working collaboratively and learning cooperatively

Improving Organizational Performance

Organizational performance improvement is comprised of reducing errors and increasing insights, according to Gary Klein. For the past century, management practice has primarily focused on error reduction, with practices such as Six Sigma, especially in manufacturing.

“Fifty-eight of the top Fortune 200 companies bought into Six Sigma, attesting to the appeal of eliminating errors. The results of this ‘experiment’ were striking: 91 per cent of the Six Sigma companies failed to keep up with the S&P 500 because Six Sigma got in the way of innovation. It interfered with insights.” —Gary Klein

Learning and development (L&D) practices reflect this priority on error reduction. But knowledge work, especially creative work, is not mere production.

“Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.

Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.” —Jay Cross (1944-2015)

Based on 120 case studies he reviewed, Gary Klein identified five types of ‘triggers’ that produced insights.

  1. Contradictions
  2. Creative Desperation
  3. Connections
  4. Coincidences
  5. Curiosity

Most of these five triggers can be enhanced through informal and social learning, and the individual practice of personal knowledge mastery. Insights usually come while working, resting, and playing — not while undergoing formal education or training. (more…)

sensemaking in a networked world

It’s a networked world

As we become more connected we should not be cutting out social media, instead we should be using them in smarter ways so that we are sensemaking beyond the outrage.

Don’t teach people how to fish. Teach people to learn for themselves how to fish and then they can learn anything else for a lifetime — citizen sensemaking.

Filter failure is a human failure. It means we are not connected to trusted communities that have the cognitive diversity we need to make important decisions.

We need to organize our workplaces better

Organizations need to make time and space available for conversations inside teams, across teams, and outside the organization —  it’s about finding community.

A combination of curiosity and resolve enables continuous learning while still getting things done. This requires an attitude of life in perpetual beta. (more…)


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

“A body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.” —Thomas Paine 1737-1809

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.” —Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s fictional detective, via @duncan_stuart (more…)

connecting leadership

What is leadership? In the past year I have written many posts on the subject from a variety of perspectives. Much of it is about ‘connected leadership’ — where people must be both teachers and learners. Neither training programs, nor even coaching, are enough. Leadership by example through experience becomes the key. Connected leadership is more feminine, retrieving gender balance. It is not about individuals, but connected groups of people, especially engaged citizens. A networked society needs more universal mothers, not authoritative fathers.

We don’t need better leaders. We need organizations and structures that let all people cooperate and collaborate to get work done. Positional leadership is a master-servant, parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee relationship. It puts too much power in the hands of individuals and blocks human networks from realizing their potential. Changing leaders will not change this type of  system from which they emerged. We need to change the system. (more…)

the confinement of curriculum

For the past several weeks I have spent an afternoon in a fifth grade classroom with 30 students, aged 11-12 years old. My wife is artist-in-residence for this class and I, along with a few other adults, am her helper. The students are making ‘trash art’, recycling everyday items into new creations. It has been a pleasure watching the students envision,  problem-solve, and create. The class time passes in the blink of an eye. But there is one aspect of public school that I find extremely frustrating — the one hour class.

The fact that the teacher, who is outstanding, can get 30 kids to focus after arriving from a completely different class, is incredible. However, at the end of the class almost every student wants to keep on working. They are immersed in their creations. But the system will not allow it. Popular science [fiction] states that we now have the attention span of a goldfish. Our schools have not helped with this at all. Instead, they have taught generations the lesson of the bells.

“Indeed, the lesson of the bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything? Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer important work to do. Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their logic is inexorable. Bells destroy the past and future, converting every interval into a sameness, as the abstraction of a map renders every living mountain and river the same, even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.” —John Taylor Gatto 1935-2018


beyond the market

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” —H.L. Mencken

The refugee crisis is a government failure. Climate change is a market failure. We have to create new ways to address what governments and markets are unable to do. But first we have to be able to describe and discuss the underlying assumptions that have created our current conditions. We cannot see the figure from the ground. We never talk about the ground. It is everywhere but it is invisible. Part of the ground is what we value and what we do not. Assuming it has always been so is usually wrong. Human societies change. Our current challenge is to collectively progress beyond governments and markets, or move from a triform to quadriform society, with new network forms of organizing. (more…)

90% of everything is crap

Currently, I have written 3,170 posts on this blog. I don’t have any surveillance technologies (analytics) here, so I don’t know how many people read my work, or how much they like it. I do use Feedly as my feed reader and subscribe to my own site, so I can ensure that the RSS feed is working. Feedly also gives me an idea of how popular a post is. The number [second column from left] represents some algorithm based on how much more popular a post is than the average one. I don’t know how they determine this.

Over the past 6 years that Feedly has been keeping track of my site I have written over 1,000 posts. Of these, only 13 have been wildly popular. Most of my posts have a popularity rating in the single digits. This aligns with Sturgeon’s Law“90% of everything is crap”. It’s hard to write a great post every single day. But writing the not-so-good stuff prepares you for the odd good post. (more…)

just checking the box

Were the two recent crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft a result of inadequate training, or design and safety flaws resulting from a lack of regulator oversight? I don’t know and I cannot speculate. However, I am interested in how training design decisions are made and what role Learning & Development (L&D) professionals play in the relationship between building aircraft and flying them. Is there something to learn here?

“The captain of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight did not practise on a new simulator for the Boeing 737 Max 8 before he died in a crash with 156 others, a pilot colleague said … The 737 Max 8 was introduced into commercial service in 2017, but pilots of older 737s were only required to have computer-based training to switch, according to Boeing, airlines, unions, and regulators.” —CBC 2019-03-21


elites are bad

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

@chriscorriganElites are bad: to the left, elites are those with money. To the right, elites are those with education.
Successful people are good: to the right, those with money are successful. To the left, those with education are successful.”

@rhappe“Why do we need arts, writing, & history education? Because it requires making decisions in ambiguity. Where do I focus? What do I leave out? When am I done? This is a critical skill in a world of information abundance, it requires practice, & it is the only way to make progress.”

“Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal … because, striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.” —Hermann Hesse in Siddhartha via @connecto [seek > sense > share]

“An ounce of information is worth a pound of data. An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information. An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge.”Russell Ackoff

connected thinking

“… it’s easy, and it’s seductive, to assume that data is really knowledge. Or that information is, indeed, wisdom. Or that knowledge can exist without data. And how easy, and how effortlessly, one can parade and disguise itself as another. And how quickly we can forget that wisdom without knowledge, wisdom without any data, is just a hunch.” —Toni Morrison (2019) The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

Data needs knowledge to understand it. Those who have this knowledge can then create information about the data to help others understand it. This is why there are so many different interpretations of complex issues. We have limited data and limited knowledge. Therefore experts often disagree. Each expert comes with a different story. Some groups share a story which influences their judgement. But wisdom is being able to understand knowledge and data in context and then make appropriate decisions. Without enough good data, we have no foundation for our knowledge. (more…)