education does not destroy creativity

There is a certain irony that the most popular TED Talk — Do schools kill creativity? — is seriously questioned in a TEDx talk over a decade later. Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity has had over 55 million views. Basically he says that our schools suck the creativity out of children.

“Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” —Ken Robinson

With only 2,000 views to date, Elisabeth McClure, a researcher with the LEGO foundation, presents a case that counters Robinson’s views on creativity — Are children really more creative than adults? McClure starts by stating there is no evidence that the cited Land & Jarman study on creativity was published and may never have happened. NASA has no record of it. (more…)

“normal is the bias”

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

“The secret of the demagogue is to appear as dumb as his audience so that these people can believe themselves as smart as he is.” —Karl Kraus, via @TrutherBotPop

We analyzed 16,625 papers to figure out where AI is headed next

“Every decade, in other words, has essentially seen the reign of a different technique: neural networks in the late ’50s and ’60s, various symbolic approaches in the ’70s, knowledge-based systems in the ’80s, Bayesian networks in the ’90s, support vector machines in the ’00s, and neural networks again in the ’10s.

The 2020s should be no different, says [Prof. Pedro] Domingos, meaning the era of deep learning may soon come to an end. But characteristically, the research community has competing ideas about what will come next—whether an older technique will regain favor or whether the field will create an entirely new paradigm.”


“taking responsibility for our own work and learning”

“To a great extent PKM [personal knowledge management] is about shifting responsibility for learning and knowledge sharing from a company to individuals and this is the greatest challenge for both sides. Companies should recognise that their employees are not ‘human resources’, but investors who bring their expertise into a company. As any investors they want to participate in decision-making and can easily withdraw if their ‘return on investment’ is not compelling. Creativity, learning or desire to help others cannot be controlled, so knowledge workers need to be intrinsically motivated to deliver quality results. In this case ‘command and control’ management methods are not likely to work.

Taking responsibility for own work and learning is a challenge for knowledge workers as well. Taking these responsibilities requires attitude shift and initiative, as well as developing personal KM knowledge and skills. In a sense personal KM is very entrepreneurial, there are more rewards and more risks in taking responsibility for developing own expertise.” —Lilia Efimova (2004)

Lilia’s writing about personal knowledge mastery was my inspiration to create a framework for sensemaking in this digitally networked world. I was looking for a way to connect and build my knowledge networks. The personal knowledge mastery concept led me to test out and develop ways to inform my own practice. I saw my blog as a platform to make implicit knowledge (e.g. not codified or structured) more explicit, through the process of regularly writing out my thoughts and observations.

Lilia’s 2010 post on teams, communities, and networks inspired my many versions of the perpetual beta model. (more…)

losing by winning

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

@csessums‘Metrics are great; however, don’t forget the law(s) – Goodhart’s Law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure,” & Campbell’s Law: The more a metric is used, the more likely it is to “corrupt the process it is intended to monitor.”’

The death of consensus, not the death of truth via @willrich45

“We are living in a time of tremendous social change and contention. Within the West, power is being negotiated around issues of climate change, migration, race and ethnicity, and gender and gender identity, amongst many other issues. At a geopolitical level, traditional alliances are beginning to realign and change in unexpected ways, and we should expect the EU and China’s visions of the internet in particular to have a stronger hold on global discourse about internet governance. It’s not enough to adapt for a digital environment; we have to understand the politics and societal dynamics behind these changes …

The question I leave for you today is this: What are the new institutions of journalism, and how are they adapting for the actual dynamics of the networked world, where communities of affiliation are not simply separating into echo chambers but actively acting in contention with each other? How will we in journalism operate in an environment of dissensus? What can we do to shape our media environments of today?”


filter failure is a human failure

There was an explosion on social media over an incident between school boys, on an official school trip to demonstrate in Washington DC, shown in a video vocally berating a Native American elder. Here is one of the latest articles about it, showing additional video — don’t doubt what you saw with your eyes. Mainstream media, like our own Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, are trying to establish a very difficult-to-find middle ground. I have opinions on what I have seen and read but I am not ready to share these in public. I am talking about them in private with some trusted friends and colleagues. I will share if and and when it is appropriate.

“It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure”, wrote Clay Shirky a decade ago. As the online space of social media gets more polluted and manipulated by trolls, bots, and hidden agendas, then filters become critical. Sensemaking cannot be done alone. Every thinking person has to find ways to understand issues of importance. If professional journalists can be co-opted by bots, what about the rest of us?

“Using bots to seed a divisive meme is akin to lightly blowing on an ember to start a fire. In a healthy society, that ember quickly burns out, starved for fuel. In a society in transition, the landscape is littered with desiccated institutions and ideas, ready to ignite.” —John Robb


learning in complexity and chaos

Most of our current work structures are designed to address complicated situations, such as constructing a building, launching a campaign, or designing a piece of equipment. But more of our challenges are complex and cannot be solved in a standard way —  inequality, refugees, populism, racism. Whenever people are involved, within a global context of climate change, the situation is likely complex. In complex situations there is less reliance on detailed plans and analysis and a greater emphasis on continuous experimentation coupled with good observation and tracking. We have to learn constantly in complexity.

Complexity & Chaos

According to the Cynefin framework we should Probe > Sense > Respond when dealing with complexity, as opposed to Analyze > Sense > Respond when the situation is complicated. Mechanical systems are complicated, but human systems are complex. It means that we cannot over-plan, though planning itself prepares us to deal with what emerges as we probe complex situations and environments. In complicated conditions we can rely on established good practices, but in complex ones we need to continuously develop our own emergent practices.

In Chaos: A User’s Guide, Bruno Marion concludes that the world today is not just complex, but even chaotic.

“Never in the history of humanity has a single human being had so much power. Never in the history of humanity have YOU had so much power!

Optimistic or pessimistic, it is like being a spectator of a film of which we seem to know the ending, whether happy or unhappy. Today one must cease to be a passive spectator but an actor in this fast-changing world.”


gaining insight at work

With increasing complexity in most aspects of a network society, the way that we support organizational learning must change. With low levels of complexity, knowledge can be codified into documentation and distributed throughout the organization. Best practices can be determined and then people can be trained to perform these methods at work. Basic aircraft flight operations can be taught in this way. But complex problems require implicit knowledge that cannot be put into a manual. This type of knowledge is nuanced and dependent on the context and situation. For example, negotiating the creation of the United Nations required many conversations and involved a myriad of social connections. It required social learning, which is how we gain insights, by connecting with others and learning while we work.

Social learning is the process by which groups of people cooperate to learn with and from each other. The network era is creating a historic reversal of education, as discourse replaces institutions, and social learning in knowledge networks obsolesces many aspects of organizational training. It is as if Socrates has come back to put Plato’s academy in its place, but this time the public agora is global. (more…)

in the beginning was the word

A fairly lengthy article in The New HumanistAre we city dwellers or hunter-gatherers? — questions the accepted wisdom that it was agriculture that domesticated hunter-gatherer societies and as a result imposed hierarchies and created societal inequalities. The authors cite many discoveries of hunter-gatherer societies that managed to organize on a massive scale and create large complicated structures.

“Still more astonishing are the stone temples of Göbekli Tepe, excavated over 20 years ago on the Turkish-Syrian border, and still the subject of vociferous scientific debate. Dating to around 11,000 years ago, the very end of the last Ice Age, they comprise at least 20 megalithic enclosures raised high above the now barren flanks of the Harran Plain. Each was made up of limestone pillars over 5m in height and weighing up to a ton (respectable by Stonehenge standards, and some 6,000 years before it). Almost every pillar at Göbekli Tepe is a remarkable work of art, with relief carvings of menacing animals projecting from the surface, their male genitalia fiercely displayed. Sculpted raptors appear in combination with images of severed human heads. “

These required some form of institutions and command & control to coordinate work. But these works were mostly done on a seasonal basis with large groups of people getting together for a period of time and then going back to egalitarian tribal ways. This trend was also in evidence in North America and the Arctic. People were willing to get together and give up control in order to hunt or create something larger than themselves. There is also evidence that a selected few of these people were revered and their deaths celebrated to show their wealth and influence. (more…)

What is happening to our intellectual world?

Literacy — the written word — empowers our “harsh desire to last”. It enables our words to extend beyond our lifetimes. Western literacy is basically a tool to escape death. But the new electric media will likely inform and change literacy. George Steiner notes in a 2002 lecture that all our electric devices are based on Victorian era Boolean logic. We harbour the illusion that our current type of literacy is the result of some inevitable and logical progression, but it only reflects one narrow perspective of human understanding. For example, mathematics is a universal language. Mathematicians who speak different languages can still collaborate on problems through mathematics. Part of the future of literacy may be numeracy.

Steiner likens grammar to the musical scale. How can we make music without knowledge of notes and scales? How can we write for understanding without mastery of grammar? Like mathematics, music is a universal language. (more…)

first 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.

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
—Kurt Vonnegut, via @ShaunCoffey

@robpatrob“In Athens, democracy degenerated into populism, leading to the war with Sparta and defeat. Maybe there is a cycle?”

@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