best finds of 2018

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds. Here are the best finds of 2018.

Wise Words

“Susan Sontag was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10% of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10% is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80% could be moved in either direction” —Kurt Vonnegut, via @holdengraber

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Victor E. Frankl, via @euan

“As the preliterate confronts the literate in the postliterate arena, as new information patterns inundate and uproot the old, mental breakdowns of varying degrees – including the collective nervous breakdowns of whole societies unable to resolve their crises of identity – will become very common.”Marshall McLuhan (1969)

@StuartMcMillan“The only thing you need to feel extremely smart is a lack of curiosity. The perpetually curious will always think they’re dumb.

@mmay3r“The internet doesn’t fracture truth, it reveals the many competing truths that always existed but were flattened by centralized broadcast technology.”

@lukewsavage“Billionaires like Bezos and Musk are obsessed with space travel because it helps them maintain the illusion that they’re technological prometheans at the vanguard of civilizational progress, rather than greedy plutocrats who happen to own expensive bits of paper.”

@MazzucatoM“David Ricardo was in 1821 talking about effect of mechanization on jobs and wages. But as long as profits were reinvested in the economy, new jobs appeared. That stopped with maximisation of shareholder value. Blame financialization & bad governance, not robots!” (more…)

perpetual beta 2018

The great thing about a blog is that it gives a view of my thinking and how it has progressed or changed over time. This year marked 15 years of freelancing and one new initiative was the perpetual beta coffee club — a community of professionals focused on work & learning in the network era — which now numbers over 50 members. A community is not a network and I am seeing more demand for safe community spaces online. Our community of practice has become a place to share ideas and have deeper conversations in a trusted space with an international group of professionals.

Speaking of changing practices, I decided to get rid of Google Analytics on this site because I did not want to be part of the growing surveillance economy. I also stopped using Google’s Feedburner service for email subscriptions. As a result I lost over 500 subscribers. Later I found the IceGram service, which does not track subscribers. You can sign up on my Contact Page. This year it also became obvious that vanity metrics — views, likes, retweets, etc. — are of little business value, so it’s best to just ignore them. I am. (more…)

work in 2018

When we look at the future of work, the loss of current jobs, and the effects of automation, we should use a compass to guide us, not a list of what the skills of the future may look like. That compass is self-determination theory which states that there are three universal human drivers — autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We need some control over our lives, we want to be good at something, and we want to feel that we belong with other people. These three drivers are what make us do what we do. Skills are just one aspect of being engaged at work. Even highly competent skilled workers can be disengaged or aimless. (more…)

democracy and equality

Will technology empower or frustrate learning and will established powers control individuals or will something new emerge? These were the questions asked during the The Edinburgh Scenarios in 2004. The resulting scenarios were as follows.

Web of Confidence: Technology advances, power shifts to emergent players.
U Choose: Technology frustrates, power shifts to emergent players.
Virtually Vanilla: Technology advances, power retained by established players.
Back to the Future: Technology frustrates, power retained by established players.

A similar question is being asked by the European Union in looking at the future of government. Four scenarios have been put forth.

DIY Democracy: the societal gap increased drastically, governments are not able to provide proper public services and citizens have to look after themselves.
Private Algocracy: the power over data, data analytics and decision making are fully moved to multi-national data companies who is taking over the regulation.
Super Collaborative Government: all the promises of open governance, digital government and public sector innovation come true.
Over-Regulatocracy: the government is engaged for the wellbeing of individuals and economy but processes became so complicated that even public benefits are hard to claim for.

In both cases it is a question whether digital networks will empower people or only those who hold power. These kinds of questions can help us map a way forward. I hope the EU initiative has more impact than the Edinburgh Scenarios did. These exercises may make us feel empowered, but the test will be if those currently in power take action. I think states will continue to try to take control, such as requiring back doors in all crypto-technologies. Large platform companies will continue to harvest data on a global scale and become too-big-to-fail. However, these scenarios might give some impetus to citizens to put pressure on governments and corporations to push for  democracy 2.0. Here is my mash-up of these two initiatives. (more…)

our echo-chambers can kill us

Cultural Echo-chambers

Innovation is about making connections — connecting people and connecting ideas. The broader and deeper the connections, the more potential for serendipity. This is why systemic factors like gender or racial bias put organizations and societies at a disadvantage. They lose diversity and they become less innovative. History has shown us this, such as the chase for the atomic bomb during the Second World War. The Germans refused to engage Jewish scientists, some of whom then worked for the eventually successful US Manhattan Project.  Looking further back in time, when Tasmania was cut off from the rest of the Australian continent 10,000 years ago, Tasmanian society began to lose much of its collective knowledge.

“If your number of minds working on the problem gets small enough, you can actually begin to lose information. There’s a steady state level of information that depends on the size of your population and the interconnectedness. It also depends on the innovativeness of your individuals, but that has a relatively small effect compared to the effect of being well interconnected and having a large population.” –How Culture Drove Human Evolution

As Esko Kilpi states, “Unlike mechanical systems, human systems thrive on variety and diversity.”

Our echo-chambers can kill us. (more…)

saving democracy

Why do younger people generally think it is less essential to live in a democracy? Perhaps it’s because the times are changing. The first democracies (USA, France, and gradually the UK) emerged about 300 years after the invention of the printing press. A free press was a cornerstone of American democracy. All of these are representative democracies, electing people to go to a central location and represent a constituency. Maybe they are no longer suitable for a network era society.

For instance, in 2015 I was involved in a project to inform Canada’s Department of Justice — Identifying & Responding to Issues in Canada. One issue we identified was that trust in democracy was decreasing.

“Respondents also note a growing democratic deficit which has contributed to recent cynicism and societal distrust. This further challenges fundamental social-trust contracts. For instance, with the 2008 financial crisis, people lost trust, the psychology of the masses changed, traditional authority figures and institutions were challenged and there was a demise of authority. This is linked to a lack of support and credibility for existing models for resolution and decision-making. This is seen as contestation / dissatisfaction with local, national and international notions of community, the lack of public support for conflict resolution mechanism that do not allow for public input or develop avenues for community engagement and bridging mechanisms for social divisions.”


wicked problems

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

@StuartMcMillan: “The only thing you need to feel extremely smart is a lack of curiosity. The perpetually curious will always think they’re dumb.

“Every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the artist to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” —Walter Brueggemann, via @CurtisOgden

@SimonTerry: “A Twitter thread is a perfect vehicle for conspiracy theories: Bite-sized information; social validation; sources people rarely check; pace & format that allows skipping details, critique or connections; & degree of difficulty to read that makes reflection & criticism a challenge.”


staying afloat

How do we make sense in a world of fake news, social media, and fascist thinking, in what is often described as a post-truth society? We have to make sense collectively. No single person can do it alone. The objective of the personal knowledge mastery framework (PKM) is to help professionals become knowledge catalysts.

“A professional is anyone who does work that cannot be standardized easily and who continuously welcomes challenges at the cutting edge of his or her expertise.” —David Williamson Shaffer

PKM is staying afloat in a sea of information buoyed by knowledge networks and guided by communities of practice. In this emerging networked society we need to collectively buy time and make sure that everyone can swim.

Getting started takes a bit of effort but mostly some focus. Let’s say that you have three areas in which you would like to be better informed — regional politics, climate change, and artificial intelligence. The latter is of interest because you think your professional development may be affected by AI. (more…)

“the number one critical skill set”

“Imagine you’re trying to fix a problem, dealing with a crisis, or even just replying to someone, responding to a query, thinking about a possible solution. Most people deal with the issue at hand. That’s great already!

But if your KM meta reflex kicks in, all of a sudden you see another arc:

Hold on a minute! Is this a one-off? Or something likely to happen again? What can I do here and now that will not only help in the moment, but save time for me, and possibly others, in the future?

THAT is the meta reflex that gives you an edge. And it’s personal knowledge mastery at work. It is to knowledge management what meditation is to life. It’s the open secret that helps you avoid the hole in the road. Repeatedly.” —Ewen Le Borgne

Imagine spending less time looking for files and reference documents. How would a diverse international community of fellow professionals help you with your current work or to find new work? What would you do with a network you could call on to get trusted advice? What if everyone you worked with had a similar network? Innovation is not so much about having new ideas as it is about making connections. The more connections you have, the greater the chances for new ideas. More and more of our work is focused on generating ideas, rather than producing replicable results. Machines produce stuff, people produce ideas. (more…)

symptoms, causes, & idiots

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

@white_owly“Symptoms love dressing up as causes. And causes love hiding behind them.”

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Victor E. Frankl, via @euan

The Digital Maginot Line by @noUpside

“In a warm information war, the human mind is the territory. If you aren’t a combatant, you are the territory. And once a combatant wins over a sufficient number of minds, they have the power to influence culture and society, policy and politics … What made democracies strong in the past — a strong commitment to free speech and the free exchange of ideas — makes them profoundly vulnerable in the era of democratized propaganda and rampant misinformation … The solution to this problem requires collective responsibility among military, intelligence, law enforcement, researchers, educators, and platforms. Creating a new and functional defensive framework requires cooperation.”