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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

connected curiosity

Some people seem to be naturally curious. Others work at it, while some just lack interest in learning. You can notice this when traveling. Some people can describe many aspects of their local vicinity while others don’t know anything about why certain features exist. They say that the most interesting people are those who are interested in others.

The primary work skills of the previous century, what I call ‘Labour’, can be summed up as: compliance, diligence, and intelligence. These skills were needed for routine work and standardized jobs. But the new skills required to live in a world dominated by networks and non-routine work requires ‘Talent’: curiosity, creativity, and empathy. The core skill is curiosity. Curiosity about ideas can improve creativity. Curiosity about people can improve empathy, through understanding others. We cannot be empathetic for others unless we are first curious about them. We cannot be creative unless we are first curious to learn new ideas.

network-shift

We see a lot of discussion about digital skills and future of work skills, but the basic skill required to navigate the network era is curiosity. It should be nurtured and supported in our schools, but often is not. Standardized curriculum dulls curiosity. Standardized work reduces creativity. Standardized communities have little empathy for those who are different. If we want to change the world, be curious. If we want to make the world a better place, promote curiosity in all aspects of learning and work.

curiosity

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Friday, August 12, 2016

GE's digital transformation


"If we don't grab this next wave of the information age we're not going to be able to generate the kind of productivity that is required to be competitive."—Jeff Immelt, Chairman & CEO of GE

This conversation took place at Next:Economy 2015.

The interview touches on many of the topics we'll tackle at this year's Next:Economy Summit. Join us on October 10–11, 2016, as we lay the groundwork for the society we want to build.



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Experts, Zen masters (& David Brent)

What is an 'expert'? In my work facilitating knowledge transfer I have come across individuals who have widely varying degrees of expertise. Some are very aware of their unique know-how, others less so.
Low competency/ Low consciousness:
There are two categories here; firstly those who are blissfully unaware that they lack any expertise. A baby would be an example. Secondly, there are those who profess to be expert, but are actually incompetent and unaware of their incompetence. Rather than reach for an obvious example from US politics, I propose David Brent, from The Office. This phenomenon is called the Dunning Kruger effect named after the Cornell University professors who published the seminal research paper entitled 'Unskilled and Unaware of it'. This is why validation and looking for evidence is such an important part of the knowledge transfer process. Incidentally, did you know that 62% of all software engineers rate themselves in the top 5% of their profession?
The trouble with the world
is that the stupid are cocksure
and the intelligent are full of doubt.
— Bertrand Russell
Low Competency / High Consciousness
Novices are obvious examples of individuals who are aware of their inexperience. One interesting observation about those who claim to have low competency, is that sometimes it just takes a skilled interviewer to reveal a latent talent. One group that often benefit from this help are job-changers, unsure of their place. It can also be hugely motivating for them.
High Competency / High Consciousness
This group is the most obvious to classify as 'expert'. They can easily tell you what's right (or wrong) and why, and can provide lots of evidence. They are usually confident in their ability and will sometimes claim that expertise is in some way unique. This is worth testing in the knowledge transfer process - is it 'commodity' know-how? Is it easily codified (it may not be 'captured' in order to create an impression of uniqueness and inaccessibility). In my knowledge elicitation process, I use a mining metaphor. These experts are good at providing ore (superficial knowledge) but find it difficult to come up with gems (detailed knowledge that has context which makes it accessible to others). Their preferred communication style is to 'tell'. 
High Competency / Low Consciousness
The Zen masters. These individuals have deep, experience gained through years of practice. Ironically, this most valuable expertise is the hardest to pass on. Next time you are out on a golf course with a player who is far better than you, try this... as they tee-up ask them to explain how they play their perfect shot. Either they can't explain it, or their next shot will go into the rough. Like pro basketball players who instinctively know where every other player is, they can't explain their mastery, they just do it. This is why knowledge transfer for these deep experts benefits from skilled facilitation. The best environment to elicit this sort of know how is a Socratic questioning approach or dialogue; quite different to the 'tell' approach of the 'expert'.



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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

How to approach "solving" problems

A couple blogs I read mentioned the same Russell Ackoff way of looking at problems and how they are typically solved. This apocryphal story from James Lather gets us going: 4 Ways to Solve a Problem

A man you know is hungry.  There are 4 ways you could solve his problem:

  1. Slap him about a bit. This will take his mind of it.  Hunger gone, problem solved. 
  2. Give him a fish to eat.  Hunger gone, problem solved. 
  3. Give him a fishing rod and show them how to fish.  Hunger gone, problem solved. 
  4. Develop a first world infrastructure with trawlers, freezers, distribution centres, corner stores and fish fingers.  Hunger gone, problem solved.

Ackoff's four ways of looking at problems parallel these "solutions":

  1. You can absolve the problem: ignore it and hope it goes away.  
  2. You can resolve the problem: fix it for the time being, possibly by doing the same things that have worked in the past.  
  3. You can solve the problem: possibly going deeper and do something that creates a more optimal solution to the problem.  
  4. Or you can dissolve the problem: change the system so that the problem no longer arises.
Think about the idea of "firefighting" that managers find themselves doing. They often find themselves fighting the same fires - or the same sorts of fires - over and over again.  They resolve the problem in the moment, but then it comes up again in different ways and in different situations. But it is the same. If the business leader could dissolve the problem, they could move to a better level of performance AND break out of their Groundhog Day life.

A slightly more entertaining version of this comes from Squire to the Giants in his post So, you think you've got a problem! where he uses these concepts to comment on some of the current discussions in the political spheres.  He also includes some direct quotes from a collection of Ackoff's writings on the topic.

 

 



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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Augmented knowledge - the fourth channel

Ask anyone familiar with knowledge management what form organisational knowledge takes, they will almost certainly mention tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. They may also mention latent knowledge in networks. I'd like to propose a fourth - augmented knowledge. The coming-of-age of artificial intelligence, 'social robots' and big data is having a massive impact on the way decisions are made in organisations. It follows that if we are to maximise know-how and expertise, the outputs from this technology-enabled channel must be integrated into how we work. Augmenting judgment and experience in this way also supports the move towards evidence-based decision making.

It also drives new skills needed to maximise these opportunities. Data analytics and blockchain coding are not esoteric geeky pastimes, but are increasingly employed by major FMCG, finance, retail, and law firms to highlight trends and real-time patterns that augment business acumen and expertise.

This chart does not imply a hierarchy, but shows how Augmented Knowledge fits with the more established Organisational Knowledge channels.


Augmented Knowledge will be explored in the Knowledge and Innovation Network Winter Workshop on 7th December on the theme of 'Organisational Learning in the Machine Intelligence Era'.


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Thursday, June 02, 2016

How to prepare for the future of work – human-machine collaboration, humanisation, education

Today’s Australian Financial Review features an article Ross Dawson on the future of work (and how to prepare for it), drawing on an interview with me.

Direct quotes from me in the article include:

“Human history is all about the automation of work,” he says.

“Right from the plough through to the spinning Jenny through to the automobile, through to any number of other inventions. They all destroy jobs. And at the same time we have always created more jobs than we have destroyed. The automation has been of jobs which have not been that desirable.

“There is a case you can make that we will continue to be a prosperous society and have meaningful work because we are continuing to unfold work which plays to our uniquely human capabilities.”



“In many domains we have seen that humans working with machines are superior to machines working alone or humans working alone.”

“The big story is not about humans being replaced with machines, this is about how we find ways in which humans and machines can be complementary and provide value,” Dawson says.

He says successful organisations must ensure that their staff learn continuously. “That must be embedded into every job, every role, everything we do.

“[Primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions] need to understand the extraordinary pace of change of the nature of work. None of them are adequate for people for a very different world moving forward.”

Individuals must also take responsibility for their learning trajectory.

“The organisation needs to provide facilities for it and the individual needs to take responsibility for being able to drive that and do that themselves.

“Every institution of every kind, we all need to be thinking what is it we can do now which will shift us more toward that ability for us to have, not just full employment but richer, more valued, more worthwhile employment.”

You can read the full article here.

The post How to prepare for the future of work – human-machine collaboration, humanisation, education appeared first on Trends in the Living Networks.



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Friday, April 22, 2016

Swimming in a lake or rowing down the river

We seem to be addicted to busy. Does the busyness help? Does it hurt? Do we swim around in a lake, getting nowhere? Or do we row down the river, ensuring we don't get stuck?

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Democratic renewal or else...

Democratic culture is at a low ebb and in decline – unless something changes we could pay a high price, argues Matthew Taylor.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Focus on the processes, not the tools

I see a lot of projects within business support organizations that look like "implement this tool." And then the organization is surprised when the project takes much longer than expected and the tool doesn't get used to the extent expected.

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Monday, April 04, 2016

Curiosity

When I was growing up my parents were forever taking us for "trips" whether locally or further afield. They still set off, in their eighties, in my Dad's sports car, to explore Dorset where they now live. My wife Penny shares this inclination to go places and discover new ones we've not been, so we have visited and got to know much of the wonderfully varied countryside of Britain and beyond. Needless to say the girls are growing up with the same willingness to follow their natural curiosity and see more of the world than is brought to them via their TV screens. In contrast many of their friends it seems never go anywhere except for school, shopping, and the annual foreign holiday.

And it's not just going places, it's exploring ideas. The girls will often comment that their fellow pupils seem incredibly blinkered in their ideas as well as suffering from a lack of travel itch. Even basic questions about why things are the way they are, why people behave the way they do, and inquiry into different philosophies and world views appear to be virgin territory. They wonder what sort of conversations take place over their schoolmates' breakfast tables and contrast this with our willingness to pick up an idea, throw it around, and leave it gasping for breath on the floor as we tussle with everything from politics to religion and everything in between.

This lack of curiosity seems to me to be at the root of so many of our problems. Yes it may be easier to pass through life asleep, and yes they may be happier not being riddled with self doubt and existential angst as we can sometimes be, but we all only get one shot at this. The willingness to wonder why, to explore beneath the surface, to break away from the norm out of a desire to explore the world and to address its problems seems so important and the more of us who do it the more likely we are to cope with our unpredictable futures.

To miss so much of what life has to offer seems a shame individually, and a willingness to sleep through the sort of challenges facing civilisation at the moment, seems a waste at the very least and an avoidance of responsibility at worst.



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World Bank - Take-aways from the 3rd High Level Meeting on Country-led Knowledge Sharing

This week I had the privilege of participating in the World Bank's 3rd High-Level Meeting on Country-led Knowledge Sharing in Washington DC. An amazing event attended to around 1000 people from 73 different countries. With thanks to the organizers, here are a few of my take-aways...

1. What can the public sector learn from the private sector?
Jean-Claude Monney's keynote talk on Microsoft’s knowledge management initiatives prompted one of the most stimulating questions asked of HLM3 panellists. ‘What can the public sector learn about knowledge sharing from the private sector?’. It is true that the private sector has pioneered many knowledge sharing techniques.Howeve having worked in both sectors, I would observe that public sector organizations also have much to offer the commercial world. 

Public, and especially third sector organizations, have a unique advantage that those with a predominantly commercial imperative may not; intrinsic motivation. Having worked with many dedicated people at the World Bank and with charities, I am struck by their personal sense of wanting to ‘make a difference’. In behavioural economics terms, this is a huge advantage. A request for help, clearly articulated and effectively disseminated to those with know-how, will usually elicit a positive response. However capability is often limited (time, communication tools, more important delivery and performance targets). 
My take-away? Provide effective channels, facilitate connections and foster the right intrinsic motivation through leadership.



2. Supply and demand.
The first day of HML3 seemed to focus predominantly on the demand side of knowledge sharing. The identification of lessons and knowledge ‘capture’ were extensively discussed. However ‘sharing’ requires both supply and demand for reciprocity. It was therefore refreshing that day 2 touched on the supply side too. I don't mean producing shelf-ware or supply where there is no evident demand, but thinking about how codified knowledge might be effectively found and consumed. Co-creation of knowledge, facilitation of peer-to-peer connections and evidence-based decision making came up time and again in the breakout sessions as critical techniques for making sure knowledge supply and demand are connected.

Examples provided were the altruistic sharing of blindness prevention program results in Tunisia and UNICEF helping four East African countries make real-time health clinic data widely available. Sergio Escobar explained of how Medellin, Columbia has made their experience of turning around a crime-ridden city, available to other cities. He stressed the need to make their results adaptable to different contexts. These examples showed real understanding of the importance of expressing lessons through the lens of those who need the knowledge, rather than simply writing a case-study. That's smart supply.


3. Measurement and leadership
Session moderator Karen Mokate asked the important question ‘how do you measure success and impact’. Ian Thorpe from UNICEF stressed that experiential knowledge cannot always be codified; indeed simply connecting practitioners has real and immediate value*. He observed that ‘Knowledge sharing is a catalytic process; in itself, it does not have a defined rate of return’. Perhaps a measure of knowledge sharing success is that demand for know-how and expertise is matched by supply. In other words, there is an observable virtuous cycle of creation, adoption and adaption of knowledge.

Another common refrain, particularly in the breakout groups, was the importance of real leadership in effective knowledge sharing. That’s not just ‘buy-in’, but for example, asking questions about how learning from success have been disseminated and change effected. True knowledge leadership publically acknowledges the learning opportunities from failure.

4. What would I like to have heard about?
Innovations that I thought might be examined in the context of country-led knowledge sharing are the amazing innovations in Artificial Intelligence and the Blockchain. These could be considered as technologies designed to simply make automate transactions and drive down costs (in themselves not unimportant for knowledge sharing). Their real potential is that, in a world of increasing complexity and the data firehose, they free up cognitive capacity to make smarter sustainable development decisions, better anticipate outcomes and reduce risk.











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Monday, February 29, 2016

"I don't care"

It's the easiest thing to say, the most reliable "get out of jail free" card, the ultimate side-stepping of life.

When faced with mind numbing routine, or overwhelming challenges, not caring seems attractive. It's shields us from the vicisitudes of life, against the grazing and scraping as we are buffeted by our challenges, a balm for our jangled nerves.

But it is corrosive and addictive. It becomes a way if life, a shell in which we can hide, an excuse we can all too frequently give ourselves.

And then one day it's too late. We've lost the ability to care, we don't care that we don't care. Our lives are out of control, freewheeling aimlessly, a recollection of unease our only memory of a time when we cared.

We should take more care...



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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

How the Mighty Fall: Part II

At the most straightforward (superficial?) level, the “undisciplined pursuit of more”—Collins’s stage 2 in his framework of decline—would seem to follow logically and almost inevitably from stage 1, “hubris born of success.” The logic is nearly syllogistic: “If we’re successful, and we’re great, who wouldn’t want more of this? Let’s go for it.” Collins, I’m […]

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