we are dependent on human connection

What we do not know

Our networks are great places for serendipitous connections. But they are not safe places to have deeper conversations or to expose our points of view, I noted last year in coffee, communities, and condescension. The difference between an open social network (e.g. Twitter) and a private online community (e.g. Mattermost) is that the latter is often based on mutual trust. While community members may disagree, they respect each other. They are not shaming people in public, as happens frequently on Twitter with its loose social ties.

To make sense of our complex world and its often-veiled media sources, we need both open social networks and more closed communities of practice/interest. Sensemaking is an ongoing process and highly dependent on our human connections. Only collectively can we confront the post-truth machines of the network era.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the tendency of people who know less about a topic to think that they know more. This cognitive bias comes from people’s “inability to recognize their lack of ability”. The counter to this bias is metacognition — the ability to think about our own thinking processes — and is humanity’s secret weapon that too few of us use. Another counter is to connect to other people with diverging experiences and interests. The more diverse our social networks, the more diverse our thinking can be. (more…)


Crooked Broker Capitalists

Dave Pollard (2007) showed that in a ‘crooked broker society’, an Exploiter oppresses a Desperate Supplier. This unbalanced relationship is reinforced by a Procurer who in turn gouges an Addicted Buyer. It’s the underlying nature of unregulated capitalism that drives us toward such a society. For example, Peter Thiel, a platform capitalist, wrote that, “If you want to create and capture lasting value, look to build a monopoly.”

In platform capitalism, workers (labour) are the desperate suppliers, exploited by the platform (e.g. Über, Amazon, Google, AirBNB) once it has a monopoly as the medium of exchange. Various middle-men then become the procurers, gouging not just customers but also public services paid by citizens.

In 1881 Henry Demarest Lloyd wrote that, “When monopolies succeed, the people fail …“, in his piece denouncing the practices of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. In 1967, John Kenneth Galbraith warned of the dangers of blindly having faith in our corporate systems.

“The greater danger is in the subordination of belief to the needs of the modern industrial system … These are that technology is always good; that economic growth is always good; that firms must always expand; that consumption of goods is the principal source of happiness; that idleness is wicked; and that nothing should interfere with the priority we accord to technology, growth, and increased consumption.”


systems thinking and training

Boeing 737 MAX

I read an article in New Republic entitled Crash Course by Maureen Tkacic, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, which describes how “Boeing’s managerial revolution created the 737 MAX disaster” — resulting in plane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

In the now infamous debacle of the Boeing 737 MAX, the company produced a plane outfitted with a half-assed bit of software programmed to override all pilot input and nosedive when a little vane on the side of the fuselage told it the nose was pitching up. The vane was also not terribly reliable, possibly due to assembly line lapses reported by a whistle-blower, and when the plane processed the bad data it received, it promptly dove into the sea.

In the article by Tkacic, all the blame is on Boeing.

The upshot was that Boeing had not only outfitted the MAX with a deadly piece of software; it had also taken the additional step of instructing pilots to respond to an erroneous activation of the software by literally attempting the impossible. MCAS alone had taken twelve minutes to down Lion Air 610; in the Ethiopian crash, the MCAS software, overridden by pilots hitting the cutout switches as per Boeing’s instructions, had cut that time line in half. Lemme had seen a lot of stupidity from his old employer over the years, but he found this whole mess “frankly stunning.”

When I shared this article on Twitter, Jim Hays referred me to another article in the New York Times by William Langewiesche, an experienced pilot and aviation journalist who has written technical reports on the flight characteristics of various airplanes. It is entitled — What really brought down the Boeing 737 Max?

Note: I am only comparing these two articles, not making my own uneducated investigation into this aircraft. (more…)

the right side of history

Why is Greta Thunberg so triggering for certain men?

“Because of what she represents. In an age when democracy is under assault, she hints at the emergence of a new kind of power, a convergence of youth, popular protest and irrefutable science. And for her loudest detractors, she also represents something else: the sight of their impending obsolescence hurtling towards them.”

The future is networked and feminine. Our market-dominated era is waning. A new network-dominated era is emerging. We need leadership that goes beyond capitalist, market-oriented thinking. This is a fundamental shift in our deeply held belief systems. It is going to hurt. Like the Protestant Reformation after the advent of print technology, it will likely be messy. Reactionary forces are already fighting the patriarchal market economy counter-reformation. They may win the battles but will lose the war — because every generation dies. (more…)

range & inefficiency

An innovation system should preserve range and inefficiency, concludes the book Range—Why generalists triumph in a specialized world, by David Epstein. Focusing deep yields efficiencies and incremental innovation. But a broad base of learning and experience can produce radical innovation. Many (most?) of our research and education practices are designed for ‘kind’ environments where the rules and parameters are relatively clear. Playing chess is one example. But the world, and most fields of human endeavour are complex, or ‘wicked’. “In wicked domains, the rules of the game are often unclear or incomplete, there may or may not be repetitive patterns and they may not be obvious, and feedback is often delayed, inaccurate, or both.” When faced with new and complex challenges, we cannot rely on learning from experience, as we have none. (more…)

friday power

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. [some links are to the complete Twitter thread]

“If you never change your mind, why have one?” —Edward de Bono — via @stiggylou

“I’m taking an online data analytics class from the Wharton School of Business. The last module is 4.5 hours of how we can track people. Exactly 0 minutes of that is spent on ethics. Just in case you’re wondering what elite business schools are teaching people.”@kyleejohnson

“If you want to get better at something, you have to stress the system to increase its capacity. You don’t get fit unless you exercise. You don’t become more aware unless you train in meditation or similar. You don’t become better at sensemaking with only soundbites and tweets.”@euvieivanova

Why do so many people assume that primary-care and ER doctors have expertise in epidemiology, public health, and transportation policy? This is like assuming an HVAC guy is an expert in climate change.@PFlax1 (more…)

adding value with teams

In working collaboratively & learning cooperatively I noted that team collaboration requires the transparent sharing of knowledge — using enterprise social networks and other technologies — so that everyone on a team knows what is going on and why. Decisions, and why they were made, are shared. New processes and methods are co-developed to create emergent practices. This method of work has to be supported by management by enabling — innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation between workers. (more…)

system views

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

“The ingenuity of the average worker is sufficient to outwit any system of controls devised by management.” —Douglas McGregor, via @flowchainsensei

Stephen Downes — “If we can be programmed even a little, what does that say about the relation between education, ethics, and propaganda?”

@duncan_stuart“Hong Kong is a good example right now of why citizens should not live in a cashless society. With cold cash comes a degree of freedom.”

@euvieivanova“If you want to get better at something, you have to stress the system to increase its capacity. You don’t get fit unless you exercise. You don’t become more aware unless you train in meditation or similar. You don’t become better at sensemaking with only soundbites and tweets.” (more…)

insights over processes

Process improvement, like Six Sigma, stifles innovation. Process improvement is a tool set, not an overarching or unifying concept for an organization. Process improvement is a means — for certain contexts like manufacturing — and not an end in itself. The fundamental problem with all process improvement methodologies is that you get myopic. The evidence is clear.

“Since Frederick Taylor’s time we’ve considered business – our businesses – vast machines to be improved. Define the perfect set of tasks and then fit the men to the task. Taylor timed workers, measuring their efforts to determine the optimal (in his opinion) amount of work he could expect from a worker in a single day. The idea is that by driving our workers to follow optimal business processes we can ensure that we minimise costs while improving quality. LEAN and Six Sigma are the most visible of Taylor’s grandchildren, representing generations of effort to incrementally chip away at the inefficiencies and problems we kept finding in our organisations.” —Peter Evans Greenwood

“But simply following the steps of a process is no longer a guarantee of success, if it ever was. Business is increasingly complex and interconnected, and it seems unlikely any single system can tame it. The smart enterprise of the future will need a constantly evolving rotation of systems and skills, employed by adaptable and flexible workers. They will be harder to teach in a course, but they may outlast all the fads and fashions that preceded them.” —Whatever Happened to Six Sigma?

“Fifty-eight of the top Fortune 200 companies bought into Six Sigma, attesting to the appeal of eliminating errors. The results of this “experiment” were striking: 91 per cent of the Six Sigma companies failed to keep up with the S&P 500 because Six Sigma got in the way of innovation. It interfered with insights.” —Gary Klein


top tools 2019

Since 2007 Jane Hart has asked working professionals for their top tools for learning — TopTools4Learning — and creates three lists from thousands of responses.

  1. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning
  3. Top 100 Tools for Education

Work is learning, and learning is the work, so here are my  top 10 tools for work & learning. (more…)