In a complex society

As you may have noticed, this has been a busy week. I flew to Maastricht, NL last weekend, via London and Brussels; a 24 hour trip. The highlight of getting to the working smarter event with Tulser was a short but enjoyable stop in Brussels with Christian De Neef who met me at the airport and drove me to the train station. We only know each other through Twitter and it was a casual comment on Christian’s photo that initiated our meeting.

Conversations during the working smarter events in Maastricht and London were stimulating and there were a couple of constant threads. One was the fact that there is little difference between many of the information intensive support functions in any organization  – information technology, knowledge management, learning & development, human resources.  Each support function is a blind monk trying to understand an elephant. I’ve discussed this many times and Karyn Romeis, who attended our session in London, suggests that learning has to move to the front of the organization. It’s not just learning that has to become more operational, but all support functions, and all together. As Christian and I were talking, it was obvious we shared many values, but we come from rather different disciplinary backgrounds. In the network era, it’s all merging.

The other thread was that management is the main barrier to fostering creative and innovative organizations. Many questions centred around, “how do I get my manager to understand this?” If we want to be a change agents, we have to point out examples of the old type of thinking not making sense in the organization any more. We need to create cognitive dissonance to get attention. Transforming an organization means shifting our paradigm (mental models) and this is best done through stories. The most effective stories are about plans and expectations gone awry. It took the little boy to be the first to say that the Emperor had no clothes. However, change doesn’t happen until it happens to us. To understand the power of social media for learning and collaboration (not marketing, where all the effort is currently) we have to become the change we want. That means engaging in social media and learning how to learn in a network. After Maastricht and London, we had many people commit to engaging with Twitter, blogs or other social media. They just needed a gentle push ;)

In complexity, we have to think about emergent practices, which means jumping in and immersing ourselves in the environment in order to start making sense of it. An external, analytical approach will tell us little. There is too much to understand and much that cannot be explained without experiencing it first. Networks and complexity are the defining characteristics of our “work” places today.

Photo: Watching breakfast being prepared in a London kebab diner, near Victoria Station.

One Response to “In a complex society”

  1. Karyn Romeis

    Thanks for the shoutout. That post has had a fair amount of traffic.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that just about every task we ever do involves learning of some kind or another, and it seems increasingly silly to me that we should try to ringfence the learning function.

    I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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