seeing the figure through the ground

Models can give us a place to start to have a conversation in order to develop shared understanding. Mental models are one of the five disciplines of a learning organization, according to Peter Senge. I have frequently used the model of the Laws of Media developed by Marshall and Eric McLuhan which state that every medium (technology) used by people has four effects. Every medium extends a human property, obsolesces the previous medium (& makes it a luxury good), retrieves a much older medium, and reverses its properties when pushed to its limits. These four aspects are known as the media tetrad.

As our society becomes immersed in the technology of social media, whether they be Facebook, Twitter or something else, we read much criticism as well as hype. But with the tetrad, we can have a conversation around the four effects without the hype or fear. For example, there is little doubt that social media extend our voice, as mine has been extended with this blog. They enable what Seb Paquet calls “ridiculously easy group-forming”, so that we can find similar voices in the wilderness. I remember what it was like waiting for new books to come to the school library in the 1970’s. They were my connection to the outside world. Now we have this connectivity, to information and people, in our hands. (more…)

actionable insights

I concluded a few years back that rates based on time at work only help to put you into a pigeon hole so that HR and Purchasing can easily classify you. Knowledge professionals are not pigeons.

I have noticed a tendency over the past decade to push wages and fees down. Some may say it’s just the supply and demand conditions of the market. I think it’s the idea that human labour is a cost and it’s best to keep costs down, especially when CEO’s are still focused on increasing shareholder value. Short term objectives rule in this type of market. I recently spoke with someone who had left a large corporation after 30 years. He said that the constant pressure to keep increasing sales, year over year, was too much. The executives were only focused on the spreadsheets.

Large consultancies ensure that when they do work it is wrapped in large documents with fancy presentations so it looks big. But the value is not in big. The value for consulting is actionable insights. Can and will the client do something after the consulting engagement? If not, it was a waste of time. Sometimes the advice appears to be very simple, and therefore appears to be of no value. But master practitioners often make their work look simple. (more…)

sense-making beyond the outrage

A number of people I know have recently left Facebook and/or Twitter. I can understand why, as I left Facebook about eight years ago. I was an early adopter and thought it was going to help make a better civil society — I was naive it seems. I still find Twitter useful but I have to be more careful on it now, especially so I don’t get mired in some toxic thread. Being able to read the threads (comments) of people you do not follow is a feature that only produces more outrage, but that is what engages people and sells advertising. So of course Twitter will reinforce this outrage.

I think it is essential for every citizen to be involved in sense-making in the emerging network society. Currently most of the platforms are controlled by value-extracting corporations focused on procuring behavioural data, identifying social connections, and selling this information to the highest bidder. This makes it difficult to promote a platform like Twitter in order to learn about social networks. But it is still a good example. Just not an example of a good corporate citizen. The two consumer platforms I use most are Twitter, because I like its asymmetry, and LinkedIn because many of my clients are on it. I find LinkedIn useless for sense-making, as it’s difficult to curate or reference what I find. I still think we need to be out in ‘Wild West’ of consumer social media while understanding their dark sides. We need to have a way to connect to new, interesting, and even distasteful opinions and ideas. This requires practices that are directly opposed to the algorithms that drive the social media platforms. (more…)

structures and data

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

“The journey to knowledge is as important as the moment of realization, learning design has collapsed the journey into the moment, lessening the experience by depriving us of the collateral learning along the way.”@RalphMercer

A Thousand Rivers

“Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World. … when you push a child to do something she simply developmentally can not do, you create a profound belief that (a) I hate this; (b) I can’t do this; (c) I will never be able to do this, and (d) There’s something wrong with me … Talk to gifted scientists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs. You will find they learned like a Yanomami child learns, through keen observation, experimentation, immersion, freedom, participation, through real play and real work, through the kind of free activity where the distinction between work and play disappears. Talk to a really good auto mechanic, carpenter, farmer, fiddle player, web designer, film editor, songwriter, photographer, chef, and you will find they learned the same way.”


networked social capital

When FiveThirtyEight published the details of 3 million trolls and bots that were linked to the Russian-based company Internet Research Agency, they were merely providing data. Two researchers initially compiled the data. But by making the data public, FiveThirtyEight was able to engage a diverse group of widely varying expertise in order to make sense of it. It is only with knowledge that we can examine data and turn it into information. FiveThirtyEight realized that a small group of experts was not enough. These data required a subject matter network to make sense of them. The initial results are interesting but so far there are no actionable insights for the average person or organization. As a society we have some more information but are still none the wiser in knowing what to do next. But it’s a start.

“Many other readers shared their works in progress, and given the sheer size of the data set, there is likely much more to come — as well there should be. Releasing the data was meant to preserve an important historical record, but analyzing it is the only way to understand what happened and bolster national security.” —538-Russian Trolls


socially mediated

Social media extend emotion, obsolesce the linearity and logic of print, retrieve orality, and when pushed to their extreme result in constant outrage. A socially networked society could reverse into a popularity contest, where our value is only measured in our mediated reputation, such as numbers of Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections.

Our tribal leaders (religious, geographical, cultural), our institutions (political, religious, economic), and our markets (corporations, exchanges, trade deals) do not have the answers on how to live in a networked society. Only networked individuals, with positive intent, can determine how best to organize the next society. An aggressively engaged and intelligent citizenry can be an unstoppable force for change. But these citizens have to understand the new media landscape.

New media are changing education.

“The new media won’t fit into the classroom. It already surrounds it. Perhaps that is the challenge of the counterculture. The problem is to know what questions to ask.” —Eric McLuhan

humans working socially

A lot of traditional human work is getting automated, by machines or software.


how professionals learn for work

Jane Hart has been asking her readers what are the most useful/valuable ways that they learn for or at work. In the sixth annual Learning in the Workplace Survey, which surveyed over 5,000 respondents from a wide variety of industries and types & sizes of organizations, the following methods were ranked in order.

  1. Daily work experiences
  2. Knowledge-sharing within your team
  3. Web search
  4. Web resources
  5. Manager feedback & guidance
  6. Professional networks  & communities
  7. Coach or mentor feedback & guidance
  8. Internal resources
  9. Blogs & news feeds
  10. E-learning courses
  11. Conferences & professional events
  12. Classroom training


‘we’re living in a very liquid world’

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall
—Paul Simon, Kodachrome (1973)

Nothing that you learned in school has prepared you for today. Nothing. You are not ready. For smug Canadians, consider that 2/3 of us think there is a crisis of asylum seekers at our borders. They are wrong. And even more worrying, Russian trolls may be behind this, or not. (more…)

virtuous learning

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

@ProfFeynman: “FEYNMAN learning strategy in THREE points:
1. Continually ask “Why?”
2. When you learn something, learn it to where you can explain it to a child.
3. Instead of arbitrarily memorizing things, look for the explanation that makes it obvious.”

“Learning is the ability to acquire new ideas from experience and retain them as memories.” —Eric Kandel (2000 Nobel Laureate), via @charlesjennings

“It is certain in any case that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” —James Baldwin, via @UNESCO

@AralBalkan: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “I wonder if realised while writing this that it is the perfect warning about Silicon Valley, ‘the cloud’ and surveillance capitalism.”

@ChaosPrime: “remember, kids, if you absolutely bust your ass integrating yourself psychologically so you’re aware of what you’re doing and why and can actually act ethically, you then get to enjoy getting outcompeted by everybody whose neocortex is tasked solely with post hoc justification”

@white_owly: “Cognitive diversity makes for awkward conversation when you first meet. You’re essentially speaking different languages. Food for thought when designing a recruitment process.”