our machines are tools and not our friends

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
—Walt Whitman (1855)

For over a decade, social media have helped me explore different aspects of my learning and my profession, much more than I could have on my own or in my community. I often feel more affinity for some of my online connections than for my local neighbours. Living with contradictions can help develop critical thinking. Social media have enabled more of us to live like artists, constantly redefining ourselves and our work. Despite what is happening at Twitter, other options for connecting online are emerging, such as the open covenant ‘fediverse’ and Mastodon.

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how ideas become ideology

Several times I have referred to this observation about how ideas connect to ideology.

“Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest — that’s when things really get set in concrete.”—Charles Green (2009)

Here are some examples of these shifts.

Ideas lead technology

Hedy Lamarr invented spread spectrum technology in 1941 but its value as a technology accelerated half a century later as it would, “galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible.”

Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, ushered in the idea of the learning organization but it was only recently that organizations had the Web 2.0 technologies to enable distributed team learning or share systems-thinking across the enterprise.

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reflecting on a decade past

Looking back on my blog posts from 10 years ago — March 2013 — here are some that remain valid [in my opinion anyway].

perpetual beta is the new reality

Work in networks requires different skills than in directed hierarchies. Cooperation is a foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks, and it’s in networks where most of us will be working. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate so that people in the network cannot be told what to do, only influenced. If they don’t like you, they won’t connect. In a hierarchy you only have to please your boss. In a network you have to be seen as having some value, though not the same value, by many others.

we need to learn how to connect

Increasing connections should be a primary business focus. It should also be the aim of HR and learning & development departments. Connections increase as people cooperate in networks (not focused on any direct benefits for helping others). Diverse networks can emerge from cooperation that is supported by transparency and openness in getting work done. Basically, better external connections also make a worker more valuable internally. Fostering this perspective will be a huge change from the way many organizations work today.

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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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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 — https://mastodon.social/@harold

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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one personbyte is not enough

Nick Milton refers to an interesting knowledge management concept — “‘personbyte’ – the amount of knowledge one person can reasonably learn in a lifetime. In the craftsman economy of 100 years ago, a personbyte was enough knowledge to create an impressive artefact — a steamboat, a canal, or a suspension bridge. Nowadays one personbyte is nowhere near enough to create modern products, or deliver modern services.”

So why do we have individual performance appraisals?

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the coherent organization

Several years ago, the team at Innovisor asked — Why Do Organizations Led by Women Perform Better?

The new study puzzled Innovisor. Why do organizations led by women perform better?

Since we already established that the women on an individual level were not collaborating more than men, we decided to look somewhere else in our data.
Also because Innovisor had previously established that there was a correlation between organizational coherence and performance.

We decided to look into if organizations led by women were more coherent.

And they were! —Innovisor 2018-07-18

I have noticed similar other indicators, such as the observation that we collectively understand that what are considered ‘feminine’ traits are what leaders need today, as shown in this 2013 Inc. magazine study.

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an understanding of my confusion

Not only is there a lot of junk online — Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap — but there are active measures against our democracies to promote propaganda and disinformation. It’s not just the Russian troll factories either, but organizations like those funded by the Koch brothers in the USA.

• Hillsdale [College] is a conservative Christian institution with ties to the Trump administration. And the scholars behind the academy — Scott Atlas, Jay Bhattacharya, and Martin Kulldorff — are connected to right-wing dark money attacking public health measures.

• in March 2021, the dark money fund DonorsTrust spent nearly $800,000 to spread the narrative that the pandemic’s toll was actually due to government interventions

• In June, Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank at George Mason University heavily funded by the Koch network, began funding a database run by Emily Oster, an economist who has argued that the drawbacks of school closures outweigh the risks of COVID-19 exposure.

• the Foundation for Economic Education, another Koch-funded nonprofit, claimed that “naive government interventions” were responsible for a rise in global malaria cases and a spike in worldwide poverty.

Such anti-public health intervention narratives have had a lasting impact.

How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On COVID

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entangled thinking

About 500 years ago a new communications technology came along and changed the face of Europe — print. The Protestant Reformation saw the rise of religious wars, which were later followed by the scientific revolution and The Enlightenment. An age of exploration followed, which brought not just gold and silver to the coffers of Europe, but new foods such as potatoes from the Americas, to fuel the Industrial Revolution. These new foods increased the population and in turn brought about the demise of the Indigenous people of the Americas.

Did print help to enable democracy, and is that why the founders of the USA put freedom of the press into their Constitution? If print enabled democracy, will the emerging digital (electric) medium destroy it? Yuval Noah Harari thinks this may be the case, “The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century — the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place — may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century.” 

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