put on your dance shoes

(Let’s dance) for fear your grace should fall
(Let’s dance) for fear tonight is all
—David Bowie (1983) Let’s Dance

Creative work is a constant dance between complexity and order, or curiosity and resolve, as Jony Ive explained in his acceptance speech as the first recipient of the Stephen Hawking Fellowship in 2018.

“You see, in the mode of being unreasonable and resolute, you have to solve hard problems. But solving those problems requires new ideas. And so, we’re back to needing ideas and back to having to be open and curious. This is not a shift that occurs once or twice in a multi-year project. I find it happens to me once or twice a day and that frequency of shifting between two such different ways of seeing and thinking is fantastically demanding.” —Jony Ive

The automation of routine and standardized work is moving human work toward non-routine manual and cognitive tasks. We see today that any piece of work that can be mapped and analyzed will be automated. This means that more people will be doing the constant dance between complexity and order, adding intangible value, sharing implicit knowledge, and learning informally and socially. More and more human work will be creative work. Creative work is anything that requires us to create something new. It can be written, physical, or a new way of doing things.

learning in the flow of work

I noted in Cynefin & PKM that all organizations are likely to face complex challenges more frequently, and that they should organize in forms that can address this.

Teams can be semi-permanent and collaborative in ordered domains but should be quicker-forming temporary negotiated hierarchies in the complex domain.

Formal communities can provide continuity in ordered domains but informal communities are needed to provide more flexibility in crossing expertise silos and disciplines.

Established knowledge hubs provide all the structured information that an established discipline requires, but open knowledge networks are better when facing complexity as there is a need to quickly incorporate new findings and knowledge, often from outside the discipline.

PKM with a cynefin lens

So not only does the creative knowledge worker have to metaphorically dance between work teams, communities of practice, and professional communities, but also between the ordered domain and the complex domain. Ladies and gentlemen, please put on your dance shoes. The 21st century has arrived!

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