an agile sensemaking framework

Agile sensemaking could be described as how we make sense of complex challenges by interacting with others and sharing knowledge. More diverse and open knowledge flows enable more rapid sensemaking. I discussed the idea of agile sensemaking in 2018 and later created a sensemaking model (framework). This week on Twitter [yes, it’s still there], Ismael Peña-López shared how the framework resonates for him.

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from platforms to covenants

I wrote in agile sensemaking (2018) that radical innovation only comes from networks with large structural holes which are more diverse. This is why social networks cannot also be work teams, or they become echo chambers. Work teams can focus intensely on incremental innovation, to get better at what they already do. Communities of practice, with both strong and weak social ties, then become a bridge on this network continuum, enabling both individual and interactive creativity.

Connecting work teams, communities of practice/interest, and professional social networks ensures that knowledge flows and that people have the information needed to make well-informed decisions, especially when dealing with complexity and chaos. I have noted before that the world has become so complex and interconnected that the individual disciplines developed during The Enlightenment — like medicine — are no longer adequate to help society in our collective sensemaking, especially during global crises.

Experts in all disciplines have to get out of their silos and connect in multidisciplinary subject matter networks. A lone expert, or even a lone discipline, is obsolete in the network era. Only cooperative networks will help us make sense of the complex challenges facing us — climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics, war, etc. In today’s world, connections trump expertise.

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culture eats sanity for breakfast

Last year I came across a book — All for Nothing — about the collapse of the German Army in Prussia during the Second World War. It is written from the perspective of a young boy and the characters are mostly civilians. My mother, as a young girl, lived through this.

People in the book for the most part cannot comprehend a Soviet invasion or the defeat of the German Army. These are impossible concepts for them. Everyone in the book sees events from their unique, egocentric bubble. But then people start dying randomly and everyone becomes focused on survival. There are some acts of generosity, especially at the end of the book, but for the most part it’s everyone for themselves.

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Whither Twitter?

To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question.

Certainly everyone has heard of the recent private acquisition of Twitter. Many people say they will leave the platform and some have moved to the federated Mastodon system. I have been on Mastodon since 2016 and it’s nice to see a bit more action there —

I joined Twitter on New Year’s Eve 2007. After a year I realized I was writing a lot but it seemed to just go into the void. In 2009, I started my Friday’s Finds as a way curate some of what I found useful on Twitter and other social media sites. Even if I left Twitter today, I would still have over 400 posts of curated content here.

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time for management to grow up

In 2008, while working with a team of 40 people spread across several times zones, I suggested that we need a distributed work manifesto. This would include the requirement for collaborative documents, a group text chat, a focus on delivering content and not formatting for style, and reserving email for decisions and contracts. We are still not there yet and even during this pandemic managerial forces are trying to put distributed workers back into the office. The reality is that most workers want distributed work, most of the time.

“As companies come under pressure to offer higher compensation to staff and to recruit skilled workers, the national average base salary increase for 2023 is projected at 4.2 per cent, according to a recent survey from consulting firm Eckler Ltd.

A recent survey by productivity software company OSlash about the ‘great disconnect’ between bosses and workers found that 60 per cent of employers said they would offer employees a hybrid work schedule if they declined to return to the office.

Only 20 per cent would let employees go back to full time remote working.

Of the 800 work-from-home employees and 200 business leaders surveyed, nearly 80 per cent of remote workers believe their employers would fire them if they said ‘no’ to a return-to-office mandate.

Meanwhile, 78 per cent of employees surveyed said they would be willing to take a pay cut to continue working from home, with Gen Z respondents being the most willing to do so.”
The Star 2022-10-07

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belief perseverance

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.

“… complex systems don’t have to be organized top-down, either in the natural or social world. That we tend to assume otherwise probably tells us more about ourselves than the people or phenomena we’re studying.”
—Graber & Wengrow (2021) The Dawn of Everything, p. 515

“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”Thomas Paine

@ShaunCoffey“Don’t use culture change initiatives. The only person you can change is yourself. Culture emerges from doing new and different things. Do new things … don’t try to impose a new culture.”

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open protocols connect small pieces loosely joined

Sturgeon’s revelation states that 90% of everything is crap, which I aligned with the current state of personal knowledge management (not mastery) where we see many offers for proprietary tools to help us with our sensemaking, whether it be better note-taking or creating an online brain. But in every field there is only so much good stuff and a lot of crap. Sturgeon, a science fiction writer who was asked why so much SF was crap, said it was the same in every field of human production.

I concluded that PKM is bullshit only when it is technology-centric, and not a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world and work more effectively. The bullshit is believing in a technology silver bullet. We constantly see that BS sells.

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“warts and all”

Helen Blunden is the inaugural winner of the ITA Jay Cross Award (2016). Jay had a significant influence on my life and it was sad to say farewell in 2015. Helen’s latest blog post in many ways reflects some of the challenges that Jay faced. He was outside the mainstream. Jay was constantly shifting his business model. He was always looking for ways to be innovative but not a slave to the status quo. Helen has also been transparent and open with the challenges she has faced, doubly so as a woman in business.

“Some time ago, I asked the question Should I Get Off YouTube?

The reason is that after getting off social media, I’m reflecting on every single aspect of my working life and my output that I have shared online since 2011.

With over 500 videos of working and sharing my lessons, experiments, projects, questions out loud to the world, I realised that I had an immense body of work that I put out to the world. Some of which helped me in my working life but in many aspects, putting myself ‘out there’ meant that I was also at a greater risk of failing publicly because showing the ‘warts and all’ is bad for business. To be successful in business is to create illusions.

And so fail I did. I never was a good illusionist.

Instead I wanted to build a model that wasn’t following what others were doing. In some way, I wanted to lead something new and different – something inspirational.

In particular, I baulked at the idea of having to build myself into a ‘thought leader or entrepreneur’ and then base a consulting business where I had to rely on being at the whim of platform algorithms; to build a business around my expertise, which then I could extract huge amounts of money from subscribers or corporate customers.

That business model never sat well with me as I espoused continual and lifelong learning NOT as a ‘thought leader’ of lifelong learning.

There was always a contradiction that never sat well with me because I was always learning.” —Helen Blunden 2022-10-22

As Hugh McLeod so articulately captured, there are challenges to being either a sheep or a wolf. Helen is a wolf.

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normal is the bias

Almost a decade ago Harvard Business Review featured Scott Berkun’s article on how Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, was able to function as a 100% distributed company.

Culture is critical. Automattic has many policies designed to empower employees and remote work is just one of them. They believe individual workers know best how to be productive and that management’s job is to provide choices and get out of the way. If employees are self-motivated and empowered, remote work can accelerate productivity. However in autocratic or bureaucratic organizations the freedom of remote work runs against the culture. Of course remote workers will be less productive if they’re in environments that depend on centralized, rule-oriented, or committee heavy processes. But even then it can work if managers care more about results than pretense.” —HBR 2013-03-15

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countering the populist narrative

Being a knowledge catalyst means taking the time to add value to your knowledge. One way is to simplify what you know. Make your work human understandable. Speak in non-geek terms. If experts do not do this they will become surrounded by less informed people over time. This has become evident over the course of the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, now in its third year. We seem to be collectively getting more stupid. People are voting for bombastic populists and supporting policies that make all of us poorer or less free to pursue our goals.

One way out of this mess is to make our social networks, and our society, smarter. Leadership today is helping our networks make better decisions.

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