We are only as good as our networks. Our decisions reflect the diversity of our networks. Complex problems usually do not have simple solutions but require a deep understanding of the context. How do we understand the complexity of social networks? Empathy puts us in other people’s shoes. We try to understand their perspective. Empathy is a requisite perspective for the network era. Empathy means engaging with others. The ability to connect with a diversity of people is the human potential of the Internet.
As Lilia Efimova understood the two-way challenge of PKM with blogs in 2004, today we have to deal with the dual-edged sword of a networked mediated world.
“To a great extent PKM [personal knowledge management] is about shifting responsibility for learning and knowledge sharing from a company to individuals and this is the greatest challenge for both sides. …Creativity, learning or desire to help others cannot be controlled, so knowledge workers need to be intrinsically motivated to deliver quality results. In this case “command and control” management methods are not likely to work … Taking responsibility for own work and learning is a challenge for knowledge workers as well. Taking these responsibilities requires attitude shift and initiative, as well as developing personal KM knowledge and skills.” – Lilia Efimova
Our close-knit social groups will not provide us with the diversity of knowledge we need to navigate the complexities of our networked world. Simple solutions, or worse, those based on our emotions, will fail us. Most of our established institutions are not helping us address complex challenges such as climate change and global refugees. Our markets are singularly focused on short-term profit at the expense of communities and the environment.
Individuals need to step up. Individuals connected through active and engaged social networks can be the force for positive change in our society. This requires not just skills, but empathy for others. We learn about other people by engaging with them. The technology is available. We just need the will. It is time to ‘unecho’ our collective chambers.