working smarter

For the past several centuries we have used human labour to do what machines cannot. First the machines caught up with us and surpassed humans with their brute force. Now they are surpassing us with their brute intelligence. There is not much more need for machine-like human work which is routine, standardized, or brute. But certain long-term skills can help us connect with our fellow humans in order to learn and innovate — curiosity, sense-making, cooperation, and novel thinking. (more…)

managers are for caring

The evidence shows that while telecommuters create positive change, the major resistance against telecommuting comes from management.

Our recent report showed that many workers we surveyed viewed managerial and executive resistance to telework as a major obstacle.

Through interviews, we learned that executives saw the benefits of using flexible work to their advantage as a negotiating tool for recruitment, promotion, retention and motivation, but they often worried about the costs of training and potential culture change.

They expressed concern that allowing telecommuting could create inequitable outcomes in the workplace, and possibly negatively impact morale.

The problem with work today is management. Often, it is detrimental to our well-being. But it is pervasive. Maintaining this status quo of management is the core operating model of global management consultancies like McKinsey.

“We are now living with the consequences of the world McKinsey created. Market fundamentalism is the default mode for businesses and governments the world over. Abstraction and myth insulate actors from the atrocities they help perpetuate. Businesses that resisted the pressure to rationalize every decision based on its impact on shareholder value were beaten out or eaten up by those who shed the last remnants of their humanity. With another heavyweight on the side of management, McKinsey tipped the scale even further away from labor, contributing directly to the increase in wealth inequality plaguing the world. Governments are now more similar to the private sector and more reliant on their services. The “best and the brightest” devote themselves to client service instead of public service. —Current Affairs 2019-02-05


new year, same humans

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

“The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.”Vox 2020-01-04

“And I came to the sage, and I said, Master, I am lost in these dark and confusing times. What am I to do? And the sage said, My son, now is when you must find a reassuring platitude to cling to, and be sure not to examine it too closely.”@StevenBrust

If you have ever watched symphony orchestra you may have noticed how inefficient the musicians are. They are not utilised 100%. Most have below 50% efficiency. Imagine how good the music would turn out if all instruments were playing all the times. Such is the science of efficiency.@HumanSelection (more…)

“the future of work will be based on hacking uncertainty”

In spite of the criticism about social media, I still learn a lot from a platform like Twitter. The passing of Esko Kilpi this week has me reviewing some of his wise words, and there were many. This is a series of his tweets from 2012.

Unlike mechanical systems, human systems thrive on variety and diversity.
An exact replication of behavior in nature would be disastrous and seen as neurotic in social life.
The Internet changes the patterns of connectivity.
The Internet transforms our understanding what “local” is, makes possible wide participation and new enriching variety in interaction.
All human systems are connected and connected systems cannot be understood in terms of isolated parts.
The unit of analysis is now communication and emergence, not entities.
The perspective of network science views knowledge as socially created and socially re-created.
Management literature typically emphasizes individuals and locates explanatory power in their personal properties.
The potential of social media cannot be realized without a very different epistemological grounding, a relational perspective.
Independently existing people and things then become viewed as co-constructed in coordinated networked action.

Esko said that in order to develop the necessary emergent practices to deal with complexity you need to first cultivate diversity and by this I would say the autonomy of each learner. You also need rich and deep connections, but these are not enough if you don’t also have meaningful conversations, which can be enabled through social learning. If you look at most training and education, including micro-learning or whatever is the latest fad, this counsel is often ignored.

The best advice from Esko — in my opinion — was to hack uncertainty and hedge risks.

“The future of work will be based on hacking uncertainty and hedging risks through post-blockchain smart contracts, learning, and social capital.

The main question is perhaps not what skills we should have in the future, but how we hedge the risks that are inbuilt in our world, our unique knowledge assets, the know-what, the know-who and know-how of our life.” —Esko Kilpi


curiosity yields insight

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” —Dorothy Parker

The core habit to successfully navigate the network era is curiosity. Curiosity about ideas improves creativity. Curiosity about people improves empathy, by understanding others. We cannot be empathetic for others unless we are first curious about them. We cannot be creative unless we are first curious to learn new ideas.

Curiosity about online sensemaking led me to Lilia Efimova’s research on personal knowledge management in 2004. From this I developed the personal knowledge mastery (PKM) framework driven by my situation of working remotely. Remote as in finding work, finding partners, and doing the work. Living in Atlantic Canada I was geographically removed from any economic centre. Therefore I made my focus global. Distance on the internet was not an issue. All I lacked were connections, and PKM became my way of making these. (more…)

organizations as media

In discussing organizational models and metaphors, Naomi Stanford refers to Gareth Morgan and his influence on organizational design. “Gareth Morgan’s book Images of Organisation (1986),  for example, offered eight organisational metaphors …” — machine, organism, brain, culture, political system, psychic prison, flux & transformation, and instrument of domination. Other researchers have added to this list — icehotel, wonderland, femicide, justice.

In a 2011 interview, Morgan says that there is one more model that he would have liked to have included.

But, if I had a single choice, the metaphor that I most wish that I had included would be one based on communications theorist Marshall McLuhan’s view that all forms of technology are best understood as extensions of human senses and that “the medium is the message.” More specifically, the metaphor would explore “Organizations as Media” with a particular focus on the transformations created in the wake of phonetic literacy and the rise of new electronic media, particularly the digital forms that are currently unfolding. I believe this metaphor will put the history of formal organizations in new perspective and raise some interesting questions and challenges on how we can expect new organizational forms and associated economic systems to unfold in the years ahead. —Reflections on Images of Organization and Its Implications for Organization and Environment


from enlightenment to entanglement

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it is time to question our institutions of governance and commerce that mostly originated during the 18th century Enlightenment. Linearity and Cartesian logic are no longer suitable for a connected and complex world. To change our systems, first we have to understand them, and where they came from. This is the great societal learning challenge  today — sensemaking in a networked world. Our existing education and training systems are not designed for this task. We have to figure this out together, outside the ‘system’.

About 500 years ago a new communications technology came along and changed the face of Europe — print. The Protestant Reformation saw the rise of religious wars, which were later followed by the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment. An age of exploration followed, which brought not just gold and silver to the coffers of Europe, but new foods such as potatoes from the Americas, to fuel the Industrial Revolution. These new foods increased the population and in turn brought about the demise of the indigenous people of the Americas. (more…)

best finds of 2019

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. Here are some of the best for 2019.

Word of the Year

@PhilosophyMttrs“Word of the Year” — Ultracrepidarianadjective noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise.


“For years, a small hand lettered sign hung on the West wall of McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. It read, ‘The important thing is to acquire perception, though it cost all you have’.” —Eric McLuhan, Poetics on the Warpath 2001 — via @McLinstitute

@GeorgeMonbiot “If you asked me: ‘which industry presents the greatest environmental threat, oil or media?’, I would say ‘the media’. Every day it misdirects us. Every day it tells us that issues of mind-numbing irrelevance are more important than the collapse of our life support systems.”

@EikeGS“Today everything runs on bestseller lists. You rarely find good books there. But the less people can cook, the more cookbooks are sold.” (more…)

Graham McTavish Watt

The only person to ever have guest blogged here is Graham Watt, a friend for almost 20 years. I met Graham as I was beginning my freelance career in 2003. With no commute or regular hours I could cycle during the day and drop by the local café for a chat. Graham was semi-retired when I met him and we had many conversations on various topics over the years. Here are some of his words that he shared with me.

Graham died last night (2019-12-23). I will miss him.

Graham’s memorial service will be held at the Mount Allison University Chapel, in Sackville, NB on 26 January 2020, at 1:00 PM


turmoil and experimentation

Renee DiResta discusses the challenges brought about by the printing press — invented in Europe in 1450 —  and compares these with the current effects of digital networks in — Mediating Consent.

The printing press, invented approximately 50 years before the 95 Theses, extended Luther’s reach from the door of the cathedral to the entirety of Europe. His criticisms of the Church were the first use of mass media: critiques of Catholic doctrine in pithy, irreverent pamphlets, produced at scale and widely distributed. As a result, Luther ushered in not only Protestantism, but an entirely new media landscape: one in which traditional gatekeepers — the church, wealthy nobles — no longer held a monopoly on the information that reached the people. The Catholic Church responded, of course, with pamphlets of its own — defending Catholic doctrine, refuting the new heretics, fighting the battle for hearts, minds, and Truth. —RibbonFarm