our crisis in network leadership

This pandemic has become a crisis in network leadership.

Last June, I wrote — our wake-up call

On 6 June 1944 the First Canadian Army landed at Normandy. It had never been tested in battle as a formation. The complications of drills in England had been replaced by the complexity of war and the chaos of battle. By the end of August, two brigade commanders and five commanding officers had been removed as they were deemed unsuitable.

“[In Normandy] There still remained, however, that proportion of officers who were not fully competent for their appointments, and whose inadequacy appeared in action and sometimes had serious consequences.” —Breakout at Falaise

How many organizational leaders today are in the same situation as those inadequate officers in the Canadian Army — unfit for the post-invasion reality? (more…)

best finds of 2020

Here are some of the best of my fortnightly Friday’s Finds of 2020. Happy New Year 2021!

“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”Maya Angelou

“The first and final thing you have to do in this world is to last it and not be smashed by it.” —Ernest Hemingway

“To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”20 Lessons on Fighting Tyranny (more…)

carol of the masks

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds and these are the last ones for 2020, a year few of us will forget.

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
Henry IV

“A friendly reminder: Your inability to understand science is not an argument against it.”@Konfytbekkie (more…)

sometimes perfection is the enemy of the good

While many of our professions and organizations can deal with some complexity, few are adapted to deal with chaos on a large scale. Chaos — violent political action, climate change, pandemic — requires structures that promote curiosity and resolve. With frequent chaotic events to deal with we have to organize in temporary, negotiated hierarchies that can quickly form and re-form in order to test novel practices. The ability to do this requires diverse thinking, open structures, and trust among those doing the work. So I concluded in our wake-up call in June.

Six months later and what have most Western democracies learned? Not much. In the USA, EU, and Canada, half-measures continuously get added to already complicated and difficult-to-understand protocols. Instead of stopping the ship-of-state and taking it into dry-dock for a refitting to deal with a viral sea, we are haphazardly patching the vessel and missing what is below the water line. (more…)

let’s stop the war of words

A November 2019 article in the British Medical Journal showed how difficult it is to change peoples’ minds, especially with regards to vaccinations. Facts don’t change peoples’ minds.

Lesson 2: don’t bring a fact to a narrative fight

Experts and health professionals can arm themselves with white papers, peer reviewed studies, and symposia; but if these are our only weapons, we will only ever get so far. In an era in which experts are increasingly distrusted, the “we know best” mindset is counterproductive.

Those wishing to encourage vaccination need to identify and amplify the stories that emerge from the real lives and lived experiences of people in their communities (to start, they need to listen for them). It is no coincidence that the most effective climate advocacy in the world right now comes from the improvisations and stories of a 16 year old girl rather than the strategic plans of a generations old institution. —BMJ: New Power versus Old

For example, a mandatory education class in Ontario, Canada — complete with videos and health care professionals to advise — has been useless in getting parents to accept vaccinations for their children. (more…)

a global clown show

In 2007 I was concerned that Facebook was selling personal data. That same year I asked if there could be a public alternative to Facebook. By 2010 I had left the platform.

This year, after our local newspaper closed, I commented that we are now dependent on this global corporation — that uses our data to manipulate us — as our main form of communication. It is as if we live in a company-owned town, and buy all of our goods from the company store, using a party telephone line that the bosses listen in on. This is directly the fault of government, organizational, and community leaders who have either been lazy, ignorant, or perhaps malicious in promoting this control platform to engage others.

I have faulted our common natural stupidity for following along with the costly convenience of using Facebook as the default communications medium. Christopher Wylie, the whistle-blower for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, said that, “The internet is part and parcel of democracy now, whether you like it or not … Do we need rules that we as a society agree on, with independent regulators who are on our side, not on shareholders’ side?” (more…)

the selfish and the selfless

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

“If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.”George Carlin

The Lesson We Should Have Learned From 2020 — But Haven’t by @umairh

What is the thing the East had that the West didn’t — that made all the difference in fighting Covid, much more so than money and resources and so forth? Sociality. Social cohesion. Social bonds. Trust, relationships, ties. An economist might call that “social capital.” You can use that term if you want — I won’t, because, like I said, this lesson goes so, so deep that I want to take pains to really explain, and you can tell me if I succeed.

What the East was able to do was cooperate as societies to fight Covid. And it turned out that you couldn’t beat Covid without cooperation at the largest scale — the social scale. The scale of a city or town or block just wasn’t enough. And it was because it enjoys significantly higher levels of sociality that the East was able to — as we say in the West — “pull together” and beat off Covid.


get out of the office

In one of my first projects as a freelancer 17 years ago, I was brought into an existing client relationship with a hospital network. Our team had been contracted to develop an e-learning program for nursing staff. I was able to negotiate a ‘confirmation of the analysis’, as I had not been involved in the design process. I was given two days to interview staff on various wards. As I was not hospital staff I was accompanied by the senior nurse.

We learned a lot during those visits to the wards, and even had some procedures changed on the spot as the senior nurse became aware of some redundancies. As a result the e-learning program was cancelled and we developed a few performance support tools and some job aids instead. Training was not the solution to this challenge — getting the right information to trained and experienced nurses was. (more…)

trusted spaces

In my PKM workshops we discuss the differences between communities and networks. This includes the dark sides of communities as well as the constant doubt and outrage on social media. My general advice is to seek diverse perspectives in social networks but to seek more private, trusted communities for deeper conversations and understanding.

I use Twitter to show how to seek new ideas and opinions by selecting who to follow to create human knowledge filters. The list feature on Twitter is useful in following specific topics and fields. Following, or muting, certain hashtags can also refine what you find on Twitter.

The best feature of Twitter is that you do not have to follow people who follow you. The relationship is asymmetric, just like blogging. In addition, you can still set your stream of people you follow to “see latest tweets first” so that the Twitter algorithm does not decide for you. Of course you have to constantly switch to latest tweets, as Twitter prefers to feed its algorithm to you. Twitter is not your friend. You don’t have to be on Twitter, but I still find it a useful platform for teaching about online social networks. There are also, for now, third-party applications for Twitter, like Tweetbot. (more…)

get out to the edges

In March [making sense of our digital world] I wrote that my own understanding of the COVID-19 disease started with centres of networked expertise — WHO, CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada. By September [connecting knowledge] I wrote that I see information from the WHO and CDC as lagging indicators, and no longer my first stop to find out what is happening now.

I should have known better and gone back to some of my earlier understanding of sensemaking in complexity and chaos. These formal organizations are hierarchical and bureaucratic. They have institutional blinders. According to Mark Federman, “Organizations are made too complicated in response to complexity.” That complication blurs our vision.

To understand our current situation we need to move to the edge or find others who are there already. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote — “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over; on the edge you find things you can’t see from the center.” On the edges the answers may not be clear, but they are less obscured than in the centre.

People on the edge mostly do not work for the likes of WHO, CDC, or PHAC. (more…)