Crisis hosted by Cognitive Edge, Sonja Blignaut said that today, “we are constantly on the boundary between competence, and incompetence, and that is not a comfortable place to be”. This is the reality of a global pandemic. Gary Klein noted that expertise has been compromised with this pandemic and that even evidence-based medicine is under stress in this environment due to the fast pace of change and the lack of understanding of this novel virus. Klein said that in order to build expertise quickly, those working to counter the virus are paying attention to professional rumours as early signs of new information. He said that leaders who are used to getting a lot of data and then applying good analysis to make decisions, are ill-suited to make decisions when there is little data. But decisions still have to be made. One key in making these is to ensure that any decision you make today still leaves you with options for tomorrow.
Look back at December 2019 and remember what kinds of decisions and plans were being made and how they were made. Data, big data, was analyzed. A-B testing was done. Agile initiatives were iterating toward their next cycle.
Today, some organizations are preparing to get back to normal. Will they be ready for whatever next shock will hit them? Do they think this pandemic will disappear and we will never face another one in our lifetimes? As Dave Snowden said in the decision-making session, “Covid is God’s gift to humanity, because it’s a wake-up call”. It’s time to wake up.
Complexity and chaos are the new normal as climate change drives more crises our way — pandemics, refugees, environmental disasters, and the overall degradation of our environment. To prepare for chaos, we need people who can act. Identify these people and give them experiments or skunk-works to play with. We will need leaders who can also deal with complexity. They will have to be constantly experimenting and probing their ecosystems. Organizations who are serious about surviving in the ‘post-covid’ normal will have to take a hard look at their leadership and management structures. The time to change is now, not when the next crisis strikes.
While many of our professions and organizations can deal with some complexity, few are adapted to deal with chaos on a large scale. Chaos — violent political action, climate change, pandemic — require structures that promote curiosity and resolve. With frequent chaotic events to deal with we have to organize in temporary, negotiated hierarchies that can quickly form and re-form in order to test novel practices. The ability to do this requires diverse thinking, open structures, and trust among those doing the work. Now is the time to get these in place.
Humans have the ability to deal with very complex things, yet too often our cultural and organizational barriers block us from using these innate abilities. With increasing chaos, creativity is becoming even more important. Look for the misfits and find a way to work with them.
“The essence of genius is that it’s a misfit quality. Misfits don’t fit well into institutionalized assembly lines.” —Prof. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld
For a deeper dive into these ideas, see learning in complexity & chaos.
|Image from wikimedia commons,|
Merger of KCR and MTR operations 2007-12-02
Blogging is one way I make sense of the world. I have now written over 3,300 posts on various topics. My ways of seeing the world have changed over the years and blogging has helped to keep my thoughts in a state of perpetual beta — strong ideas, loosely held, in order to deal with constant change while still getting things done. Today we are in great need of sensemaking between citizens as we deal with the complexities of a pandemic, an economic recession, and increasing violence in many parts of the world.
One effect of the network era, and its pervasive digital connections, is that networks are replacing or subverting more traditional hierarchies of our institutions and markets. Three aspects of this effect are — 1) access to almost unlimited information, 2) the ability for almost anyone to self-publish, and 3) limitless opportunities for “ridiculously easy group-forming” as Seb Paquet described the effects of social media.
The desire to relate is what drives people to support global social movements on one hand, and to take shelter in tribal identity politics on the other. In politics, social media extend participation but also make information manipulation by small motivated groups much easier. Understanding this deep desire to relate to others should be foremost in mind in understanding human dynamics.
We will not have organizational transformation, or political reformation, without people feeling like they belong. To counter Tribal populism, we also need to appeal to emotions and our feelings of relatedness. The same goes for education and learning.
If we want to avoid a return to Tribal conflict and a narrow view of society, we need to build and test alternative network models. We are in desperate need of new models for living, working, and learning. 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 interconnected world. Failure by current generations to do so will leave the next ones to deal with the reactionary forces of tribalism, corporatism, and perhaps even fascism.
Open information and access to our common knowledge assets is required. We can only deal with complex systems and problems collectively. I used to think that the great work to be done at the beginning of this century was the democratization of the workplace. This is no longer enough. Our great work today is the re-democratization of society. Everything is now being communicated, and fragmented, at an electric pace. Change happens quickly in an electric, and now digital, age.
Self-mastery of our own thinking is necessary to counter the effects of a networked world, where words are electrically extended by social media. Information manipulation is becoming widespread, driving identity politics. This of course makes a fertile environment for demagogues to wave the flag of populism.
In the network era, populism is the first refuge of a scoundrel. A literate, engaged, and networked citizenry gives no such refuge.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. ”
—Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777
Democracy needs open and transparent communications to exist. The ancient Greeks had a form of democracy but it was limited by oral discourse. Such a democracy could not grow beyond its immediate borders. The printing press enabled the French revolution and it was essential for the American revolution. There is even a postal clause in the US constitution. Communications technologies can enable as well as disrupt democracy. We live in a time where technology provides immense potential for human communications but we lack the organizational structures to take advantage of this. Faith in the future is low, especially in democratic and developed countries.
We are stuck in a period similar to the early era of the printing press. Printed books enabled the Protestant reformation which flamed conflicts like the European wars of religion, and only many years later developed into the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment. Today we are possibly moving toward an age of Entanglement, but a reversion to tribalism in our times may result in a period similar to the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.
We do not have to have closed borders and homogeneous nationalistic identities. It is time to develop global identities and organizations based on our common humanity, enhanced by diversity, and enabled by digital communications technologies. If we build organizations that enable this we just might survive as a network society.
Here is our collective challenge.
As our institutions are not set up to deal with complexity, we now need new structures that can counter the ill effects of markets, especially crony capitalism and platform monopolies. Changing the dominant policies that guide governments is the right direction to move toward a network society and avoid the reversals to inferior but comforting, tribal, institutional, or market forms. This will take ‘group comprehension’.
“More and more, the unit of comprehension is going to be group comprehension, where you simply have to rely on a team of others because you can’t understand it all yourself. There was a time, oh, I would say as recently as, certainly as the 18th century, when really smart people could aspire to having a fairly good understanding of just about everything … Well that’s the fragility, the hyper-fragility of civilisation right there. We could all be bounced back into the 19th century.” —Daniel Dennett
As organizations get decentralized and work teams more dynamic, individuals need a long-term approach for their professional development and knowledge sharing. They cannot rely on the increasingly temporary nature of companies. Today, all professionals need large and diverse knowledge networks. They also have to find and engage with professional communities of practice in order to continuously change their practice to deal with a fluid external environment. If not, they will fail to create value.
As computers increasingly take over routine work, we cannot turn a blind eye to how they make decisions. Not only do we have to focus on human work, we have to keep a careful eye on what the machines are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are making their decisions.
For complex work we need strong knowledge networks, and loose (temporary & negotiated) hierarchies. With the machines making so many decisions today, we cannot control them with authoritarian organizational models. We should leave the hierarchies to the algorithms.
We can no longer rely upon traditional gatekeepers of information and knowledge.
Each of us must engage with others and develop our trusted knowledge networks. None of us are smart enough to handle all the connections in our digital lives on our own. We need to use both our human networks and our machines in concert. Our professional connections, especially those outside our current workplaces, are our security. They will help us learn, find work, and push our professional boundaries. In the long run, the more we contribute to our social networks and communities of practice, the more resilient we will make them and in return will weave a stronger social safety net for ourselves.
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.
My observation over the past decade is that most organizations focus primarily on incremental innovation and do not allow time and resources to be expended on social networking activities that are officially perceived to be frivolous. This is a major error in a time of rapid technological, economic, and societal change.
Strong networks and temporary hierarchies need to be connected by learning while working, and sharing knowledge freely.
Today, learning has to be part of work for everyone, and that has to be the foundation of any human organization. The conflict between developing a new society based on the network form versus a retreat to the tribal form is just beginning.
It will only be through our collective desire to learn with others and build networked organizations that we can build a better world. It starts by each of us becoming better networked learners. Our education systems have not prepared us for this, but I have faith in the power of motivated, curious, and creative global citizens.
“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
This is a modified extract from the introduction to Life in Perpetual Beta
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“We have art so that we shall not die of reality.” —Friedrich Nietzsche, via @AnthonyMartinFaria
@dsearls — “Future epitaph: ‘I used to be talent. Now I’m just content’.”
@MelissaPierce — “This quote from the movie ‘The Two Popes’ is pretty much everything: ‘Truth may be vital, but without love, it is unbearable.’ Would that I take this gem to heart for even a third of my interactions.”
@malia_adil — “These days on Social Media, everybody is engaged either hosting, boasting, or posting. Wonder, who is listening?”
@JasonFried — “Remember, remote work is not office work remotely. It’s a different way to work. Mostly asynchronous, long stretches of uninterrupted time, fewer meetings (meetings are a last resort), and fewer hours with more impact per hour.”
“Earlier I experienced a great separation between day-care facilities, 24-7 care facilities and dementia facilities. But since we have combined the finances and resources for these areas, the employees can follow citizens who change from one category to another. After all, I have citizens who start out using day-care facilities, move to 24-7 care facilities and, ultimately, use our dementia facilities if the need arises – now our employees can follow the citizens. This was impossible earlier. So, the result is freedom and flexibility – and this provides safety for the citizens who are moving as well as for their relatives. Thus, what we do now is characterized by coherence.”
The above is merely one example of what the heads of the healthcare centres have been able to do almost overnight – and which was not possible earlier due to silos with separate budgets. From an operational point of view, it has also resulted in greater flexibility as regards the possibility of relocating employees if needed.
In confronting the post-truth machines I looked at different types of fake news and what could be done to counter them — Propaganda, Disinformation, Clickbait, and Conspiracy Theories. I mentioned that the researcher danah boyd defines agnotology as — “the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”. Today, as ever, many forces are at play promoting agnotology — from governments, to corporations, to social movements. This ignorance in our society can easily lead to conspiracy theories.
In the conspiracy theory handbook (March 2020) the authors from several universities explain in detail what conspiracy theory is and what can be done about it. It’s a short read read and a handy reference. The prime differentiation is between actual conspiracy (e.g. VW diesel emission tests) and imagined conspiracy (e.g. JFK assassination). One comes with a perspective of healthy skepticism while the other from one of overriding suspicion. The authors say that conspiracy theories are popular because they address feelings of powerlessness, provide a way to explain unlikely events, help cope with threats, and dispute mainstream politics which can help make some minority movements feel special.
The handbook goes on to describe seven traits of conspiracy theories, using the CONSPIR model.
Several ways to counter conspiracy theories are provided and I prefer the idea of ‘Prebunking’ or getting ahead of the conspiracy. This is how George Lakoff explains it, “1) Repetition strengthens the synapses in neural circuits that people use in thinking 2) Whoever frames first has an advantage 3) Negating a frame activates and strengthens it.” —@GeorgeLakoff. Therefore, getting the message out first, and framing the conversation, is much better than countering any conspiracy theory after the fact.
With the wide use of consumer social media, and their dark sides, we need to actively engage in proactive messages on a continuous basis. Waiting for the conspiracy theorists to act first is a grave mistake. Their influence is greater than their numbers!
“Conspiracy theorists also have an outsized influence despite their small numbers. An analysis of over 2 million comments on the subreddit site r/conspiracy found that while only 5% of posters exhibited conspiratorial thinking, they were responsible for 64% of all comments. The most active author wrote 896,337 words, twice the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy!”
In 2006 I proposed that we should develop an educational system of small schools, loosely joined:
Perhaps with this pandemic, the time has come to reconsider this idea. Small schools make for smaller social networks and easier contact tracing. They may require less time on mass transit less exposure to larger human networks. Small schools can be pods in a larger online education network.
Why has this not been seriously considered, and instead small schools keep closing?
Large schools make for easier control and centralized use of physical assets. They also have larger hierarchies. I would assume that the Principal of a school with 2,000 students earns a higher salary than a Principal of 50 students. Hierarchies become self-replicating over time. Plus, the big schools can have big sports teams and put on big theatre productions and musicals.
So let’s follow the money. Why is it spent and where is it spent? We can now shine the Covid-19 lens on our school spending and see what is really important. What makes for a pandemic resilient school system? It has to be much more than the existing physical infrastructure with an emergency backup online plan. This pandemic gives us an opportunity to seriously look at re-schooling.
Probably the number one core skill for all citizens today in a digitally networked world is media literacy. It is the ability to discern fake news, disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Given the viral spread of these messages in our post-truth society, the current educational system has not done a very good job. We see that the anti-vaxxer movement is growing and Russian trolls rule the pandemic conversation online.
Small schools may not address all of these issues but they will provide a diversity of thinking we have not seen in our schooling for at least 50 years. Small pieces, loosely joined enabled the incredible sharing of knowledge via the open web. Perhaps small schools, loosely joined will enable a new Renaissance in learning. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy — let’s make it so.
@qcroll — “The century of the speaker is over: Once, we did everything for the speaker’s convenience, gathering in one place. Now, we do everything for the community, because speakers, sponsors, and the audience trust us to gather the best people.”
@bhargreaves — “Everyone crowing about a permanent remote future where they live in Boise but earn their current NYC/SF salaries is gonna be real pissed when they discover they’ll live in Boise but earn Manila/Bucharest salaries.”
@yaneerbaryam — “Bureaucracies exist in order to say no. They wouldn’t be needed if they said yes. So the people who rise to the top, and the culture, are an automatic ‘We don’t do that’.”
@delphina777 — “propaganda does not need to be persuasive, only pervasive — its secondary purpose is to convince — its primary purpose is to exhaust”
“The WPA-era art programs reflected a trend toward the democratization of the arts in the United States and a striving to develop a uniquely American and broadly inclusive cultural life,” the National Gallery explains. Art from this period “offers a window through which to explore the social conditions of the Depression, the mainstreaming of art and birth of ‘public art,’ and the opening of government employment to women and African Americans.” Opponents of the programs pushed back with red baiting. Arts funding under the WPA was ended in 1943 by a Congress, says scholar of the period Francis O’Connor, who could “look at two blades of grass and see a hammer and sickle.”
Have you discovered any tools (technological or otherwise) that have been particularly useful for remote working?
I have been using videoconferencing for meet ups, but I find it saps me of energy and rarely delivers the best of me. Twitter has been invaluable. Not just as a useful resource for ‘work’, but for my need to explore and share my own creativity, and the creativity of others. It is important to familiarise yourself with all the communication tools you possibly can, but never feel compelled to use them in the way others do. Make your own choices while also understanding that you sometimes need to park your own preferences in the interests of others.
If America enters the next wave of coronavirus infections “with the wealthy having gotten somehow wealthier off this pandemic by hedging, by shorting, by doing all the nasty things that they do, and we come out of our rabbit holes and realize, ‘Oh, my God, it’s not just that everyone I love is unemployed or underemployed and can’t make their maintenance or their mortgage payments or their rent payments, but now all of a sudden those jerks that were flying around in private helicopters are now flying on private personal jets and they own an island that they go to and they don’t care whether or not our streets are safe,’ then I think we could have massive political disruption.”
When all you have is Zoom, every work-from-home office looks like an endless face-to-face video call. I have been working remotely since 2003. Video calls have been a regular part of my work and I have used pretty well every platform available. In the early days my favourite platform was Marratech, until they were bought by Google and some of the technology created Hangouts. But video communication was only part of my work.
Asynchronous communication — threaded discussions, blogs, and wikis — was always part of my work conversations. Writely — which became Google Docs — was a great tool and helped our distributed team, from British Columbia to New Brunswick, write the specifications for the Pan-Canadian Online Learning Portal. This was the first time that all the Ministers of Education had agreed to do something together. But CMEC cancelled the project after a vendor was selected. It would be interesting to see how the current pandemic would have been handled by schools, with a national online learning resource already in place and with over 10 years of experience. But I digress. Let’s just say that technology is not usually the issue in the workplace — it’s how the technology is used.
A recent article on working from home puts much of the blame for additional work-related stress squarely on Zoom. In 5 psychological reasons to reduce the number of Zoom meetings, the authors list these ‘problems’.
It seems that the Zoom gallery view of seeing everyone’s face at one glance has become the default type of Zoom meeting. This shows the lack of creativity, or even basic understanding of the medium, by those who run the meetings. I agree that non-verbal communication can be an issue. That’s why I often have one-on-one video calls, as these are more intimate and great for getting to know someone better over time. I have successfully completed many projects with people I have never met in person. Anxiety about children bursting in is only a problem for control freaks. My discussions over the past month unanimously show that people appreciate having more human conversations as people are no longer wearing their ‘office armour’. We see the person behind their job title.
Yes, you can Zoom and walk (just don’t chew gum as well). Our perpetual beta coffee club meets regularly on Zoom and one member was out walking during our last call. He just turned off his video, and would stop from time to time and turn the video back on. Finally, there is no reason to always have your video camera on. Video is great to get to know other people but after the first few meetings, it’s no longer necessary. And dead air (nobody talking) is actually good for thinking. You are not running a radio broadcast.
In meetings, bloody meetings I highlighted age-old problems with business meetings, which I learned about in the 1980’s and which continue today. Meetings should have an objective, a clear format, and be run by a competent person to facilitate the process. Most importantly there must be a clear reason why the meeting is necessary in the first place. Quite often, an alternative would be more effective than calling a meeting — e.g. one-on-one conversation, email, wiki, blog, discussion thread, etc.
Liberating Structures offer 33 open source methods for convening meetings for different purposes. Use one of these instead of an ad hoc Zoom chat wasting most attendees’ time. These have been used and tested around the world. In addition, Liberating Structures are now being frequently adapted for distributed workers. There is no excuse for “Chairing without due thought & preparation”.
Like most organizational changes, meetings will only get better when those in leadership positions decide to make them so. Perhaps the ubiquity of all these Zoom meetings over the past month will get people thinking and talking about better ways to communicate and collaborate at work. Whether you stay with distributed work or go back to a location, improving meetings will not only raise morale but make room for what is really important in every workplace now — learning. The problems with meetings are not new, so let’s use this crisis to compensate every person who has ever been stuck in a useless meeting, and make meetings better.
“In 1973, Canadian business management expert Henry Mintzberg was among the first to examine the problem [frustrations with meetings]. His book ‘The Nature of Managerial Work’ found that more than half of managers’ time in his sample was spent in meetings.” —CNBC 2015
When Tim Berners-Lee invented the Worldwide Web he made it free and open source, so others could build upon it. In the early days it was quite open with individuals sharing knowledge through blogging and collectively building knowledge with wikis, the largest being Wikipedia. But as more people joined the web two things happened.
Commercial forces found ways to monetize their audiences. They built attractive ways for people to get online as easily as possible. They even hired psychologists and anthropologists to study human behaviour and then devised ways to manipulate it. They aggregated this data and used it to sell targeted advertising. All the giants on the internet use targeted advertising — Amazon, Google, and especially Facebook.
Meanwhile, many people found blogs to be too much work, and wikis to be confusing. They wanted convenience so that they could connect with their grandchildren. Facebook was the solution. It was convenient and allowed easy sharing and connections. But convenience, like a principle, has a cost.
When the pandemic had just started here in March, and before lock down, I was chatting with some local businesses about how we would address our community’s needs and help each other. The solution was already established in everyone’s minds — they created a Facebook page. Begrudgingly, 10 years after I had closed my Facebook account, I went back. First of all, I could not create a new account as Facebook insisted I re-open my old account which had never been deleted. I then went through the process of cleaning it up and looking at how the new version worked. After 5 frustrating hours, and finally confronted with sexual advertising in my feed, I shut it down again.
The fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) drives many of us to use these consumer social media platforms even if we understand their dark sides. The other day, my friend Steve Scott noted that without Facebook, he was disconnected from our local community.
“It bothers me more than usual that Facebook *is* the “new normal”. So much in terms of what’s going on, not just in how people keep in touch, but how people organize and coordinate group or charity activities and political/governmental streaming/discussion, etc., happens through Facebook. The circumstances now make it almost a necessity. The FOMO has been replaced with the ROMO: Reality of Missing Out.”
We are now dependent on a global corporation — that uses our data to manipulate us — as our main form of communication. It is as if we live in a company-owned town, and buy all of our goods from the company store, using a party telephone line that the bosses listen in on. This is directly the fault of government, organizational, and community leaders who have either been lazy, ignorant, or perhaps malicious in promoting this control platform to engage others.
It is time to build collective human oversight into all information technology systems. As computers take over our communications we cannot turn a blind eye to how those behind them make decisions. We have to keep a careful eye on what the machines are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are making their decisions — this is democracy 2.0. I expect more from those in positions of leadership. I have yet to see it.
Let’s get off Facebook, for the sake of our communities, and our democracies.
Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” —Peter Drucker
But in our knowledge economy, says Drucker, “if you haven’t learned how to learn, you’ll have a hard time. Knowing how to learn is partly curiosity. But it’s also a discipline.”
@mathemagenic — “When experts open up and become part of sense-making networks, their expertise travels to become part of informed choices of non-experts. It’s a better option than pushing packaged solutions via authority lines assuming that people are not able to understand complex matters.”
“As the inflection point that is COVID-19 sweeps across our economic, social, health, and political spheres, previously held assumptions about what is true have been invalidated. The existence of entire sectors that depend on humans being comfortable in close proximity with strangers is threatened. Our homes have become the school cafeteria, the beauty salon, the office, the video production studio, the movie theater, and the warehouse. A simple bus ride is an anxiety-inducing experience.
We are all now in a high assumption: knowledge ratio situation. … The core idea in an uncertain situation is to accelerate the conversion of assumptions to facts as rapidly as you can, being mindful that in a situation such as we are in, much will only be revealed over time.”
“As it is Poetry Day Ireland I felt inspired to write” – Gavin Henrick
Birds sing to me in the morning
Easing me out of my slumber like an orchestra
Dawn, creeping around the edges of the curtain,
Invades the silence amplifying the songbirds, for me.
Morning, in a modern jail, with unlimited freedom inside the walls,
Built of more than bricks, mortar and concrete,
Walls of duty,
Walls of legal obligation,
Walls of community
Walls of hope
Walls of love
Walls of life
The Nespresso, alert, readies itself for a busy day,
Building foundations, cup by cup, mug by mug
Watching the empty road, in a silent rebellion
embraces every walker, runner, shopper, cyclist
to the murmur of the gentle tide,
Listen to Gavin read his poem here
Binary 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. But often politicians and others tell us it’s a simple, binary choice — ”You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.’‘ —President George W. Bush (2001)
Thinking of our society as only Markets and Government (Institutions) ignores the influence and potential of families, communities, and the volunteer sector. For instance, Public-Private Partnerships are not inclusive. They ignore the Civil sector.
“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
Incorporating the third sector, civil society, into decision making is becoming evident in our connected world, especially with an ongoing pandemic.
“No combination of government fiat and market incentives, however cleverly designed, will produce solutions to problems like the pandemic. What we call civil society (or the community) provides essential elements of a strategy to kill COVID-19 without killing the economy.
The dual elements of the new theory – the limits of private contract and governmental fiat, along with a new view of a (sometimes) socially oriented economic actor – open up a space in which economic discourse can engage with the pandemic, as illustrated in Figure 1. The blue line at the top is the left-right (government-versus-market) continuum of choices that has dominated policy debates for a century. We develop these ideas further in a related paper (Bowles and Carlin 2020).” —VOX EU 2020-04-10
Three levels are better than two binary levels to govern society, but are they sufficient for a networked world? Do they address the complex and chaotic issues we face? Is this triform model sufficient to deal with the pandemic? The unprecedented cooperation amongst research scientists may indicate a globally connected fourth sector is emerging.
While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.
Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.
“I never hear scientists — true scientists, good quality scientists — speak in terms of nationality,” said Dr. Francesco Perrone, who is leading a coronavirus clinical trial in Italy. “My nation, your nation. My language, your language. My geographic location, your geographic location. This is something that is really distant from true top-level scientists.” —NYT 2020-04-01
For now, I call this fourth sector the Commons.
My work has been significantly influenced by the work of Marshall and Eric McLuhan. I have combined their perspectives on media with the model developed by David Ronfeldt: T+I+M+N — overview, video, original paper (1996). My assumptions to date are as follows
“The noosphere and noopolitik concepts relate to an organizational theme that has figured prominently in our work about the information revolution: the rise of network forms of organization that strengthen civil-society actors.” —Ronfeldt & Arquilla
Yes, we need to reinforce the first sector — tribes (civil society) and give it voice, before we can start developing new metamodern structures for the Commons. For example, voting every four years for (mostly) binary choices is not a voice. Then we can promote global conversations to develop the Commons. Scientists are leading the way but there are many other globally connected initiatives that can move us beyond a market-dominated society.
While civil society needs to be strengthened, we are in need of a larger, more connected form of organization that ensures worldwide cooperation. Nation states are too narrow-minded. For example, the $8Billion Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator joint venture, which includes a private/civil sector partner, is missing two key nations — China and the USA. Thinking beyond civil society, beyond governments, and beyond markets, will be the challenge of this century. We need a networked global commons.
Universities may be going online temporarily, or perhaps permanently, but the curriculum does not seem to have changed. What should be taught at university is how to learn once out of university. In 2013, Jane Hart and I worked with Bangor University in Wales to incorporate personal knowledge mastery into the Psychology curriculum.
We started by working with the faculty:
The PKM framework was then incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum, which had its initial challenges, as many students only understood the traditional paradigm of formal education.
“We actually faced a few challenges in helping the students warm to PKM. It seemed that many could not see the reason why they had to do PKM, and also that many struggled to catch the vision of how to do it. A lot of students had expected higher education to involve memorising information to pass exams, as they had previously done in school. PKM did not have that same type of measurable outcome and many students would ask me what exactly it was they needed to do to pass the class.” —Chris James Barker
Chris goes on to remark, “Perhaps PKM is the difference between higher education and that of the typical high school.” Now that many university programs have been exposed online — and their weaknesses made transparent — is it not time to look at the foundations of the curriculum? Our society is currently addressing its first major pandemic in a century and an impending Great Reset of the economy. Collectively we need to improve our sensemaking skills. Mastering a single field is not enough. PKM helps to integrate various fields by encouraging connections outside our specialties.
“For research and knowledge based economies to work, they need to be more than just transferring information. It is the intrinsic passion and ingenuity that transforms information in to actions or solutions to problems. It comes from within, and that is why (beyond teaching the PKM framework) it can’t be forced. Some will do it and change the world, others won’t.” —Chris James Barker
It’s time to change the world.
Learn more about — personal knowledge mastery.
A lot of parents have become teachers during this pandemic as they work from home and their children learn online. I have heard many parents say how difficult teaching is and how they have new-found respect for teachers. But are we getting the best and brightest to educate the next generation?
And now we have the data to prove it. According to “Academically Adrift,” a new book by my New York University colleague Richard Arum and the University of Virginia’s Josipa Roksa, just 45 percent of students in education and social work reported taking a course in the previous semester requiring more than 20 pages of writing, while 61 percent took a class with more than 40 pages of reading per week. By comparison, 68 percent of social science and humanities students took a class with 20 pages of writing, and 88 percent had a class with 40 pages of weekly reading.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that students in education and social work reported studying less, too: 10.6 hours per week, as opposed to 12.4 hours in the social sciences and the humanities. The hardest workers are science and math majors, who study 14.7 hours a week. —CSMonitor 2011-03-02
Well, anecdotally, I know of several university students who failed in the sciences and then went into education. I have a Master’s degree in adult education, and of the over 200 students in my graduating class, only two of us wrote a thesis. The rest took two additional classes and did not have to face a thesis defence.
We also need to develop our future teachers’ own minds, by holding them to the same intellectual standards as other college students. Their so-called methods courses would be much richer if we asked them to read and write about the key dilemmas in their fields. And they should also take more classes outside of the ed-school, where intellectual requirements are already higher.
Would that make them “better” teachers? I’d like to say yes. Surely, though, it would make them more complex, curious, and contemplative human beings. There is nothing in the world more inherently fascinating than education. But ed schools have made it boring, by stripping it of its intellectual edge – and by letting our students slide along.—CSMonitor 2011-03-02
Perhaps the gap is not education versus the rest, but the humanities compared to the sciences. George Steiner says that the humanities are asking less and less of students by not requiring a mastery of grammar. Even medical students at Harvard Medical School have to memorize 1,200 pharmacological formulae before they may proceed into second year. There are no such requirements for students in the humanities. Why do we demand so little in the fields of human understanding?
We still do not know how to teach, states Steiner. It needs to begin with the “sheer animal joy of understanding something infinitely deep”. Society can advance only when the best mathematicians and humanists do not go on to research or the private sector, but instead into teaching. If the worst go into teaching, then society gets a “vengeful mediocrity” that gradually degrades all fields of human knowledge.
The isolation between the sciences, the humanities, and education limits our collective ability to understand complex phenomena — such as the current pandemic and its many facets.
“Scientists and scholars in the humanities, working together, will, I believe serve as the leaders of a new philosophy, one that blends the best and most relevant from these two branches of learning.” —E.O. Wilson
According to Professor Kieran Egan, in The Educated Mind, three premises compete for attention in our public education systems:
No single premise can dominate without weakening the others, so we continue to have conflict in our education systems. When one dominates, then the others get less attention. We see this in every single flavour-of-the-year initiative from departments of education. Egan also explains that these premises are no longer valid in this network era.
“Socialization to generally agreed norms and values that we have inherited is no longer straightforwardly viable in modern multicultural societies undergoing rapid technology-driven changes. The Platonic program comes with ideas about reaching a transcendent truth or privileged knowledge that is no longer credible. The conception of individual development we have inherited is based on a belief in some culture-neutral process that is no longer sustainable.”
We cannot socialize, seek the truth, and realize individual potential all at the same time — within a single, enclosed education system. Our 20th century public education systems were mostly created to give equal access to all (a good thing) and to prepare workers for industrial jobs (a self-serving thing for the industrialists). Public education was embraced by reformers as well as factory owners. It was a shotgun wedding.
This pandemic has given us the opportunity to re-examine the foundational pillars of education in a meta-modern society. We cannot go back to the old systems and just hope that society will be resilient enough to face the next pandemic, climate change, and whatever else comes our way.
Now that distributed work has become the norm — permanently for some and temporarily for others — there are two relatively simple things any organization can do to work, learn, and innovate in internet time.
Back in 2008 I noted that cooperating, reflecting, and supporting each other are necessary for groups of knowledge workers to collectively achieve common objectives. That year, my colleague Jay Cross surveyed 237 workers from various countries and in different sized organizations. They identified a number of key issues preventing them from doing their best work.
I have no doubt that the same survey today would yield similar results.
Digital transformation has been the focus in many large organizations for the past decade. With the pandemic, most companies have had to move to a distributed workforce, at least temporarily. Previously, the largest share of the budget in any ‘digital workplace’ initiative went toward the technology. The bigger change to manage however, was often ignored or assumed it would just happen — getting people to work transparently.
One of the major benefits of using digital media is increasing the speed of access to knowledge. But if information is not shared, it will never be found and knowledge will remain hidden. Transparency and openness are required, all in a workspace where it is safe to do so. While digital media enable transparency, they also lay bare a company’s culture.
A dysfunctional company culture does not improve with transparency, it just gets exposed.
In a distributed workplace there are fewer places left to hide. In a transparent workplace, management must ask — how can we help people work better on solving problems?
If you look at all the jokes about video conference meetings, and all the time spent on platforms like Zoom, it’s obvious there is a long way to go to optimize the meeting process. On-site meetings were the staple of the corporation and most managers spent most of their time attending them. But few organizations optimized the process.
The transparency of digital media is showing how poorly meetings are run.
Now that we are working remotely, let’s re-examine how meetings are conducted. In Meetings, Bloody Meetings, I highlighted the issues around most business meetings and how they could be improved. A follow-on post on Distributed Liberating Meetings showed how Liberating Structures could be used to improve online meetings. If it’s obvious that most meetings are dysfunctional, now is the time to add some structure that will make them more efficient and effective.
Make time for learning.
“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
What do creative knowledge workers do between flashes of brilliance?
Where do they get this time?
The distributed digital workplace lays waste bare. The time for learning and reflection at work is already there.
“Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.” —Inc.com 2016
The framework to support creative knowledge workers is personal knowledge mastery. It improves sensemaking, social intelligence, and digital media literacy. PKM also helps with cognitive load management, by off-loading some of mental effort to our professional social networks and our communities practice.
Working smarter requires safe places to work, connection to diverse knowledge networks, and the support of personal sensemaking.
Here are two important questions to ask ourselves as we work remotely and connect digitally.
1. Where do we go for trusted information on matters important to us?
2. Who do we talk to when we have to make difficult decisions?
Sharing complex knowledge requires trust, and trust takes time. We can start by connecting with people in social networks to learn from, and finding communities to improve our professional practices. Trusted knowledge networks are a professional safety net when problems are non-linear and situations are complex.
Personal knowledge mastery is a disciplined process of connecting knowledge flows in our work teams, our professional networks, and our communities of practice. PKM is something each one of us can become masters at, and the resulting knowledge filters of people and resources we connect with can help us answer those two questions above. The PKM framework of Seek > Sense > Share helps professionals become knowledge catalysts — which can make our workplaces and communities smarter and able to make better informed decisions.
PKM is like breathing in and out. We breathe in through our networks, filtering knowledge and making sense through conversations and actions. We breathe out by sharing what we know and have learned.
Research shows that what distinguishes high performers in every field is that they have larger and more diversified personal networks. Each of us can start by seeking people and knowledge that can help us make sense of our work and the world. The more diverse ideas and opinions we have access to, then the more informed we are in order to take action. It takes a diversity of viewpoints to generate innovative new ideas.
The best leaders are constant learners. They also share their knowledge. Leadership today is helping make our networks smarter.
Today, more than ever, work is learning, and learning is the work.
Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
The Fourth Doctor — “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.” via @GarethLPower
@alexia — “If you are the smartest person in the Zoom, then you are in the wrong Zoom.”
“We are witnessing an extraordinary surge of solidarity. Suddenly the notion that the economy exists to serve people and not the other way around seems blazingly obvious. Suddenly the notion that we can accomplish more collectively than we could ever accomplish alone is beyond debate.
The pandemic is not bringing about a world of crumbled institutions and adversarial individualism; that’s the world we seemed to be heading toward before the virus started its terrible work: a world of declining trust in governments and in experts and in each other and the diminished strength, constrained ambition and vulnerability to demagogues all that entails.”
“On the Noah’s ark of the quarantined nation state, critical thinking has been thrown overboard. While ‘the masses’ seem harder to reach on issues related to digital politics than ever, a more realistic challenge seems to be the mobilization of those who work – more or less – professionally at the intersection of research, journalism, culture, and activism. The question is: what can we do? How can we work together towards a horizon of equality and liberation? How can we network a web of transnational care?”
“The real antidote to epidemics isn’t isolation and segregation, it is information and cooperation. The big advantage of humans over viruses is the ability to cooperate effectively. A coronavirus in China and a coronavirus in the USA cannot swap tips about how to infect humans.
But China can teach the USA many valuable lessons about the coronavirus and how to deal with it. More than that, China can actually send experts and equipment to directly help the USA. The viruses cannot do anything like that.”
Mission critical— Mariana Mazzucato
“What we need is for this call to action to fundamentally change how we think about the governance of all organizations that produce value: how to organize dynamic government agencies outside static silos; how to rethink corporate governance structures so that they are more focused on the long term and they reward all the actors that help create profits; and how to listen to the movements in civil society — whether the green movement or those calling for better healthcare — to formulate the missions of the future that can drive innovation for the decades to come. The populist wave around the world is evidence that this will not succeed if it is not truly participatory, allowing different voices to come to the table, and to negotiate healthier deals, creating an economy that is more innovative, sustainable, and inclusive. I believe it is very difficult, but truly possible.”
“To all those working to make life better post the pandemic I salute you, to all those putting economics over people or personal exploitative value over the needs of the community; there isn’t a place in Hell I wouldn’t happily condemn you. We are in purgatory with a hope of salvation and we need to seize the day. We cannot go on as we did before.”
My personal knowledge mastery framework was a result of creative desperation. I had just lost my job. My wife was a stay-at-home mother, we had two young children, and we live in a remote economically depressed part of the country. I had spent the last five years working for a learning technologies research centre and then an e-learning start-up. Suddenly I was a freelancer, physically disconnected from any potential clients. It was 1,000 KM to the nearest major urban centre.
Gary Klein’s research in, Seeing What Others Don’t, identified five general ways that we gain insights.
I desperately needed a way to connect with potential clients, stay informed in my profession, and find colleagues to learn from. The inspiration came from Lilia Efimova in 2004. The desperation of a limited client base here in Atlantic Canada led me to focus globally. Blogging was the initial medium by which I reached out to the world.
In a conversation with Rob England yesterday we talked about the demise of blogging over the years. For example, a lot of my fellow bloggers are no longer writing in this form. But I have noticed a bit of a sea shift lately. My old friend Luis Suarez has come back to blogging, and it’s nice to see Lilia picking up the pace again at Mathemagenic. I recently wrote that we need to move back to slow media for the great reset that this pandemic may create. Slow media are a conduit for reflection and deeper conversations. Given that many workers are now realizing that a lot of their old work practices were unnecessary, we should all find ways to make better use of our time.
Creative desperation is what we do when we have run out of time or traditional options. Many of us are in that situation today. But creative desperation means sticking our necks out. When I started blogging, and had no revenue, my wife asked why I was giving away my knowledge for free. By doing so, nobody would hire me. This was quite rational advice. But desperate times called for desperate measures and so I kept connecting and putting my thoughts out in public. Some people likened blogging to having naked conversations. It can be scary at first.
As a freelancer I could experiment. There wasn’t much else to do anyway. But what about inside organizations, especially in today’s various states of lock-downs? Organizations have to be more forgiving of failure and let people experiment. If people cannot fail, they will go with what has been done before. They may be desperate, but they won’t be creative. Allowing failure can help develop a library of worst practices — lessons learnt. The organization can collect stories about both the successes and failures. Today’s management can still be demanding in getting work done, but there needs to be an escape valve so that creative desperation is an option.
Desperation without creativity is a sign of a dysfunctional management structure.
Here is my advice on how we can work smarter in a networked world.