movements and rackets

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” ―Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time

@EskoKilpi — “When managers think about diversity they typically look for diversity of gender and race but the real goal should be diversity of thinking, diversity of mind.” (more…)

“the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”

You will not achieve an informed public simply by making sure that high quality content is publicly available and presuming that credibility is enough while you wait for people to come find it. You have to understand the networked nature of the information war we’re in, actively be there when people are looking, and blanket the information ecosystem with the information people need to make informed decisions.” —danah boyd

So concludes danah boyd in an excellent piece on what lies beneath the current flood of fake news: agnotology — “the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance”. Anyone who is concerned about the erosion of democracy as a result of the fragmentation of society through fake news, propaganda, or conspiracy theories should read this article. The conclusion is that we cannot achieve this by merely spreading good information. (more…)

workers are already mature

“Growth is not linear and it doesn’t happen in discrete phases marked by convenient external characteristics” — which is why maturity models are wrong — according to Christiaan Verwijs, specifically looking at agile models.

“Of course, maturity models are meant to simplify the complexities of reality. But what is gained by squeezing such a messy, non-linear thing as the professional growth of individuals, teams, and organisations into an easily digestible model that allows us to feel like we’re making decisions based on something tangible? Oh, wait ….
Maturity models are the best friend of consultants. They are easy to understand and may seem very profound at first. It’s an easy way to make a good impression. This makes them excellent snack food for consultants, and for the organisations that are looking for easy answers to their complex problems.” —CV

Are maturity models useful? Is there a more useful model we could use?

“Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful.”George Box (more…)

beyond the solutions at hand

“There is a need to deal with the problem independent of the solutions at hand. We have a tendency to define the problem in terms of the solutions we already have. We fail most often not because we fail to solve the problem we face, but because we fail to face the right problem. Rather than doing what we should, we do what we can. In the systems view, it is the solution that has to fit the problem, not vice versa.” — Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture

Systems thinking seems to be missing in many parts of our society. For example, green energy proponents refuse to consider low carbon nuclear power as an option, including new nuclear technologies like molten salt. I am not sure what the optimal solution is but there is a significant cost to solar energy. Using only “the solutions at hand” can blind us to other options. Once we have taken up our positions, we seldom question them. This is one of our greatest mistakes, especially since more of our challenges will be complex in a connected world of seven billion people with degraded natural resources and facing climate change. (more…)

learning with complexity

Two technologies — machine learning, and the internet — are changing our understanding of the world by showing that we really cannot understand large scale complexity.

“We don’t use these technologies because they are huge, connected, and complex. We use them because they work. Our success with these technologies — rather than the technologies themselves — is showing us the world as more complex and chaotic than we thought, which, in turn, is encouraging us to explore new approaches and strategies, challenging our assumptions about the nature and importance of understanding and explanations, and ultimately leading us to a new sense of how things happen.” —Dave Weinberger

Sensemaking is becoming a critical skill in our complex world. We can do this with the assistance of statistics and algorithms, as with machine learning. We can do this between ourselves by connecting and engaging with a diverse network of knowledgeable people using the internet. We definitely cannot do this alone. (more…)

changing structures

“For the first time since the industrial revolution, organizations are changing at a fundamental level. The change is very much a work in progress in most organizations. But we now have many examples of organizations that are fully functioning in an entirely new way — that is, new ideas about how the organization is designed, about how work gets done, how people relate to each other.” —Nancy Dixon


social learning is innate

Social learning is a key theme of mine because imitation is how we learn as a species. Social learning is best explained by Albert Bandura, recognized as the most eminent psychologist of the modern era.

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” —Albert Bandura

Making our organizations open to social learning fosters innovation. Nobody works in a vacuum and we all build upon past ideas and achievements. Open structures that distribute authority can lead to more transparent knowledge sharing which promotes social learning. This open sharing can foster more diverse perspectives which can fuel active experimentation. Innovation emerges from this constant flow of ideas and experiments. (more…)

fahrenheit friday

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me, I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say and maybe if I talk long enough it will make sense.” —Guy Montag, in Fahrenheit 451,  via @RossDawson

Sarah Cone — “Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect was unanimously found guilty by all judges, he was acquitted. Why? The legislators noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is unknown.”

Bruce Schneier” … we need to decide if we are going to build our future Internet systems for security or surveillance. Either everyone gets to spy, or no one gets to spy. And I believe we must choose security over surveillance, and implement a defense-dominant strategy.” via @aukia

user-generated content

Content creation, a subset of sensemaking, is difficult. It takes time and effort. According to a 2019 survey of 213 North American workers conducted by Degreed, most sharing of information is in responding to other content found in the flow of work or learning. A lot of user-generated content is sharing content that has been created by others. (more…)

finding and sharing information

One of the challenges we face in our professional and personal lives is making sense of the flow of information that passes by us each day and then aligning that with our current priorities and challenges. The seek > sense > share framework of personal knowledge mastery is a simple method to help us stay focused in our sensemaking. The image below shows how information and knowledge can flow when people develop filters to seek information, take time and effort to make sense of it, and then share appropriately, often adding value to what they share. (more…)