Working Together

Tom Haskins has presented an excellent series of posts on complexity, work and collaboration, comparing aspects of the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks. As I thought about what Tom has written I saw one more column that could be added to his comparison, provided by Shawn at Anecdote, and that is how we can best work together at different levels of complexity.

Even though all levels of complexity exist in our world, more of our work (especially knowledge-intensive work) deals with complex problems, whether they be social, environmental or technological. As can be seen in the table below, complex environments & problems are best addressed when we organize as networks; our work evolves around developing emergent practices; and we collaborate to achieve our goals. As Shawn’s post shows, coordination, cooperation and collaboration are not the same thing.

Working Together
Complexity (Cynefin) Social (TIMN) Practices Group Work
Chaotic Tribal Novel Action
Simple Tribal + Institutional Best Coordination
Complicated Tribal + Institutional + Markets Good Collaboration
Complex Tribal + Institutional + Markets + Networks Emergent Cooperation

I’m putting this table up because it provides a quick view of why we have to change how we teach, train and work. Ask any organization how many of their problems are complex and how important it is to address these. Then find out how social networking is supported and encouraged. Ask how emergent practices are developed and whether anyone actually monitors the process or captures learning that enables emergence. Finally look at whether groups merely co-ordinate activities or perhaps co-operate and if there is real collaboration. As Shawn writes:

Collaboration works well for complex situations because the style of working collaboratively matches the nature of the issues that complex situations pose. Complexity is unpredictable, and collaborating is adaptable; complexity is messy – it’s difficult to work out the question, let alone the answer – and collaborating involves bringing together a diversity of people and talents to improvise and test possible approaches, all learning as you go. Complexity offers unique and novel conundrums, and collaboration draws on a deep foundation of trust to that fosters creativity and delivers innovations.

This is one more reason to consider a wirearchical management framework built on mutual trust.

6 thoughts on “Working Together”

  1. The “group work” column you’ve added is great, Harold! Here’s how I’d apply it to the “Bully Curriculum” issue you raised last week:

    Educational institutions (T+I) harbor tribes whose action lacks coordination. These tribes are individual classroom teachers dishing out assignments without regard to all those other tribes doing the same. The students are not exclusive members of any tribe anymore than customers belong to stores or subscribers do what the social networking platforms tell them to do. Each teacher’s practice is novel amidst the chaos of the students, teachers, administrators, parents, voters, neighbors to the school yard, textbook publishers, etc. The institution formulates best practices for successfully coordinating facility and classroom schedules so there’s no class trying to use the lunch room during a lunch period or a gym class interfering with a stage rehearsal. This coordination delivers a staggering number of different people showing up in the right place at the right time for classes, stage performances, trips and assemblies. It fails to coordinate learning, workload, different rates of progress or unique interests.

    If education was delivered by markets (T+I+M), tribal teachers would cooperate with each other. They would make concessions to other teachers who’s assignments, activities and deadlines pre-empted their own. These lose/win sacrifices of an individual teacher’s control of curriculum would benefit the customers/students, create more long term educational value and establish a service economy. The complicated situation of each student’s workload calls for cooperation between teachers to not overload any student, undermine value propositions or do a disservice to the community. This would effectively customize the curriculum for each student, honor the students’ Bill of Rights and protect the students from institutional or tribal abuses.

    If education was delivered by networks (T+I+M+N), tribal teachers would collaborate with everyone else. The formal education delivered by instructors would lose significance as teachers devoted their time to learning too. Instructors would morph into coaches, mentors, facilitators and curators would learned from changing situations how to respond creatively in the moment. The students would learn from the example of everyone learning how to manage their own educational processes. Each student would define their own curriculum and make requests for assistance, insights and guidance from other collaborators in the network. Peer learning, open exploration and self-remediation would all become norms. Problems with boredom, anxiety, retention or loss of motivation would vanish as the resilient network made learning come alive for every participant. — That’s the world I want to live in 🙂

  2. Likewise – and the sooner that world get’s built, the better!

    But there are still barriers to collaboration, especially between school-based (teachers, scientists) and non-school-based (parents, homeschoolers, journalists, policy-makers) people. We trust our tribes & institutions to do quality educational work, but not necessarily our markets or networks. “Ecucation” in policy debates is still limited to “public schools.” How can we make a public case for broader trust in networks?

    Thanks for this post – I’ll be following your links, and learning.

  3. Yours and Tom’s analyses track very closely with the detailed work on learning models and its application to school curricula and learning institutions’ structural issues offered by Wim Veen’s decade+ research into how Homo Zappiens learn.

    Harold, I think I have shared with you one or more of Veen’s Powerpoint slides that outline the key points, haven’t I ?


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