innovation in complexity and chaos

In 2019 I summarized my observations about innovation in — What is innovation? I concluded that while innovation may be 15 things to 15 different people, I still found nine general guidelines.

  1. The connection between innovation and learning is evident and we cannot be innovative unless we integrate learning into our work.
  2. Radical innovation only comes from networks with large structural holes, which are more diverse. This is why our social networks cannot also be our work teams, or they become echo chambers.
  3. In our work teams we can focus on incremental innovation, to get better at what we already do.
  4. Communities of practice then become bridges on the continuum between knowledge networks and work teams.
  5. Innovation is all about connections. At a certain point, not enough connections may even destroy the innovations we have made.
  6. Innovation is not a process. It’s more of an attitude focused on curiosity, learning, and experimentation.
  7. A focus on processes and error reduction — such as Six Sigma — actually gets in the way of innovation.
  8. Innovation is like democracy, it needs people to be free within the system in order to work.
  9. Creative work is not routine work done faster. It’s a whole different way of work, and a critical part is letting the brain do what it does best — come up with ideas. Without time for reflection, most of those innovative ideas will get buried in the detritus of modern workplace busyness.


nineteen years of blogging

“A knowledge worker is someone who’s job is having really interesting conversations at work.” —Rick Levine (1999) The Cluetrain Manifesto [and that’s what blogging lets you do, from anywhere]

Today marks my 19th anniversary of blogging here. This post is #3,566. I note that on my 5th anniversary I mentioned that I had started ‘micro-blogging’ on Twitter. Fast forward to November 2022 and I asked in whither Twitter if it will survive its new owner and CEO. I am still on Twitter though having more and often better conversations on Mastodon. The train wreck that Twitter has become reinforces the value of this blog and the open covenants on which it is based. (more…)

hierarchies, experts, and dogma

Dogmaprescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group — a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.

In 2021, research concluded that medical orthodoxy, such as ‘droplet dogmatism’, blocked the acceptance that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was mainly transmitted through the air, in spite of knowledge from fields outside infectious disease.

Three fields—political, state (policy and regulatory), and scientific—were particularly relevant to our analysis. Political and policy actors at international, national, and regional level aligned—predominantly though not invariably—with medical scientific orthodoxy which promoted the droplet theory of transmission and considered aerosol transmission unproven or of doubtful relevance. This dominant scientific sub-field centred around the clinical discipline of infectious disease control, in which leading actors were hospital clinicians aligned with the evidence-based medicine movement. Aerosol scientists—typically, chemists, and engineers—representing the heterodoxy were systematically excluded from key decision-making networks and committees. Dominant discourses defined these scientists’ ideas and methodologies as weak, their empirical findings as untrustworthy or insignificant, and their contributions to debate as unhelpful.
The hegemonic grip of medical infection control discourse remains strong. Exit from the pandemic depends on science and policy finding a way to renegotiate what Bourdieu called the ‘rules of the scientific game’—what counts as evidence, quality, and rigour. —Orthodoxy, illusio, and playing the scientific game


Kieran Egan 1942-2022

I found out the other day that another person who has inspired my work has passed away. Kieran Egan’s book, The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding greatly influenced my thinking on public education. I have curated some of his work that has been shared on this blog over the past two decades. It remains pertinent to this day.

Egan said that Western education is based on three incompatible ideas:

  1. Education as Socialization (age cohorts, class groupings, team sports)
  2. Education as learning about Truth & Reality, based on Plato (varied subjects, academic material, connection to culture)
  3. Education as discovery of our nature, based on Rousseau (personal sense-making, teacher as facilitator)

One of these ideas may be dominant at any given time but no education system can foster all three at once. Therefore we keep trying to re-balance something that can never be balanced. It’s a constantly shifting three-legged stool. In addition, each one by itself is inadequate in a modern society, wrote Egan.

Socialization to generally agreed norms and values that we have inherited is no longer straightforwardly viable in modern multicultural societies undergoing rapid technology-driven changes. The Platonic program comes with ideas about reaching a transcendent truth or privileged knowledge that is no longer credible. The conception of individual development we have inherited is based on a belief in some culture-neutral process that is no longer sustainable.


Farewell Roger Schank

“Learning by doing is really how we learn: Teaching others to do this is the next step in the education revolution.”Roger Schank

I found out yesterday from Socratic Arts that its founder, Roger Schank has died. Roger’s work has been an inspiration for my own over the past two decades. Roger’s work on story-centered curricula was helpful as our children were going through school.

These are story-centered curricula. Students work in teams in virtual apprenticeships with experts producing deliverables that get increasingly complex throughout the year. No classes. No tests. One curriculum per year — complete four of them and you graduate. Ideally there would be hundreds of curricula to choose from but we have to start somewhere so I chose those four.

When I talk to people who might be interested in radical education reform I always ask what curricula their communities might need so we can think about how to produce those as well. The idea that every high school should be more or less the same offering of the same potpourri of algebra, American history, and Charles Dickens is just absurd, so I ask what they need in their world. —Roger Schank 2006

Our son was so impressed with the Student’s Bill of Rights — from Roger’s book Engines for Education — that he took it to school and showed his teacher. She was not impressed! (more…)

markets for behavioral surplus

On the last Friday of each month I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“It’s very funny to me that the dominant Twentieth Century conception of AI was a slightly awkward nerd with an inhuman mastery of facts and logic, when what we actually got is smooth-talking bullshit artists who can’t do eighth-grade math.”Adi Robertson

“ChatGPT gets treated like technological magic, but that ignores the humans behind the curtain that make it function. OpenAI paid Sama to hire Kenyan workers at $1.32 to $2 an hour to review ‘child sexual abuse, bestiality, murder, suicide, torture, self harm, and incest’ content. Their work made the tool less toxic, but left them mentally scarred. The company ended the contract when they found out TIME was digging into their practices”. Paris Marx

“There is no such thing as a ‘job creator’. There are employers, who hire employees, *because they need them*. And then employers pay the employees less than the value they generate. That’s the system. How did we get to the point at which people behave as if the wealthy are giving a gift to working people? I realize it’s not a new attitude, but it remains proudly f’d up.” Mark Sumner


auto-tuning work

Are we moving into a post-job economy? Can the concept of the job continue to be the primary way that people work? Building ways to constantly change roles can be one way to get rid of the standardized job, which has decreasing usefulness in a creative, networked AI-assisted economy. We should be preempting automation by identifying what routine work should be automated as quickly as possible, so that people can focus on what machines cannot do — being curious, creative, empathetic, passionate, and humourous.

One area of dwindling jobs is at the entry level. This creates a challenge for career development. It is difficult to start as a highly skilled worker, especially since our academic institutions focus on knowledge acquisition and provide very little skill development. Standardized curricula are useless in developing those skills listed above that machines cannot do. Standardization is the enemy of creativity. (more…)

it’s not not about the technology

Writing my essays at university was always a painful process. We were still allowed to write them, though more professors were requiring essays to be submitted typed. My essays were never good because I often left them to the last minute and hand-writing a better version was just too much time and effort. As much as I loved reading and new ideas, I was not a good writer.

A decade later I went to graduate school and word processors were widely available. I still could not type but at least I could peck away at several versions of an essay before submitting it. My writing got a bit better. David Weinberger recounts the impact of the word processor on his writing. (more…)

fixing a plane in flight

The following opinion article was published this weekend in local newspapers — Telegraph JournalTimes & Transcript, & Daily Gleaner.

Education changes: ‘like fixing a plane in mid-flight’

By Harold Jarche

Politicians constantly tinker with our public education system because it is designed without a solid foundation, just a series of cobbled-together initiatives based on whatever was in vogue at the time.

I participated in my first protest at the legislature in 2008 when the government of the day cancelled the early immersion program. Gaining a second language is one of the few useful skills that students can develop and keep long after they have memorized and forgotten useless data for most academic subjects. I did not want to lose this potential for our children.

If you do not speak more than one language it is difficult to understand the richness of thought that bilingualism brings. It is not another subject area of expertise. It is a different way of understanding the world.

The current provincial government is making a sweeping change to French immersion in the English language school system, replacing it with what amounts to French taught as just another subject. (more…)