In the book Systems Thinking: Managing chaos and complexity, J. Gharajedaghi provides an example of decision-making by indigenous people of North America. The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) had given specific roles to its member tribes, namely Wolves (Pathfinders), Turtles (Problem Formulators), and Bears (Problem Solvers). Solving problems (e.g. governance) went like this:
Could this model be incorporated into our current organizations?
The advantages I see with this governance model is that power is distributed but the roles are clear. It also builds in peer reflection through the process.
“Using different attributes and characteristics for each of the three symbols of turtle, wolf and bear, the culture, to its credit, had identified and separated the three distinct roles of pathfinder, problem formulator, and problem solver. The role played by the wolves is that of pathfinder / synthesizer. Wolves display purposeful behavior by setting the direction, dealing with the ‘why’ questions, identifying relevant issues, and defining the agenda and context before they are presented to the turtles, the problem formulators, to define them. The defined problems are, in turn, passed on by the turtles to the bears, the problem solvers. Bears generate alternatives and recommend solutions. Solutions are returned to the turtles to check on their relevance and potency before referring them back to the wolves to check on their relevance. Wolves are finally responsible for integrating the solutions, keeping the records, and ratifying and communicating the final agreements. Wolves keep the fire alive by motivating and monitoring others”. —J. Gharajedaghi
Is it time to retrieve this pre-industrial governance structure for our emerging post-industrial society? Could it be used today or does it need a certain culture?
In The Trust Suite, Charles Green shows that Professors and Experts are not as trusted as Doers, Connectors, and Catalysts. Self-orientation is a prime factor in trustworthiness.
“The denominator in the Trust Equation is self-orientation (the numerator factors are credibility, reliability and intimacy). The higher your self-orientation, the lower your trustworthiness. The logic is simple: if you’re paying attention to the other person (client, customer, friend, spouse, whatever), then you’re probably interested in them, care about them, and have some positive intent toward them.
By contrast, if your attention is devoted inward, you will not be trusted. Why should you be? You’re obsessed with yourself. We trust people who appear to care, and who demonstrate that caring by paying attention. He who pays attention largely to himself is not the stuff of trusted advisors.” —Charles Green
Perhaps we can use these trust temperaments to identify who should be in involved in which part of decision-making, instead of relying on the person at the top of the hierarchy to make decisions from some likely unbalanced combination of these temperaments. Here is an initial idea.
Wolves — Professors, Connectors
Turtles — Catalysts, Stewards
Bears — Doers, Experts
This is a work in progress and I’d like to thank Michelle Holliday for getting me to think about these ideas from 2004 again.
“collaboration means ‘working together’. That’s why you see it in market economies. markets are based on quantity and mass.
cooperation means ‘sharing’. That’s why you see it in networks. In networks, the nature of the connection is important; it is not simply about quantity and mass …
You and I are in a network – but we do not collaborate (we do not align ourselves to the same goal, subscribe to the same vision statement, etc), we *cooperate*” —Stephen Downes
When work requirements are relatively simple, they can be addressed by standardized procedures and best practices. This is the type of work that is getting automated every day. Once a flowchart can describe a process, the algorithms can get to work replacing humans. Complicated work, where systems can be analyzed and understood, can be addressed through industry best-of-breed work practices and can be assisted by enterprise software to ensure people know what is going on.
But complex work requires much greater human involvement and the sharing of implicit knowledge, which cannot easily be codified or captured by software. Chaotic situations, which should be avoided, often require novel and untested solutions, as the crew and ground staff had to do for the Apollo 13 mission.
Understanding the environment and the type of problems we face is assisted by an understanding of the Cynefin framework, which I will be discussing in detail with Dave Snowden in our Learning & Sensemaking Exploratory which starts on 30 September.
Managing in complex adaptive systems means influencing possibilities rather than striving for predictability (good or best practices). Cooperation in our work is needed so that we can continuously develop emergent practices demanded by this complexity. What worked yesterday won’t work today. No one has the definitive answer any more, but we can use the intelligence of our networks to make sense together and see how we can influence desired results. This is cooperation and this is the future, which is already here, albeit unevenly distributed.
Shifting the emphasis of much of our work from collaboration — which still is required to get tasks done — to cooperation, in order to thrive in a networked enterprise, means reassessing some of our assumptions and work practices. For instance:
Working cooperatively requires a different mindset than merely collaborating on a defined project. Being cooperative means being open to others outside your group. It also requires the casting-off of business metaphors based on military models (target markets, chain of command, strategic plans, line & staff). Cooperation is how we will find a vaccine for Covid-19.
The authors of African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage, show how cooperation in business has historical roots and successful businesses do not need to only compete with each other.
“We define cooperative advantage as the benefits that an organization possesses and accrues due to its people-centered approach to engendering a spirit of care and community, meaningful dialogue, and consensus building, for the benefit of employees, customers, and community.” —MIT Sloan Management Review 2020-09-15
Competitive markets are not the only way to do business.
Cooperation is the essence of relationships between living things. We have evolved to cooperate.
“We found evolution will punish you if you’re selfish and mean. For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn’t evolutionarily sustainable.” —The Independent 2013-08-02
Cooperation is our social imperative.
“Survival of the fittest is a convenient way to justify the cutthroat ethos of a competitive marketplace, political landscape, and culture. But this perspective misconstrues the theories of Darwin as well as his successors. By viewing evolution though a strictly competitive lens, we miss the bigger story of our own social development and have trouble understanding humanity as one big, interconnected team.” —Douglas Rushkoff
Hierarchies dampen cooperation by controlling the flow of information and knowledge. As Yaneer Bar-Yam explains in Complexity Rising, hierarchies have diminishing usefulness as complexity increases. Lateral connections are created through cooperation.
“At the point at which the collective complexity reaches the complexity of an individual, the process of complexity increase encounters the limitations of hierarchical structures. Hierarchical structures are not able to provide a higher complexity and must give way to structures that are dominated by lateral interactions.”
"Successful executives learn faster than those who ‘derail’, not because they are more intelligent, but because they have the necessary skills and strategies, and are therefore ‘learning agile’. By contrast, those that do not learn from their jobs, and simply repeat their previous performance in each new role, will never become the most effective leaders"
Henry says. “I was arrogant, just so up myself. And it killed me. I’m still alive but it killed me. I realised then that I had to change.” In 2005, Henry was approached by the All Black captain, Tana Umaga. “Coffee, Ted?” he said. “Alright, T,” Henry replied, thinking to himself ‘What’s going on here?’ After a while, Umaga asked: “Ted, what do you give those team talks for?” Henry thought about it. “Well, T, I thought they might provide the team with a bit of motivation, a bit of direction, before the match.” Umaga paused. “Ah, but are they for you, Ted, or are they for us?”
The team talk had been part of Henry’s ritual for 30 years. “You spend the week before each game building the momentum of the group. As you do that, you transfer the responsibility from the coaches to the players but then an hour before the game, there is a fella up the front telling them what to do. I realised it just didn’t fit.” He never gave another team talk.
Fiction sometimes explains reality in a much better way.
“Corvallis had asked the usual questions about job title and job description. Richard [CEO] had answered simply, “Weird stuff.” When this proved unsatisfactory to the company’s ISO-compliant HR department, Richard had been forced to go downstairs and expand upon it. In a memorable, extemporaneous work of performance art in the middle of the HR department’s open-plan workspace, he had explained that work of a routine, predictable nature could and should be embodied in computer programs. If that proved too difficult, it should be outsourced to humans far away. If it was somehow too sensitive or complicated for outsourcing, then “you people” (meaning the employees of the HR department) needed to slice it and dice it into tasks that could be summed up in job descriptions and advertised on the open employment market. Floating above all of that, however, in a realm that was out of the scope of “you people”, was “weird stuff”. It was important that the company have people to work on “weird stuff”. As a matter of fact it was more important than anything else. But trying to explain “weird stuff” to “you people” was like explaining blue to someone who had been blind since birth, and so there was no point in even trying. —Neal Stephenson (2019) Fall: or Dodge in Hell
If the really important work in organizations — weird stuff — is beyond the HR department, why have such a department? Why not just outsource it or use a computer program?
In today’s work reality, JOB is four-letter word and time at work is an antiquated notion. Doing “weird stuff” is what humans are best at, but our education and work systems often beat these abilities out of us. The best organizations today are those that have more people doing “weird stuff’ than those having job descriptions. They will be able to run circles around standardized organizations.
|The young scientists' lessons log|
image linked from Geekwire
|Image from Creazilla|
Public domain licence
|Social media overload|
by Mark Smiciklas on Flickr
"Is there any quality control on the publishing" I asked? No, was the answer.
"Do you give points for re-using knowledge?" "No"
"Do you have a way of combining, or removing, duplicate knowledge?" "No"
"Do people have to know there is a demand for what they publish?" "No"
The result was an ever-expanding supply of poor quality material, with no demand. It made the job of the knowledge seeker infinitely difficult.
"Volume may be the friend of data management" they wrote - "but it is the enemy of knowledge management"
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
@white_owly — “A lecturer told us a story of a woman who had lived in abject poverty most of her life. She was taken on a tour of an affluent area — an almost utopian existence. She glanced around and said ‘there must be a lot of extremely poor people somewhere nearby’.”
@GWillowWilson — “I never want to hear another bad word about cultural practices of the Aztecs, the Egyptians, the Celts etc. now that we have ‘a pyrotechnical celebration of fetal genitalia burned down 100k acres in 2020’ in our history books.”
@marklittlenews — “Truth is social media [e.g. Facebook] did take power from old gatekeepers and democratise information. But reality is a new algorithmic gatekeeper with a proven record of promoting lies and undermining democracy.”
@BallouxFrancois — “I had never fully realised until now that the reason pandemic brought down so many empires and kingdoms in history, wasn’t the death toll, but the fear, the sense of doom, the irrationality and the disunion they unleashed.”
“We need to rethink the role of universities as arbiters of opportunity,” he says, “which is something we have come to take for granted. Credentialism has become the last acceptable prejudice. It would be a serious mistake to leave the issue of investment in vocational training and apprenticeships to the right. Greater investment is important not only to support the ability of people without an advanced degree to make a living. The public recognition it conveys can help shift attitudes towards a better appreciation of the contribution to the common good made by people who haven’t been to university.”
A new respect and status for the non-credentialed, he says, should be accompanied by a belated humility on the part of the winners in the supposedly meritocratic race. To those who, like many of his Harvard students, believe that they are simply the deserving recipients of their own success, Sandel offers the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding … but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
“Humility is a civic virtue essential to this moment,” he says, “because it’s a necessary antidote to the meritocratic hubris that has driven us apart.”
A participant: "Never had such a steep learning curve. And today, I experienced firsthand how hybrid learning works. It went really well: beyond expectations!"
“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” ―Alvin Toffler,
I read Toffler’s book, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century, shortly after it was published in 1990. He saw a shift in power developing due to advances in technology — from force and wealth — to knowledge.
It means that we are creating new networks of knowledge … linking concepts to one another in startling ways … building up amazing hierarchies of inference … spawning new theories, hypotheses, and images, based on novel assumptions, new languages, codes, and logics. Businesses, governments, and individuals are collecting and storing more sheer data than any previous generation in history (creating a massive, confusing gold mine for tomorrow’s historians).
But more important, we are interrelating data in more ways, giving them context, and thus forming them into information; and we are assembling chunks of information into larger and larger models and architectures of knowledge.
None of this implies that the data are correct; information, true; and knowledge, wise. But it does imply vast changes in the way we see the world, create wealth, and exercise power.
Not all this new knowledge is factual or even explicit. Much knowledge, as the term is used here, is unspoken, consisting of assumptions piled atop assumptions, of fragmentary models, of unnoticed analogies, and it includes not simply logical and seemingly unemotional information data, but values, the products of passion and emotion, not to mention imagination and intuition.
It is today’s gigantic upheaval in the knowledge base of society — not computer hype or mere financial manipulation — that explains the rise of a super-symbolic economy.
Thirty years later and we are drowning in information, much of it not true, and the exercise of technical knowledge, much of it not wise.
The Institute for the Future has recently published Power Shifts: A Decade of Extreme Consequences and Transformational Possibilities. The report defines power as, “the ability to shape consequences”. They identify three extreme forces that will affect the next decades.
It would be difficult not to see these three forces already affecting our lives.
The IFTF report includes many tools for organizations to start to make sense of these power shifts. The most interesting resource is the Scenarios & Superpower Cards, looking at possible shifts in the coming decades.
There is lots of food for thought here, and all the documents can be downloaded for free.
|KM planning session|
Last month I published the latest e-book in the perpetual beta series (163 pages) which is focused on actionable insights for working and learning in a networked world. I have extracted the 23 pages of Chapter 7 on personal knowledge mastery to provide an idea of what the remaining chapters in the book look like and as a reference for the online PKM workshop (the next workshop starts Monday 14 September).
This chapter proposes that the connection between innovation and learning is evident. We cannot be innovative unless we integrate learning into our work. Improving our ability to see contradictions, by seeking disconfirming data, can easily be integrated into the discipline of PKM.
For example, here are some questions that the practice of PKM can address:
The practice of personal knowledge mastery is that we should continuously seek new ideas from our professional social networks and then filter them through more focused conversations with our communities of practice where we have established trusted relationships. You know you are in a community of practice when it changes your practice.
We make sense of these embryonic ideas by doing new things, either ourselves, or with our work teams. We later share our creations, first with our teams and perhaps later with our communities or even our networks. We use our understanding of our communities and networks to discern with whom and when to share our knowledge. In a network economy, this is learning at work.
Download Chapter 7: PKM (PDF)
|Image from wikimedia commons|
by user Coolcaesar under CC licence
In the 21st century, we are no longer bound by the same limitations, and we can question whether the old model, of publishing authored reports, papers and other items and artefacts, is still the only way to manage knowledge.
Using reports to store knowledge has three major drawbacks:
So if we don't store Knowledge in reports, then where do we store it?
Knowledge should be stored somewhere editable and updatable, so that it can evolve and change, synthesising new knowledge with existing knowledge as contexts, circumstances and understanding change.
If you have such a technology, adopted by a community of practice, with new knowledge being used to update the collective knowledge in real time, then Knowledge can grown, can evolve, and will always have a publication date of Now (or if not Now, then at least "recently updated").
So what role do reports play in all this?
I am not saying that organisations should no longer write reports - far from it. Projects need to create reports, discrete pieces of work need reports, constultants need to write reports; reports are a necessary deliverable to document work that has been done. They are the primary means of meeting reporting requirements. However they should not be the primary repository for knowledge. Their role is as follows:
Reports should document the evidence on which the knowledge is based. That evidence is then used by the community to update the knowledge.
In knowledge terms, reports should collect data, present data, propose insights and conclusions, and offer lessons. The lessons from reports are the increments from which knowledge can be built and refined. On wikipedia, reports are the references, bibliography and external links that you see at the foot of the page. My guess is that you often use Wikipedia, but seldom click those links. However the links and references are the paper-trail - the audit trail that allows you to look at the sources from which the knowledge has been drawn.
In a knowledge management framework, reports are outputs of the project workstream, but are not suitable outputs for the knowledge workstream. See http://www.nickmilton.com/search/label/knowledge%20workstreamhere and here for further discussion on the two workstreams.
I hope this makes sense. Reports (with their single authors and publication dates) are needed, but should not be the primary store for knowledge because knowledge evolves and reports are static. Instead you need to store knowledge somewhere editable by the community. In the 18th century, this was not possible. In the 21st century, editable knowledge stores are easy to set up.
|Image by Marc Smith on Flickr|
|Image from wikimedia commons|
by 401(K) 2012, CC licence
|Image from wikimedia commons|
attribution Dg-505, CC licence
Findability precedes usability
in the Alphabet and on the Web
You can't use what you can't find.
In early March I wrote how I was making sense of our digital world at the beginning of this pandemic. Some of my practices have held but after six months, some have changed. For example I see information from the WHO and CDC as lagging indicators, and no longer my first stop to find out what is happening now. I understand that they reflect the makeup of their members and funders more so than being a neutral point of view from the medical community.
I am also starting to understand that public health experts and epidemiologists, while both medical professionals, can have widely diverging perspectives on this pandemic. These are not the only knowledge silos dealing with a global problem from their unique and often blinkered perspectives. No single perspective can understand all the complexities.
In a recent discussion with a group of Australian educators, I was asked about the PKM model and how could students accurately discern knowledge using human filters. I responded that students can learn to use human filters already, and prepare themselves for later in life. They can start to follow experts, and see if they make sense, are regarded well by their peers, and add value.
I gave the example of my own use of human filters to understand SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19. I learned the difference between the virus and the disease from my son Lucas, and continue to ask his advice on articles I come across and am not sure about the science. He also recommends other specialists I should connect with.
Currently I follow David Fisman on Twitter and also came across Michael Mina and his fantastic interview on This Week in Virology. I was referred to Dr. Mina through a weak social connection on Twitter.
Several years ago someone in my network recommended that I follow Trisha Greenhalgh, which I did, serendipitously. During the pandemic she has become one of the best medical communicators on the virus and the disease in the UK and is constantly helping make her network smarter. As an early advocate for masks, Trish influenced my own behaviours.
“COVID-19 wasn’t in my plans for 2020. I was happily doing research into service innovation, patient narratives, methodology of rapid review, and video/phone consultations. I’m (metaphorically) a long-distance, all-round athlete. This pesky disease is everything I’ve trained for.” —@TrishGreenhalgh
I continue to read the daily reports produced by Nicolas Granatino, co-founder of Cronycle. Using algorithms and human intelligence Nicolas has developed a process similar to PKM for sensemaking to produce the Corona Daily. Nicolas is also a member of our Perpetual Beta Coffee Club.
To learn in complex situations, like this pandemic, we have to find sources of information and knowledge outside our pre-pandemic lives. I started by what and who I knew and have moved beyond those circles. It takes time and effort and culling — I have stopped listening to certain sources. I still don’t completely understand what is happening, especially regarding long covid, but I do feel that my caution is justified. As Stephen B. Johnson wrote, “Chance favours the connected mind.”
Firstly in the early stages of KM, Knowledge Management is not yet a practice area. There is no large group of people in the organisation who have KM as their main role. They may be interested in it, they may be passionate about it, but they are not yet practitioners. Any KM community will therefore be somewhere between a community of interest and an innovation community, and not representative of the business CoPs you wish to establish.
Secondly, even if you are successful with your KM CoP, it doesn't really form a showcase for the rest of the organisation because of the credibility issue. Going to managers in the business and trying to sell KM on the basis of "look at our Knowledge Management community and how well it is working" is a bit like a car salesman trying to sell you a Lexus by saying "I drive a Lexus myself - it's great". You would not believe him, and the manager in the business would not believe you. She wants to see other business managers who have gained benefit from KM, not KM enthusiasts endorsing their own product.
Thirdly a KM community will not, in the early days, demonstrate business value. KM is not yet a core competence, there are no KM metrics, there is no baseline of KM performance, so you cannot show the savings that will convince the sceptic. This is will be difficult even when KM is mature, as KM is a support function rather than a frontline function (we support the sales staff, the engineers, the knowledge workers), so our metrics are one step away from the hard business metrics.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
Dr. Dipshikha Ghosh — “A 28yo woman died of post-covid myocarditis today. She was asymptomatic and treated at home and then developed complications after being declared negative. Let that sink in.”
What experienced epidemiologists do is to systematically identify and critique the totality of evidence, something most commentators on the subject simply do not have the skills or experience to do. This systematic and critical approach is particularly necessary when examining evidence about Covid-19 infection because it is hugely influenced by the setting in which the infection occurs.
There’s a lot of talk about how design is going to save the world after COVID-19. I approach that talk with a sense of cynicism, because design hasn’t even addressed how it’s harmed communities for the last few hundred years. It’s only been in the last couple of months when all these brands like Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Jemima, and the Washington Redskins moved away from racist representations of Black and Indigenous people for entertainment or consumption purposes.
The OCA [Organic Consumers Association] has specifically targeted immigrant groups in spreading its anti-biotechnology and anti-vaccine propaganda. It was among the activist groups that organized an anti-vaccine meeting in Minneapolis in 2017 that attracted many Somali-Americans. Their anti-vaccine message is blamed for leading to an outbreak of measles among the Somali-American community.
Amazon: profit up 100%
Walmart: profit up 80%
Target: profit up 80%
Lowe’s: profit up 74%
Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google: stock at record high
Small businesses: 21% closed; revenue for rest down 30%
We’re seeing a monumental wealth transfer from mom & pops to conglomerates [USA].
The problem we face is not merely that our oligarchic regimes will fight tooth and nail against any such program. An even harder-to-crack problem is that an International Green New Deal, of the sort alluded to above, may be a necessary condition but is, most certainly, not a sufficient condition to create a future for humanity worth striving for. Can we imagine what may prove sufficient? My controversial parting shot is that, for postcapitalism to be both genuine and humanist, we need to deny private banks their raison d’être, and to terminate, with one move, two markets: the market for labour and the share market.
The aim of our book is to provide a framework to help people navigate the future, stemming from the fact that we are at a turning point in the history of humanity where we are unavoidably connected to each other at an unprecedented scale. The old rules of interaction and engagement apply less today as quantum rules take over, resulting in more randomness and unintended consequences, local, global and personal. This inevitably reshapes what politics will look like in the future. If we still apply classical models to a quantum world, we will hold ourselves back immensely.
|Image from wikimedia commons|
On 30 September I will be participating in a series of exploratory sessions with Dave Snowden — learning & sense-making in uncertainty and continuous flux and I have discussed some of the concepts previously in sensemaking in uncertainty.
Dave Snowden and Harold Jarche have been exploring different aspects of learning, knowledge management and innovation for decades. This is the first time they are coming together to explore the similarities, differences and potential synergies between their approaches.
As part of our preparation, Dave and I are recording a video for participants to understand each of our frameworks/models/perspectives before we get into deeper conversations and explorations.
First, I would like to recognize my early inspirations for personal knowledge mastery.
I also was able to better articulate parts of PKM by reading the work of others and aligning it with my own.
In the video recording, each of us will discuss four main themes.
I plan on using just a few illustrations to explain what PKM and perpetual beta are about. The first image shows some of the pieces that fit into the main model.
The other image shows some of the connections.
My intention is to learn from these sessions and see if my frameworks can be improved. I am particularly interested to see if the Cynefin model can be used more in informing PKM and helping people become better sensemakers and knowledge catalysts.
If you’ve got a full list of tools [simple rules], and go through them in your mind, checklist-style, you will find a lot of answers that you won’t find any other way".
1. Sort into following categories
Stable vital signs: Green
Unlikely to survive even with heroic medical intervention: Black
Badly injured (a shot at survival, but only if they receive immediate attention): Red Others: Yellow
2. Give those with black tag palliative care
3. Treat the rest in the order Red, Yellow, Green
1. Have revenues of $100 million to $500 million
2. Compete in an industry in which we have previously invested
3. Offer products the typical Russian family might purchase if they had an extra $100 to spend per month
4. Work only with executives who know criminals but are not criminals themselves
If an investment loses 10 percent of its initial value, sell it
1. Don't let trouble in the door
2. Stay sober until the last patron leaves
3. Double up for heavy metal, ska and punk bands
4. Keep the bikers on your side
1. set the scene;
2. describe the action;
3. give the score or results, regularly and succinctly;
4. explain, without interrupting, the stadium's reaction to the game's event;
5. share "homework," such as historical facts and figures or personal information;
6. assess the significance of the occasion and key moments
1. start an escape fire in the path of the advancing fire if possible;
2. go to where the fuel is thinner;
3. turn toward the fire and try to work through it;
4. don't let the fire choose the spot where it hits you
1. look for eccentricity;
2. look for strong referrals from other Google employees;
3. avoid anyone with even the smallest inaccuracy on their resume
"march toward the sound of gunfire"
When the pandemic broke out, the situation was generally chaotic and the best response was to act firmly, such as establish a lock-down as soon as possible.
“In the chaotic domain, a leader’s immediate job is not to discover patterns but to stanch the bleeding. A leader must first act to establish order, then sense where stability is present and from where it is absent, and then respond by working to transform the situation from chaos to complexity, where the identification of emerging patterns can both help prevent future crises and discern new opportunities. Communication of the most direct top-down or broadcast kind is imperative; there’s simply no time to ask for input.” —Snowden & Boone, HBR 2007
Now the pandemic is in its sixth month. We can make some sense of it, even though much is complex. The best response therefore is to probe — the Cynefin framework calls for those in positions of decision-making to probe, sense, and respond, using safe-to-fail experiments. A reductionist approach will not work in the complex domain.
At this time many decision-makers have assumed that the situation is only complicated, and that we can make sense of the relationships between cause and effect. I am certain we cannot.
Those who see the situation as complicated are deciding to have blanket school openings and single policies for all to follow. These are not probes — they are gambles. Never bet the farm against a complex adaptive system. It’s why most small farmers diversify their crops, and why big agriculture often has big failures. I have had many health warnings from the latter, but none from the former.
Where to now? All organizations have to experiment and learn their way ahead. It may not be a ‘new normal’, but it will be new. Learning fast and learning from others are essential now. Contexts differ, so single solutions won’t work, but some things really are complicated, not complex. For example we know that wearing masks reduces viral transmissions, so this is a good practice that can be replicated widely. We don’t know what happens when your university re-opens to 10,000 students. It would be best to probe and experiment, to develop emergent solutions, before doing so.
First accept that you don’t know where you are. Then work at knowing where you are and confirm your assumptions and biases. Only then use the best approach to make sense of the situation.
I have referred to Cynefin many times here and look forward to a deeper dive with Dave Snowden on our learning & sense-making in uncertainty and continuous flux sessions, beginning 30 September. Because now most of us have to become better sensemakers and the best learners we can be.
|Chart from the Knoco KM survey, showing how KM, as it matures,|
progressively becomes part of normal activity.
"One relatively minor but inescapable conclusion became increasingly apparent during the course of this study.
"“Lessons learned” is an unsatisfactory term as commonly used. In virtually every substantive and grammatical instance, “lesson” sufficed for the redundant two-word noun. For a commander to report after an action, for example, that he learned three “lessonslearned” grates upon the tutored ear but, more importantly, implies incomplete understanding of the overall process.
"That commander may have personally learned some lessons but the US Army did not.
"An army learns lessons after it incorporates the conclusions derived from experience into institutional form. Out of the commander’s experience may come a lesson, and from that lesson may come new or adapted doctrine or perhaps dissemination of potentially useful information. Only after its institutionalization can the lesson be correctly described in the past tense as a lesson learned. Until then it remains just a lesson or usable experience, a semantic distinction that few fully appreciate.
"We need to speak of “usable experiences” or “lessons” and avoid using “lessons learned,” for once an army learns a lesson, the lesson disappears into doctrine, organization tables, or training programs. Lesson learning is a process, not a product.
"“Lesson” alone accurately describes processed experience, but trying to change an everyday speech habit may be presumptuous - and not unlike emptying the sea with a bucket. Still, a new consciousness in terminology represents a step toward fuller appreciation of how an army learns lessons."
|Image from blog.fastmonkeys.com|
Progress in manufacturing is measured by the production of high quality goods. The unit of progress for Lean Startups is validated learning - a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when one is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty
I have a series of three 3-minute videos presenting the personal knowledge mastery framework. They are supported by the Working Smarter with PKM field guide. The videos and the transcripts, for those who prefer to read rather watch, are here.
Working Smarter with PKM (3 minute videos)
The nature of work has continuously changed over time. Factories and manufacturing are no longer where most of us work. We work in offices, at home, and often remote from our team mates.
Today, much of of what do is networked via digital technologies. Here is a useful model of working smarter by connecting our work teams with our professional communities and networks. It is based on three practices — seeking knowledge, sensemaking, and sharing our knowledge, or simply put — seek > sense > share
Few of us work alone, as we need to collaborate with others to get work done. Our teams are structured for the tasks we need to do and usually someone is in charge. Collaboration means working together for a common objective, often provided by a manager or a customer. Solving problems together is the focus of most teams.
In a networked world we need to know what is happening beyond our work teams or we become near-sighted. Innovation comes from the edges and our professional networks can help connect with others. Networking expert — Valdis Krebs — says that we should connect on our similarities, and benefit from our differences. In networks we cooperate, which is sharing freely with no expectation of direct rewards. It’s like posting a how-to video or writing a blog post. We give freely, expecting that others will do the same to help make the network smarter.
But how can we connect all those interesting things we find in our loose networks with what we need to get done in our work teams?
Professional communities of practice are safe spaces where we can share what we know with people we trust. In communities there are rules of behaviour. We may not know a person but we are likely to know someone who does. Communities are often open by invitation only, to fellow professionals. One definition of a professional is “anyone who does work that cannot be standardized easily and who continuously welcomes challenges at the cutting edge of his or her expertise.” You know you are in a community of practice if it changes your practice. If you are not in one, find one, or even start one up. What is your profession that you want get better at?
We integrate these separate but connected spaces by seeking connections, sensemaking, and sharing appropriately. Working smarter means connecting in networks and curiously seeking knowledge. We challenge our assumptions and continuously improve our professional knowledge and skills in our communities. This informs our work and as we learn through our work we share lessons and practices. In this way, everyone helps to make their networks, communities, and teams smarter.
In Working Smarter Part 1, I discussed how we need to see and share knowledge across our professional networks, communities of practice, and work teams — in order to make sense of our world and our work.
Now let’s take a look at the Seek > Sense > Share model in more detail.
Personal Knowledge Mastery is like continuously breathing in and out. We breathe in new ideas and information — pause to make sense of them — and breathe out to share with others. We filter knowledge, create new knowledge, and discern when, where, and with whom we share knowledge.
In seeking knowledge we can use machine or human filters. Algorithmic filters, like Google search, use code to determine what we find. Often the algorithm is hidden to the user. Heuristic filters, like Amazon ratings, are based on feedback from many people, and theoretically the best rise to the top. Machine filters are good for simple searches.
Human filters are another way of seeking knowledge. Experts can provide us with knowledge about a topic about which we know little. For knowledge areas that are important to us, networks of expertise are best. We can get multiple perspectives in order to come to our own informed opinions.
Subject matter networks of expertise can help us find the information that is important for our work.
Sensemaking requires effort on our part. We have to do something with our knowledge. Today, work is learning and learning is the work. It is how we keep up in a complex networked world. Adding value to knowledge as we learn ensures that we understand something before passing it on. It may be a book review written in the context of our team, or a curated list of pertinent resources to help with a current project. The key is to understand information before sharing it, and adding our perspective in the context of the workplace.
Knowing when to share requires a good understanding of what the rest of our team is doing. Sharing at the point of need is more effective than constantly sharing bits of information. It requires a system of collecting our thoughts and ideas so that we share them when someone else needs them. This collection system can be as simple as a notebook, or an online social bookmarking system, or the company intranet. By sharing appropriately, we can all help our teams make better decisions to get work done.
The Seek > Sense > Share framework helps us filter signal from noise — to use an old radio term. Our machine and human filters can be tuned to what is important for us to know and learn. We make sense through experimentation and creation of new ways of explaining. By adding value we share knowledge that helps make our professional networks smarter and able to make better decisions. As more of us work remotely, being explicit about the knowledge we share becomes critical.
In Working Smarter Part 2 I described how the elements of the Seek > Sense > Share framework fit together. I will now explain these in more detail.
Once we have established some machine and human filters we will need to do something with these new information and knowledge flows. When a new piece of information comes to our attention, we have to determine if it is important and urgent. But first, we have check to see if it is valid.
A good set of questions to ask ourselves is 1) does it make sense, 2) how does it fit?, 3) are there any obvious biases?, 4) is it based on evidence?, and 5) is anything missing? For example a report may not cite any references to back up its claims, or an author may lack credibility in the field. The most important thing is to read the whole article or listen to the entire audio or video before coming to any conclusions or making any comments.
Our information flows may create quite a list of things to further make sense of. We have to set aside time to file these for later retrieval or to add some value such as making comments, asking questions, or synthesizing the core ideas. This takes time and practice but we can learn from others who are already practicing these methods. Look for people who are already good sense-makers and ask what they do.
We know that we are ready to share our knowledge when we can explain it simply. This often takes many attempts. Making ideas as simple as possible, but no more, takes time and practice. As French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, commented about a letter he wrote, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” Brevity and clarity are skills to be developed over time.
Sharing our knowledge is much more than publishing or posting our individual thoughts. As we try to make sense of some new information we might seek feedback from our colleagues. This is why the make-up of our knowledge networks is so important — to get diverse perspectives for our own work. In our professional communities and work teams we should set aside time to discuss new knowledge and ideas. This is how we make our networks smarter. Finally, at some point we may be ready to publish or promote something we have done, either internally or externally.
Finding and sharing information and knowledge is a continuous flow, based on curiosity and a desire to learn. Working smarter is built on a foundation of willing cooperation, open knowledge sharing, and being transparent in our work.
Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“Any idiot can impose and exercise control. It takes genius to elicit freedom and release creativity.” —@DeeWHock
“LinkedIn is bragging that ‘member engagement has hit a record high’, which I’m sure is due to how great LinkedIn is, and has nothing to do with 30 million people being laid off and desperate for work.” —@MeetingBoy
“When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.” —Hannah Arendt
“Once we have embraced capitalism as our economic system, it’s clear that the primary form of business organisation must be the firm. It is, therefore, a basic institution. But because the firm also puts the republican liberty of workers at risk, we can’t rely on post-institutional regulation alone to address this risk. History shows us that, without unions, workers are too often subject to exploitation and abuse and arbitrary treatment even when there are laws prohibiting such misconduct. Given the expense, delay and risk of seeking recourse in the courts, the deterrent effect of these post-institutional legal prohibitions isn’t enough. A just society must do more to discourage the firm from using its power to threaten the freedom of its employees. This means that we need to recognise that unions are as much a basic institution as the firm itself, and make unionisation universal.”
“Denmark has been used as a talking piece for those suggesting school reopening has minimal risks. Let’s clarify what exactly Denmark did to achieve minimal risk:
First, some context. Denmark’s population is under 6M people and schools reopened in mid-April, when daily cases where below 70 and going down. There were ~3,500 active cases in the country at the time.
Only K-5 classes were opened. Older kids had virtual class from home. Kids cohorted in groups of 10/12 with one teacher throughout the day. Government asked families to keep children home when one or both parents did not work, to reduce the number of kids in school.
Staggered entry times, no contact between cohorts. Parents cannot enter school. Different school doors used for entry when possible. Reserved playground space, with no cross-cohort use of the same area. Most classes held outside whenever possible.
Public Parks were reserved exclusively for children during school hours (8:00-3:30). When seating distance of at least 2 meters, classroom materials cleaned twice daily. Initially, no masks required, but recently cloth masks introduced.” … Read more on Twitter from Diego Bassani
I have been asked to present some issues on the future of schooling post-covid for a group of educators in Australia in early September. Any feedback to this post would be appreciated.
In my research on schooling, I have found that the education system is a lagging indicator. First technology, business, and society change, and then formal education aligns with them. So I will try to see what is changing outside the school system and how that will affect schooling.
The one-room school house represented the agrarian landscape of the North America. It transformed into the modern public school with divided grades and several classrooms when good roads and motor vehicles arrived. For example, in our town, there is an abandoned one-room school about 12 KM from the current regional high school with several hundred students. But that road was not plowed in Winter until the 1950’s, so even that short distance was impossible to travel on a daily basis. Now this school serves several small communities and students travel by bus and car for the most part. Physical distancing requirements under the pandemic are now a new consideration on what is the best technology to ‘deliver’ students or to ‘deliver’ education.
Most of our 20th century public education systems were created to give equal access to all citizens (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. Has the pandemic changed this arrangement? Is a standard curriculum delivered in a single location what reformers and business would still want?
When I went to school, 50 years ago, school started at 9:00 AM. Now in most places here, school starts at 08:30 AM and students can arrive even earlier. Schools 50 years ago could start later because most families had a stay-at-home mother, while the father went to work. Now with both parents working, or in single parent families, it is more convenient for the entire family to leave home at the same time. Since most workplaces start at 8:30 AM, school reflects this practice.
Today, many companies have decided to continue to work from home for the next year and even permanently, like Twitter and Google. The US recreational equipment cooperative, REI, has decided to sell its headquarters campus even before finishing it, and focus on working from home for most of its non-retail staff. As more parents work from home, will there be pressure on schools to allow for more flexible schooling options?
Most people have seen what schooling from home looks like now — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Will the underlying principles of ‘delivering’ curriculum be questioned by more parents? Is a six-hour class day, plus homework, really necessary for learning?
Here is a thought about the delivery model, from management expert, Peter Drucker, written in 1998.
“Delivering literacy — even on the high level appropriate to a knowledge society — will be an easier task than giving students the capacity and the knowledge to keep on learning, and the desire to do it. No school system has yet tackled that job. There is an old Latin tag: Non schola sed vita discimus (We don’t learn for school but for life). But neither teacher nor student has ever taken it seriously. Indeed, except for professional schools — medicine, law, engineering, business — no school to the best of my knowledge has even tried to find out what its students have learned. We compile voluminous records of examination results. But l know of no school that tests the graduates ten years later on what they still know of the subjects — whether mathematics, a foreign Language, or history — in which they got such wonderful marks.
We do know, however, how people learn how to learn. In fact, we have known it for two thousand years. The first and wisest writer on raising small children, the great Greek biographer and historian Plutarch, spelled it out in a charming little book, Paidea (Raising Children), in the first century of the Christian era. All it requires is to make learners achieve. All it requires is to focus on the strengths and talents of learners so that they excel in whatever it is they do well. Any teacher of young artists — musicians, actors, painters — knows this. So does any teacher of young athletes. But schools do not do it. They focus instead on a learner’s weaknesses. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, even on corrected ones; one can build performance only on strengths. And these the schools traditionally ignore, in fact, consider more or less irrelevant. Strengths do not create problems — and schools are problem-focused.” —Peter Drucker (1998) Adventures of a Bystander
Perhaps this pandemic will give us a chance to question the underlying premises of our education systems. This is an opportunity for all educators. For instance, according to Professor Kieran Egan, in The Educated Mind, three premises compete for attention in most of our public education systems:
But 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.” —Kieran Egan
So what should be the underlying premises of public education in a globally networked society that may have to remain periodically socially isolated and physically distanced, as well as for future pandemics?
Perhaps we can learn from the past, and get beyond the European traditions of our education systems. When we teach through modelling behaviour, the learner is in control, whereas teaching by shaping behaviour means the teacher is in control. In Western society, shaping has been the dominant mode for a very long time. But in other societies, it has not been the norm.
For example, Dr. Clare Brant (PDF) was the first indigenous psychiatrist in Canada and a professor of Psychiatry at University of Western Ontario. In 1982 he presented Mi’kmaq Ethics & Principles, which included an examination of the differences in teaching between native and non-native cultures.
Now the Teaching; Shaping Vs. Modelling
“This is a more technical kind of thing. The white people use this method of teaching their children – it’s called ‘shaping’. Whereas the Indians use ‘modelling’. Shaping is B.F. Skinner’s ‘Operant Conditioning’, if you want to look into that one. Say a white person is teaching a white kid how to dress – he uses the shaping method, one way being “rewarding successive approximations” of the behaviour he wants. Some are really complicated; for instance, if a white woman wants to teach her kid how to dress, she puts his sock on halfway and encourages him to pull it up, finishes dressing him and says he’s a good boy having done that much. The next day he learns to pull the whole sock on, then the other sock. Now that process takes about six weeks.
But the white mother who does not have all that much to do can take that time to do that sort of thing every morning to teach her kid how to dress. So in this group that we ran, with these young Native people in London, we started to sniff this out, and there is nothing random about this, as a matter of fact. I asked Mary, a Native person, how she taught her kid to dress and she said, ‘I didn’t, he just did it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ It came to me that she did it until he was four or five years old, and then one day when the kid felt competent, he took over and did it himself. He did it then ever after, unless he was sick or regressed in some way.”
Brant concludes this section by stating:
“I’ve been having some collaboration with a professor of education, and he says that modelling is the best way to teach people. But shaping is the method that has to be used because there is so much information that has to be imparted in the system that you cannot use modelling. I suppose that the ultimate method would be for the teacher to go up to the blackboard and do algebraic equations for 7 or 8 months and invite one of the kids to come join him and do one with him and maybe if one of the kids got interested, or knew how to do it, he could start solving the algebraic equation. But that’s not going to happen in the school system. There’s just not enough time.”
With a standardized curriculum and constant testing, there is never enough time for most school students to fully learn. There is too much information and much of it is without context. But mastery often comes from modelling. It is how the apprentice becomes a journeyman and in time a master. It is not done in isolation. Are there opportunities — especially online — for more learning in communities of practice, and not based on classes and courses?
Shaping worked when our environment was seen as complicated (knowable), but it really is complex (understandable only through continuous probing) and this is becoming obvious with our global challenges. As knowledge expands and new information is constantly added, what teacher even has the base knowledge to do the shaping anyway? In our digitally networked world, modelling how to learn is a better strategy than shaping on a predefined curriculum.
This pandemic has given us the opportunity to re-examine the foundational pillars of education in a meta-modern society. Should we 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? What can be changed in view of what covid-19 has already taught us?
Every year, Jane Hart asks, “What are the most popular, useful, valuable, digital tools for learning?” and this year has added, “How has lockdown affected the tools used for learning and development in 2020?” Everyone can add their voice, and voting ends 21 August.
In my case, the tools I use for learning have not changed much since I posted top tools for 2019.
Even though I have been working remotely for most of the past 17 years, I saw an increase in Zoom meetings. I have used Zoom for five years but the past six months have been kind of crazy with meeting requests. I have collected a few social bookmarks on distributed work in the process.
10. DeepL Translator — With an international clientele and blog audience, I often get references in other languages. I find this tool much better than Google Translate, though it is available for fewer languages.
9. Pinboard — Social bookmarks are a quick way for me to save a web page and find it easily. I have started a new library on Pinboard but my older Diigo account is still online, as well as my Friday’s Finds.
8: Slack: This social sharing platform, with activity streams, is a great way to stay connected and work in small groups. It’s a good platform for small communities of practice as well.
7: Apple Preview: This is the productivity tool I use the most, so I can focus on learning, not fighting with applications. It lets me annotate pictures, resize images, add signatures, and most importantly ensures I do not have to use Adobe Acrobat to open PDF’s, meaning one fewer vector of malware on my system. It is a huge time-saver.
6. 1Password: I call this a tool for unlearning. This password manager reduces my cognitive load by not having to memorize any passwords as well as create passwords that are much stronger than I could do on my own. It synchronizes across all my devices and helps keep my online presence more secure.
5: Keynote: Apple’s presentation application has enabled me to improve my slide presentations, through its simplicity.
4: Feedly: My feed reader, or aggregator, to keep track of blogs and news sites via RSS.
2: Tweetbot: Next to my blog, Twitter is my best learning tool and allows me to stay connected to a diverse network. I use Tweetbot on Mac and iOS as it has no advertising or tracking and has a cleaner interface. With all of its flaws, Twitter can be a good platform for learning if you actively filter and mute.
1: WordPress: Powers my blog (+3,300 posts), which is the core of my sense-making. It’s easy to use, has a huge community, and there are many plug-ins and additions available. I also use it to deliver my online PKM workshop.
Beware the storytellers and praise the sensemakers. In story skepticism (2016) I suggested that while storytelling skills may be important, a critical network era skill will be the ability to deconstruct stories. When it comes to this pandemic, there is no shortage of stories. The emotional, shocking, or fantastic stories get all the attention. The hard scrabble of sensemaking does not.
For example, I came across Michael Mina, Epidemiologist, Immunologist & Physician at Harvard School of Public Health & Harvard Medical School, in an interview with the podcast ‘This Week in Virology’ — Test often, fast turnaround. Not only was I impressed at how well Dr. Mina described the situation in clear understandable terms, so were the three virologists who interviewed him. “I learned so much”, said one, “I was blown away … I feel some hope finally”, said another. I am not going to try to explain what was presented, as Dr. Mina does it so well. Take 45 minutes and learn something important about covid-19 testing. You don’t even have to have a degree in science — I don’t.
The need for sensemakers is so obvious during this health crisis. Clarity is essential in getting complex science across to the majority of people. It can be done in 45 minutes. I am not sure if it can be done in a 30 second sound bite. But sound bites are still what television news produces and social media amplifies.
The need for clarity becomes clear as we see experimental science being done in real time and broadcast to the world. Pre-publication research papers are made available before peer review has been done. This speed of dissemination will continue through the pandemic as it helps the researchers. But those of us on the sidelines have to step back.
We need people with a solid understanding of the sciences, as there are many disciplinary fields investigating aspects of the pandemic, and they may even be at cross purposes — listen to Dr. Mina’s interview for an example. But critically, we also need good communicators. Our complex world is beyond the comprehension of any individual. We can only make sense collectively, and we also have to ensure we take others with us on our sensemaking journey. Living in a dumb human network is not a viable option, even for the smartest of us.
“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.” —Carl Sagan (1995)
We need sensemakers more than storytellers because stories can hijack our minds. We are more open to receiving stories than we are to understanding facts and logical arguments.
“When we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to leave us defenseless.” —Jonathan Gottschall
First we have to make sense, and only then can we find unifying stories to help guide us. Small stories only distract us. Whose story wins will depend on how smart we are. Let’s make sense BEFORE we make up stories.
The global pandemic is a wake up call and an opportunity. It has shocked our triform (Tribes +Institutions +Markets) economy and society. Over the past two decades we have seen many experiments and movements toward a more equitable, sustainable way of living on this planet (+Networks). We have made the rules for how we are governed and how the economy works. We can change them. We cannot change how the planet’s environment works. We cannot change the laws of physics. We cannot change how the SARS CoV-2 virus acts, as much as we would like to.
As individuals, there is one thing we all can do, without anybody’s permission. We can become better learners. We can connect to diverse sources of knowledge and people with different experiences. We can build powerful knowledge networks to co- create knowledge and share it. We can engage with our communities and while learning ourselves we can help make them smarter, more resilient, and able to make better decisions.
Our future is beyond our tribes, institutions, or markets, even though each will continue to have a role in a networked society. Our future is in a connected, egalitarian global community — inclusive, diverse, and meta-modern.
We start by connecting and learning and never stopping. This is perpetual beta — always willing to learn more and to change our minds.
‘How can we listen to tomorrow if we have yet to clarify what belongs to yesterday? We don’t just need new maps that order the world in the same old ways. New vision is required. New ontologies reshape the map, and reshape us.
So we should listen to the future. Whose voices do we hear? [Ursula] Le Guin writes, “which is farther from us, farther out of reach, more silent — the dead, or the unborn?”
To listen, we must first be present.’—Meta, Modern
This is the conclusion of Perpetual Beta 2020, published this month, which summarizes 16 years of working at the intersection of learning and digital networks. Only better learners will help us map a way toward a globally cooperative civilization that will focus on our universally common challenge — climate change.
“Only a few know how much one must know, to know how little one knows.” —Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)
“Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.” —Donella Meadows, 2008, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Faced with information overload, we have no alternative but pattern-recognition.” —Marshall McLuhan, 1969, Counterblast
Siemens’s new remote work policy is a master class in emotional intelligence — Justin Bariso, Inc.
1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
2. Trust and empower your employees.
@benjaminokeefe — “There is no such thing as ‘unskilled labor’. All labor requires skills. It’s just that rich people only put value on certain skills in order to continue to keep down and lambast poor people at any opportunity.”
Levitsky & Ziblatt — How Democracies Die — on historical collapses of democracies:
1.Rejection of democratic rules of the game
2.denial of the legitimacy of political opponents
3.tolerance or encouragement of violence
4.readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media
A good portion of the workforce has now had a taste of distributed work (I prefer this term to ‘remote work’ which has a connotation of a central location and a number of remote workplaces). And most people, for the most part would like to have an option to work away from the office, as reported in a recent Citi GPS Report — “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.”
We are also seeing a significant number of bankruptcies and layoffs as a result of an impending recession in most countries. Changing employers and employment situations will affect a significant number of workers in the near future around the world. As organizations rise and fall at a faster rate, workers need to find some stability beyond the corporate walls.
Now that people are working online, it does become easier to connect online. But this is uncharted territory for those used to the comforts of a stable office environment. Therefore, from a distributed work perspective, where communications are mostly online, having an online pied à terre becomes important.
Ton Zylstra likens a personal blog to a person’s permanent avatar. Writing over time makes it impossible to hide one’s true personality. It’s a deep CV or business card — in a world of rapid change — a good place to ensure that your individual attributes are evident.
“Your blog is your avatar, not in the one-dimensional sense of a profile pic, but in the original sense of a god made flesh in terrestrial form, in the sense of Ultima IV, where your own ethics determined the outcome by presenting you dilemma’s with short and longterm consequences attached to your choices. Your blog is your avatar, a full representation of yourself, made manifest online in HTML texts. Whether you want it to be or not. Time makes it unavoidable.” —Ton Zylstra
What was once a requirement for freelancers working online is now necessary for knowledge workers, artisans, and pretty well anyone who wants to, or has to, stay physically removed from their employers or clients. I have likened a blog to social media’s home base but now it is almost every professional’s home base online. Individuals have control over their blogs and are not subservient to the algorithmic overlords of consumer social media, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.
Some may also find that having a blog becomes liberating, building a professional network external to their current employer. In return, companies get people who are much more connected to the world beyond the corporate firewall.
For 16 years my primary sensemaking medium has been this blog. This is where half-baked thoughts get tested, changed, and recombined. They reflect my interactions on social media, experiences through professional engagements, and conversations with colleagues around the world. The final part of my Seek > Sense > Share PKM practice is to put it all together. This too is in perpetual beta because once I do so, I begin on the next iteration.
After 3,300 blog posts, the latest installment in the Perpetual Beta Series is now available — Perpetual Beta 2020
I wrote the original perpetual beta series as four standalone digital volumes between 2014 and 2016. The changing nature of work, and our evolving perspectives on learning and knowledge were the core themes. I wrote Seeking Perpetual Beta first, in order to create a coherent narrative after ten years of blogging.
Subsequent volumes focused on leadership, personal knowledge mastery, and working models. The next volume, Life in Perpetual Beta, combined the best of the first four books in 2017, with a new edition in December 2018. An updated edition comprises the first eleven chapters of this e-book.
The final nine chapters are based on observations and ideas generated through 2019 and 2020. They build on the first eleven chapters, from a 2020 perspective. The first part of this e-book provides examples of how to work and learn smarter in a network society, the second part examines what our new normal may look like and why we should start working on ways to build a more positive future now.
So here are over 160 pages encapsulating 16 years of sensemaking, writing, and interacting with an international audience, in a searchable DRM-free format PDF. Let’s continue the quest to understand what our common humanity should strive for to address our global challenges.
The 21st century — and many things we have been expecting for the near future — suddenly hit us with a vengeance in 2020. Now we need to connect, adapt, and find our new normal. Perpetual Beta 2020 is another beginning.
Purchase Perpetual Beta 2020 for $(CA)35*
* ± €22 or USD26
The TIMN model [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] developed by David Ronfeldt has influenced much of my own work in looking at how we are moving toward a network society and must create organizational forms that are beyond national governments and beyond markets. Even combining the efforts of civil society, governments, and markets will not be enough to address our greatest challenges — climate change and environmental degradation.
These have been my assumptions to date.
David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla have recently published an update of their original 1999 work on the ‘Noosphere’ — Whose Story Wins: Rise of the Noosphere, Noopolitik, and Information-Age Statecraft.
The authors expand on many of the ideas they first proposed in a 1999 RAND Corporation report titled The Emergence of Noopolitik: Toward an American Information Strategy, in which they described the emergence of a new globe-circling realm: the noosphere. First, Earth developed a geosphere, or a geological mantle; second, a biosphere, consisting of plant and animal life. Third to develop will be Earth’s noosphere, a global “thinking circuit” and “realm of the mind” upheld by the digital information revolution. As the noosphere expands, it will profoundly affect statecraft—the conditions for traditional realpolitik strategies will erode, and the prospects for noopolitik strategies will grow. Thus, the decisive factor in today’s and tomorrow’s wars of ideas is bound to be “whose story wins”— the essence of noopolitik. To improve prospects for the noosphere and noopolitik, U.S. policy and strategy should, among other initiatives, treat the global commons as a pivotal issue area, uphold “guarded openness” as a guiding principle, and institute a new requirement for periodic reviews of the U.S. “information posture.”
It goes beyond civil society, government, and markets. It has a planetary perspective. The Noosphere is a global narrative, hence the title — Whose Story Wins — which can be developed through Noopolitik, including “international ‘special media forces’ that could be dispatched into conflict zones to help settle disputes through the discovery and dissemination of accurate narratives and for purposes of rumor control“. We sure could use some of that right now.
The noosphere favors upholding ethical and ecumenical values that seek harmony and goodwill, freedom and justice, pluralism and democracy, and a collective spirit harmonized with individuality. It is an anti-war and pro-environment concept. Strategically, it implies thinking and acting in global or planetary ways while minding long-range ends and the creation of new modes of agency to shape matters at all levels. It implies humanity coming together through all sorts of cognitive, cultural, and other close encounters. It is about the coevolution of the planet and humanity—thus, it implies understanding the nature of social and cultural evolution far better than theorists have up to this point. And it means engaging non-state, as well as state, actors in a quest to create a new (post-Westphalian) model of world order that is less tethered to the nation-state as the sole organizing principle and focus of loyalty. Furthermore, the noosphere favors the widespread positioning of sensory technologies and the creation of sensory organizations for planetary and humanitarian monitoring purposes. —Ronfeldt & Arquilla
The concept of a Noosphere is almost a century old and the authors describe its history from the beginning — “… coined by French theologian-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French mathematician Édouard Le Roy, and visiting Russian geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky when they met together in Paris in 1922” — to the past few decades where it has been picked up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Kevin Kelly, Michel Bauwens, and many others.
The authors clearly differentiate Noopolitik and Realpolitik, the latter which has dominated international affairs for over a century.“Noopolitik is a present-day alternative to realpolitik, but, in addition, it represents an evolutionary step beyond it. As mentioned earlier, realpolitik was originally an industrial-age concept; noopolitik is a postindustrial, information-age concept. Realpolitik is a concept from the past; noopolitik is a concept for the future.” Noopolitik is focused on sharing power, not projecting it against others.
The authors state that the USA has abandoned any progress toward a Noosphere and that its darker sides have been allowed to manifest, in America and beyond. These dark sides have many names — “information warfare, information operations, cognitive warfare, political warfare, memetic warfare, epistemic warfare, neocortical warfare, perception management, and strategic deception, along with such older terms as the war of ideas and the battle for hearts and minds and newer terms about weaponized social networks and weaponized narratives.” They say that we are in a fragmented state of disarray in our potential evolution toward a Noosphere.
Current manifestations of a move toward a ‘global commons’ include the big-environmental-science circle (government, big business, banks, NGO’s), as well as the social-activist civil-society focused on commons-based peer production and new social contracts. We can see how big-science is working on coordinated collaboration efforts to address the global pandemic. Social-activist networks have created global movements like the school strike for climate. At least there are some positive signs of evolution.
The book focuses on US military strategy options which is not surprising as it is published by RAND. I will not cover those details here as they are not of professional interest, though I did find these parts informative. I am interested in how the ideas in this book might influence sensemaking, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing in our organizations and societies. It comes down to one core idea.
Noopolitik depends on knowing—and finding new ways of knowing — about ideational, cognitive, and cultural matters that have not figured much in traditional statecraft.
As we have always said, noopolitik is ultimately about whose story wins. Thus, the kinds of stories, or narratives, that matter in noopolitik must be carefully constructed to suit the context. That narratives are crucial for maneuvering in today’s world is widely accepted; but designing them remains more of an art than a science, and there is still plenty of room for new ideas about how to build expertise. —Ronfeldt & Arquilla
Stories are the key to influencing people, especially on a large scale. I have discussed some of this already in mapping stories. Comprehension = “mapping your stories onto my stories”.
How many people does it take to change an organization or a society?
Minority groups need 25% to influence the majority in a society. But it only takes 10% if the group is committed with unshakeable belief. Inside an organization, the right mix of people requires only 3% to influence 85% of their colleagues. There is more information about these figures here — 25-10-3
Harvard University Professor Erica Chenoweth’s research is influencing protest movements with her findings — in first being non-violent, and secondly understanding how many people have to get involved with the movement. In the USA this would be just over 11 million people. In Canada it would be 1.3 million.
“Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.” —BBC: The 3.5% Rule
These percentages are like the network effects when a good or service has more value the more that other people have it or use it. At a certain number of users or customers, the industry leader is in an unassailable position. For example, once Facebook reached a certain number, it was impossible to directly compete with the company, and it became a monopoly. So understanding the numbers is mission critical, for capitalists as well as change movements.
“There weren’t any campaigns that had failed after they had achieved 3.5% participation during a peak event,” says Chenoweth – a phenomenon she has called the “3.5% rule”. Besides the People Power movement, that included the Singing Revolution in Estonia in the late 1980s and the Rose Revolution in Georgia in the early 2003 … Chenoweth points out that nonviolent protests also have fewer physical barriers to participation. You do not need to be fit and healthy to engage in a strike, whereas violent campaigns tend to lean on the support of physically fit young men … Violent movements, on the other hand, require a supply of weapons, and tend to rely on more secretive underground operations that might struggle to reach the general population. —BBC: The 3.5% Rule
Rosalyn Yalow — “The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.”
Aristotle — “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” via @marksstorm
@WallyBock — ‘I’m 74. When people ask me if I’m retired, I answer “What would I retire to?”‘
@malpani — “The sharing economy has become a shearing economy, where platforms like Uber, LinkedIn and Airbnb keep the cream and we all get fleeced.”
“Naps, in contrast to caffeine, have been shown to enhance not only alertness and attention, but also some forms of memory consolidation. In particular, naps (daytime sleep between 5–90 minutes) appear to improve performance on non-medio-temporal lobe dependent, procedural skills”
“Although it’s difficult, changing our minds is not impossible. The challenge is to find a way to live with uncertainty, make the most informed decisions we can, and modify them when the scientific evidence dictates—as our leading researchers are already doing. Admitting we were wrong requires some self-reflection—which involves living with the dissonance for a while rather than jumping immediately to a self-justification.”
“No one will comply with life-saving measures if the trust disintegrates. Mistrust threatens society, so there can be no cause great enough to justify deceiving the public.
Leaders who pettily squabble may take lives just as surely as if they had fought them in war. The most precious resources in a pandemic are the truth and time — and there is never any to waste.”
This is a retrospective on how my work has been influenced by the Cynefin framework, which I first came across in late 2007, many years after it had been originally published in 1999. It’s interesting to note that this was the same year as The Cluetrain Manifesto which shifted how we think about markets in light of the internet.
“Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations.” —The Cluetrain Manifesto
The Cynefin framework has had a similar effect as the Cluetrain Manifesto — it has helped us to see that much of our world is not a complicated piece of machinery, but rather an entanglement of complex adaptive systems. From the perspective of Cynefin, I could see that there is no single best way to address our pressing business, societal, or environmental issues, which continue to get more complex, and even chaotic.
The majority of our challenges are not Obvious or Clear — addressed with best practice, as Frederick Winslow Taylor prescribed with his Principles of Scientific Management. Nor are they merely Complicated — addressed by good practice. More of our issues are Complex — addressed through emergent practice — and Chaotic — addressed by novel practice. In 1911 Taylor saw standardization as an improvement on existing ad hoc work methods.
After reading some of the background information, I concluded there is no single best way to address our pressing business, societal, or environmental issues. The majority of our challenges are not Obvious or Clear (addressed with best practice, as Frederick Winslow Taylor prescribed with his 1911 Principles of Scientific Management) nor are they merely Complicated (addressed by good practice) but more of our issues are Complex (addressed through emergent practice) and Chaotic (addressed by novel practice).
“It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.” —F.W. Taylor
Influenced by Cynefin, I looked for a principle that would reflect work that is more and more focused on on dealing with complex challenges. Using Taylor’s own format, I developed the principle of network management that — it is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation that more creative work can be fostered. The duty of being transparent in our work rests with all workers, especially management.
Cynefin can help us connect work and learning, especially for emergent and novel practices, for which we do not have good or best practices known in advance. When we want to create a conducive learning environment for knowledge workers, the Cynefin framework helps us to see the inherent weakness of instructional systems design (ISD) which works from the premise of predetermined learning objectives and activities, usually based on good and best practices observed in the workplace.
Instead, we need a learning design model that helps to template ‘desirable patterns’, recognize ‘undesirable patterns,’ and provide a variety of ‘seeds’ for the complexity of the learning environment. Any learning intervention involving several people is arguably in a complex environment and needs to allow also for emergence. One aspect of complex environments, according to the Cynefin framework, is that “Cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat.” That is also true for most working environments today.
When no one can understand the vagaries of a situation in a changing, complex environment then the only thing to do is try out new things based on our best judgement and then watch, learn, and keep trying new practices. There are few universal best practices or even good practices outside simple or automated processes. There are things that work for some people, some of the time. As learning professionals, our job is to understand our organization or client’s situation and look outside to see what others are doing. We have to try things out and see how they work. If we wait for the best practices, we will be too late. This is life in perpetual beta.
Informed by Cynefin, I have made several recommendations for a new type of training department. One of the ways we have addressed simple and complicated problems has been through training. Training works well when we have clear and measurable objectives. However, there are no clear objectives with complex problems. Learning as we probe the problem, we gain insight and our practices are emergent (emerging from our interaction with the changing environment and the problem). Training looks backwards, at what worked in the past (good & best practices), and creates a controlled environment to develop knowledge and skills.
To deal with increasing complexity, organizations need to support emergent work practices, in addition to their training efforts. They must support collaboration, communication, synthesis, pattern recognition, and creative tension, all within a trusting environment in order to be effective. One method of supporting emergent work is the fostering of communities of practice.
Here are some specific practices for those who lead HR, learning and development, or organizational community efforts.:
I also came across articles by Glenda Eoyan at Cognitive Edge discussing three types of accountability, depending on the stability of the environment.
Many of our HR and work practices are still premised on the assumption of stable systems, but as events from floods and wildfires to a global pandemic have shown, this is no longer the dominant situation. Some of the project-based work I have done uses learning-based accountability, where we are all responsible to help the rest of the team learn.
For freelancers and others who live and work on the Web, this becomes a natural way to work. The same can be said for sharing-based accountability, especially among bloggers and others who share online. We have learned that the more you give, the more you get back in the form of feedback and more learning opportunities.
I have wondered out loud that if an organization is only focused on outcome-based accountability can it thrive in more active or random environments? Even in 2007 it seemed that most market and socio-economic structures were becoming more random and chaotic. This trend has continued. Reframing the concept of accountability remains an important conversation to start with HR professionals and executives.
Here are some of my conclusions about complexity, learning, and work — developed over the past decade.
Networked digital platforms give us a better way to engage in collaborative work and help us integrate learning into our daily practice. One such sensemaking framework is personal knowledge mastery — a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world and work more effectively. PKM keeps us afloat in a sea of information, guided by professional communities and buoyed by social networks.
Given our complex and chaotic challenges, the only way to operate as knowledge professionals in an organisational context is where work is learning, and learning is the work. The Cynefin framework can help us navigate how to approach the nature of our work challenges across the domains that it so neatly describes. It lets us see more clearly so that we can focus our sensemaking and knowledge-sharing as we work.
@vtg2 — “I’m beginning to think ‘hindsight is 2020’ was some kind of message from a future time traveler that we all misunderstood.”
@ComplexWales — “I had a teacher who filled the bell in Drama Hall with foam. As more students arrived, they simply joined in & it sometimes lasted a whole day. A few teachers kicked off but got nowhere. The headmaster didn’t believe in separating children by their date of manufacture.”
“It’s called the “Clothesline Paradox.” The author, Steve Baer, was talking about alternative energy. The thesis is simple: You put your clothes in the dryer, and the energy you use gets measured and counted. You hang your clothes on the clothesline, and it “disappears” from the economy. It struck me that there are a lot of things that we’re dealing with on the Internet that are subject to the Clothesline Paradox. Value is created, but it’s not measured and counted. It’s captured somewhere else in the economy.”
“But over the next five years—as its security team would discover the hack, probe it, then set it aside—Nortel, a global technological juggernaut, would respond to one of the longest-running Chinese hacks of the decade with a password update and a series of overtures to Huawei. Owens [Nortel CEO] met repeatedly with Ren [Huawei founder] about a possible merger. He stepped aside in November 2005 for Mike Zafirovski, who in his previous job as chief operating officer at Motorola Inc. had nearly closed a secret deal to buy Huawei two years earlier. Under Zafirovski, Nortel and Huawei discussed a joint venture in routers and switches, a sale of its Ethernet division, and even a potential rescue during its final weeks.
None of those panned out, which may not have mattered much to the Chinese company, because as Nortel was collapsing, Huawei quietly hired about 20 Nortel scientists who’d been developing the groundwork for 5G wireless technology.”
“‘Discourses of climate delay’ pervade current debates on climate action. These discourses accept the existence of climate change, but justify inaction or inadequate efforts. In contemporary discussions on what actions should be taken, by whom and how fast, proponents of climate delay would argue for minimal action or action taken by others. They focus attention on the negative social effects of climate policies and raise doubt that mitigation is possible. Here, we outline the common features of climate delay discourses and provide a guide to identifying them.”