Engaging Knowledge Artisans

Every organization today is trying to address the changing nature of work, driven by rapid technological change, and made more complex by global changes in economics, politics, and resources. Simultaneously we are seeing rapid advances in all the sciences and their intersections. But what about our structures that organize how people work together? Providing better tools and developing individual skills only address part of the needs of the digital workplace. There is also a need for cognitive skills that enhance creativity and initiative. For example, working and learning out loud in online social networks significantly change the flow of knowledge and influence power structures. Pattern sensing becomes all important. Even leadership has to be exercised in a different way from the hierarchical organization, understanding the dynamics of networks. (more…)

Democracy vs platform capitalism

Here are some observations and insights that were shared on social media this past fortnight. I call these Friday’s Finds.

A Digital Declaration – by Shoshana Zuboff

In the shadow and gloom of today’s institutional facts, it has become fashionable to mourn the passing of the democratic era. I say that democracy is the best our species has created so far, and woe to us if we abandon it now. The real road to serfdom is to be persuaded that the declarations of democracy we have inherited are no longer relevant to a digital future. These have been inscribed in our souls, and if we leave them behind— we abandon the best part of ourselves. If you doubt me, try living without them, as I have done. That is the real wasteland, and we should fear it.


Self-determination at work

There’s a common saying that entrepreneurs should work on the business, and not in the business. It makes sense to stay above the day-to-day details in order to help steer the business. Perhaps it’s time to think of all businesses as networks of entrepreneurs. Everyone should be working on the business. As Peter Drucker said, “Nothing is less productive than doing what should not be done at all”. Being efficient at something that is not effective is a waste of time, and a cause for workers to mentally disconnect from the company. Efficiency for its own sake makes job a four-letter word.

How do you get an entrepreneurial mindset in a hierarchical, just-follow-the-rules, organization? Start by looking at what motivates people. Dan Pink popularized three key motivators in his book, Drive (2011): Autonomy, Mastery, Sense of Purpose. The basis of this is self-determination theory, which I think provides a clearer understanding of motivation at work, and from which the following image comes from. (more…)

Cooking out loud

The simple structure of the company, with its solidly embedded organizational chart restricting knowledge flow, cannot deal with the complexity of the networked economy. It takes too long to make decisions or try new things out. Looser hierarchies and stronger networks are required, but how do you go about this?

Working and learning out loud are essential practices that can change the nature of work. They help make transparent what is happening in the organization and democratize knowledge creation. First of all, everyone must be engaged in observing their environment. Then groups of people can work on problems together and learn as they work. The results of working and learning out loud can then be codified as network knowledge, which is always open for modification, as knowledge flow becomes knowledge stock. PKM – Seek > Sense > Share – is a core part of enabling knowledge to flow, unrestricted by hierarchies. (more…)

Create space for sense-making

Listening to a story about exploitation in the ivory tower on CBC Sunday Edition this morning made me realize how much we are prisoners of our current reality. The poorly paid contract teaching staff saw no way out of their plight and the professor-turned-administrator went from questioning the current system to promoting its inequalities as the only viable way to keep universities afloat. It seems that as soon as you identify with a system, whether it is good for you or not, then it becomes the only frame of reference. There was no discussion on what systemic changes could humanize the life of sessional instructors. Everyone sounded so powerless. (more…)

Post Labour Day Finds

Here are some observations and insights that were shared on social media this past fortnight. I call these Friday’s Finds.

We teach people how to remember, we never teach them how to grow. – Oscar Wilde” – via @BestOscarWilde

@ShawnCallahan – “The stories we find, and especially the ones we retell, change who we become.

@edmorrison – “Our challenge is not to banish hierarchies, but to balance them with open systems, properly guided.(more…)

Our education system stumbles into the future

It’s back to school time and education issues come to the fore with a provincial election in a few weeks. According to a local professor, the New Brunswick education system is too centralized, but it’s not just education. Addressing the problems of centralization is an issue with all established institutions as we shift from an industrial to a networked economy. First we might look at the underlying premises of the current system. According to SFU Professor Kieran Egan, in The Educated Mind, three premises compete for attention in our public education systems:

  1. education as socialization
  2. education as a quest for truth (Plato)
  3. education as the realization of individual potential (Rousseau)


Guest Posts

I frequently receive requests for guest blog posts, which I always turn down, for several reasons.

My website has my name on it, and I feel personally responsible for everything written here. Any guest post would not reflect my views.

Much of my professional reputation is based on my writing, and many of my perspectives were formed here as “half-baked ideas” on this blog.

All of my content is licensed for sharing as: Creative Commons – Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-alike so that other bloggers can easily use it and build upon it, negating any need for guest posts here.

It is ridiculously easy to create your own blog so you do not need mine to post from.

In addition, most of the requests come from people I do not know. Requesting a guest post is like inviting yourself over for dinner. I don’t even know you, but you want a free meal, and then want to tell everyone about it?

Instead, please join in the conversation, add some value with your own perspectives, and maybe we can learn from each other. (more…)

Small thoughts, loosely joined

With a hyper-connected society, enabled by over 2 billion connected people and an expected 50 billion devices in the near future, the environment any organization is facing is much more complex than it was a couple of decades ago. But this was when most executives were learning how to do their jobs. Many are ill-equipped for the cognitive overload they face, as traditional jobs –  from typing, to customer service, to legal research –  are constantly automated by software. Software enabled teams like AirBNB, Netflix, and Uber, are able to directly compete with industry incumbents, and can do so with significantly fewer employees. (more…)

Reflecting on reflection

Missing from most workplaces today is any time for reflection. Even events that are designed to promote learning, like the ubiquitous professional conference, ignore time for reflection. In these discrete time-based events, there is little time for reflection. Presenters hold back their knowledge in order to “deliver” it just before the big official presentation. This presentation is followed by some immediate questions, discussions, and a quick break. Then it’s off to see the next presentation. Reflection, if it occurs, comes much later, and usually after the participants have gone home. It’s the same at work.

It seems that most of us are in a hurry today, and I meet few people who have read even a few good books lately and have had the time to reflect upon them. Fewer still have taken the time to digest new ideas and discuss their learning with others. There is always a need to balance action and reflection, but the latter seems to be losing out in many of our workplaces. (more…)