Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mindset - or Mindflex?

I've read somewhere that happiness is an almost pre-configured condition, we are born with a certain level of joyfulness in our lives that we oscillate around. I personally think this is bullshit, and defeatist in nature. I think Martin Seligman would disagree with this as well. We have the capacity to change, the trouble is the difficulty of change itself.

I've always been seen as a 'sunny' person, maybe its because of my disconnect with reality. I've always preferred my own company even though I like being with other people; they are sooo weird it amuses me no end. But that is on the good days. On the bad days its very frustrating and the 'tut' factor rises to a crescendo.

My wife likes to remind me that 'I'm not listening' although I constantly love to tell her how she should feel and think. Certainly not a dialogue, much more Senges' notion of discussion. Listening to other people is dangerous - it reminds you that not everyone shares your opinion and having a big brother that liked to use violence to ensure his options were the ones selected has conditioned me to avoid the 'difficult' conversations, or openly disagree with people I don't respect.

This has been a very negative strategy, both for myself and those I collaborate with. Controlled conflict can be a very positive thing. The problem with not speaking your mind, especially as an Introvert (in the MBTI sense) means that you can be viewed with suspicion.

When I'm depressed I shut down. If I'm really angry I can't even look at someone, and sometimes not saying anything conjures up the worst scenarios imaginable in the minds of others. This is when I need to reach out. As a person who has a well developed sense of criticism, I fear exposing my weaknesses will lead to exploitation rather than seeking aid. I know now with my three year-old that she needs me the most when she is unhappy, and I need to reach out to my support when I find myself in similar situations.

The downside of being 'up' most of the time is that the lows are very deep. I was amazed at University the other day with the capacity for Heather to find positives in negatives. She sent out a survey where only 2 people out of 27,000? members responded. I would have given up in despair (my resilience can be very low when confronted by hardship) but she found the strength to look at other avenues and draw conclusions from the non-responses.

The Buddhist's have a saying that the glass is neither half full nor half empty, it is what it is. Acceptance of reality is ultimately not delusional, and all the problems that that can entail.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mapping the Intangible

Today is Fathers day. I have two daughters, 3.5 and 8 months. I love them very much, but I don't know if I have the time to count the reasons why. Is it because they keep me awake at night? Is it because the eldest throws tantrums if her pants aren't exactly the correct colour she decides she needs? Or that wearing pants is so lame when you really need a twirly skirt?

No, that stuff blows, real bad. But do I laugh we she dances for me? Does she lift my mood when she dresses up and gives me the biggest kiss because she feels so good? Absolutely. How do I define that - by reason? If I used reason she probably wouldn't exist.

I guess that's an obscure way to introduce the following table - a way to try and make explicit these tangibles in an organisation, and to maybe try and take in the big picture rather than focus on the bottom line at the expense of everything else.

This table is endebted to Dr Farhad Daneshgar and Elisabeth Davenport, it attempts to integrate the Social Capital and Intellectual Capital of an organisation.

Eisner and making KM visible

"Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters"
Aphorism attributed to Elliot Eisner, and from a sign in Einstein's office?, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts".

There has been a rather robust discussion on the ActKM listserve around 'cutting-out KM in the organisation', and the gist of the posts suggests that Executive don't value the output of KM as it isn't visible to them, it's a cost centre. They know that its inputs are valuable, but obviously the amount it contributes to the bottom-line for them is tenuous.

What are the reasons for this? Is it because KM is a maturing field that hasn't passed through the stage of connoisseur to critic? 

'Thus… connoisseurship provides criticism with its subject matter. Connoisseurship is private, but criticism is public. Connoisseurs simply need to appreciate what they encounter. Critics, however, must render these qualities vivid by the artful use of critical disclosure'

Or is it because we deal in the tacit so much? I myself see KM as very closely aligned with Education, and KM practitioners almost as coaches that help realise the full-potential of an organisations Human Capital - by removing the obstacles of collaboration and helping the individual and organisation see how the development of Social Capital is ultimately to their benefit. (Is KM part of the triumvirate sandwiched between Learning and Change Management?)

As we move from the Information Economy to the Knowledge Economy education is going to be a centre of focus, and life-long learning an essential aspect of your career. The outcomes of your knowledge need to be visualised to be leveraged. Your Intellectual Knowledge needs to be surfaced, articulated, as advocated in the Nonaka and Takenuchi SECI model.

So how do we map this Social Capital? Even an egocentric view relies on it being shared across a network, which means at least one other must hold the same value?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Calling a spade a long handled digging instrument

Abraham Lincoln has a quote that goes "Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves". So how do you tell someone something that you know will challenge their own perception without it getting dimissed, or worse, becoming alienated by them?

Like in a relationship, is compromise not a bad thing? How do you tell someone that their bum does look big in that, without incurring resentment but still allowing them to access to their blindspots? Is it in assertive communication? Do we need to explicitly set the ground-rules, create expectations that engender trust in a process, divorcing from the individual? Ralph Stacey talks about knowledge residing in interactions, not individuals, and this may be a great way to deflect blame and anxiety from individuals. This is much more true in a virtual environment, and thanks to Dr Daneshgar, something that needs to be made explicit when setting up collaborative teams that don't have access to non-verbal clues. There are times you need to answer a question the way the requester wants it answered in order to keep communication open, and opportunies to be franker at other times, all signalled by subtle clues.

I like the potential the Johari window has in allowing you to improve yourself, but the emphasis surely is on allowance; leading horses to water, etc. I was thinking about my project and the way I had been describing the knowledge sharing problem in our organisation, trying to be as candid as possible. I know from my discussions with faculty previously that my plea to create conditions for Social Capital have led me to be called a 'Marxist', albiet in a joking way. However, there is more wisdom in humour, than humour in wisdom...

So what was on my Desk Calendar quote today? A line from Bertrand Russel, 'Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do'.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


As we change paradigms from the service economy (information) to the experience economy (knowledge), it is hard to know exactly where we are standing, because sometimes its with one foot in each camp.

There are two theories of thought on societal change; Does it happen gradually (evolution) or suddenly (revolution?) Maybe it happens both ways. As someone who has been working in the elearning (a dangerous misnomer if ever there was one) space since the last century I've seen and experienced the tremendous advances made in technology. What was true only last year has now changed, as the network effect takes hold and access barriers are removed. So you can almost see the cracks widening day-by-day in the dam of resistance. So the evolution slowly builds up and the boundaries blur as early adopters lay down the paths that open up areas for exploration. Then the goldrush commences.

The danger is that we use the lenses of previous paradigms to examine the new order, rather than exploring the possibilities in the new concept. We apply our rigid pattern of thinking over the new model; elearning becomes a way of distributing information that is build on the old correspondence model of self-learning, rather than utilising the synchronous affordances of the technologies of the read-write web.

This challenges the status quo of the Teaching profession. To do this effectively the sage on the stage must move through being a guide on the side (reference) to becoming a learning partner, a personal coach that helps develop their human capital to its maximum potential. More on developing Social Capital soon.

I really think this has to change our thinking from pedagogy to andragogy and make all learning active learning. I find my three year old has much more capacity for self-directed learning than we traditionally give small children credit for. However, we don't want to lose all the knowledge that has been built up by our teaching professionals in this paradigm shift, and my question is how to be sort through and determine the good from the bad? Everything old is new again, how to apply this in the new context?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Istanbul/Constantinople - Ontology/Epistimology

I've been grappling with gaining a greater understanding of the similarities and differences of, and between, the concepts of Ontologies and Epistemologies since I was first introduced to them.

Sure, I know the definitions;
Ontology is what we know
Epistemology is how we know it
however, I wouldn't like to be questioned on it by my daughter.

I am starting to see the distinctions, and how each creates, or relies on the other to exist. I can start to see their hierarchical taxonomy and the divide between going forward and looking back...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Social software

Sometimes we forget how far we've come. One Change Management technique is to celebrate success: it helps to embed learning, strengthens the direction and commitment to the journey, and the reflection helps us employ double-loop learning.

Which of these Web 2.0 tools are you using and which ones have you tried but not continued with?
  • Delicious
  • Technorati
  • YouTube
  • iGoogle
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Blog's (generic)
  • Wiki's (generic)
  • PhotoBucket/Flickr/Picasso
  • LinkedIn/Ning
  • Pownce
  • MindMeister
  • RSS
  • PodCasting/Vodcasting
I'll try and catagorise these, and update my experience with these sites soon for my own reflective practice!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Communication - It is a two way street

I have been reading a re-published HBR article, 'Barriers and Gateways to Communication' by Carl Rogers and F. Roethlisberger from 1952. What is telling is that although we exhibit very complex behaviours, we really do run to a very simple set of rules - trust, respect, love, acknowledgement and so forth are the cornerstones of building our self-esteem, which builds efficacy, which builds performance, which builds self-esteem...

This 'culture' then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if you look at Banduras' notion of triadic reciprocal determinism - Behaviour, Environment and Personal Factors all act against one another (B>E>P>...), or that of Lewins' Behaviour is a function of Personality and Environment (B=f[P+E]). This social psychology/learning theory demonstrates that you need all factors working together to gain an optimal result.

So communication is more than speaking, it's more than what you say but what you do and how you do it. Only when these are consistent do you create an holistic environment that supports high-levels of performance.

As a new father to two radiant girls I am keenly aware that although my eldest might not 'listen' to me, she sure emulates our behaviour as parents. On my side I have been trying to be an 'active' listener, one that neither dismisses, or invalidates my child's views, and at the other end of the scale, not try to solve her problems, but to guide her critical thinking skills so she can develop the capacity to solve them by herself. At the heart of this is the ability to listen without judgement, to try and see the issue from her perspective rather than mine. By doing this I hope to keep our channels of communication 'open'.

Sounds simple, but again the paradox is that this is so hard to emulate. It is more comfortable and safe to see things from our perspective - to evaluate - to not risk upsetting our schema. In the article the Monk in the Lab, there was an concept that the glass is neither half-empty, not half-full. We need to see it as it is, not shoehorn ideas into our preconceptions.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Here are the points I need to address to complete my Masters project and graduate.

Assignment One - Project Proposal
Part 1: Rationale
  • A discussion of the information/knowledge management problem and its rationale
  • A review of theoretical and professional literature relevant to the problem
  • A discussion of the dimensions to be considered in selecting a preferred solution
  • An outline of the preferred solution and an explanation of its conceptual framework
  • Approaches to project evaluation and possible criteria that reflect industry standards where possible
  • Bibliography of reading
Part 2: Project Plan
  • A statement of the information/knowledge management problem
  • Aim and objectives of the project
  • A detailed plan for implementing the solution including a timeline and statement of resources required
  • A list of the evaluation criteria to be applied
  • Name, position and contact details of your professional supervisor; the plan should be signed and dated by your professional supervisor
  • Name of your academic supervisor and contact details; the plan should be signed and dated by your academic supervisor
  • Your name, signature and date

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Research topic

I have been thinking about using Social Exchange Theory as a critical perspective for my Social Network Analysis Project. I am looking at KM Blogs and they way information travels across blogrolls. Here are the factors influencing my thinking:
  1. Network Attractors
  2. Learning Theory
  3. Complexity Theory
Do these variables combine to create 'bloggers'? Let me try and explain my thinking.

Social Exchange Theory underpins this examination of the topic as it is a way of explaining why people blog. It postulates that bloggers must receive so benefit from their effort, as it is a return on effort (ROE) rather than a return on investment (ROI) transaction. I would also like to look at Bandura's theory of tridacdic reciprocal determinism, and how that links in with the notion of power. This would also link to point three and the way power lies in the ties rather than the individual (CAS?).

Network Attractors are those people that act selflessly, or at least consider the perspectives of other views and benefits to the larger organisation. Paradoxically, this opens them up to benefits of having a wider network. By blogging for no perceived benefit, are bloggers actually receiving benefits from say hit-rates?, comments? What are the costs apart from time? Abusive comments? 

Secondly, the act of writing as a way of learning, of actually acquiring, or reshaping your understanding of a topic by 'talking' about it in your head. Drucker said play to your strengths, and learning by reflecting is way up there, even for those with other learning style preferences. Is this a form of double-loop learning? Is it an essential aid to knowledge creation? The SECI models Combination mode? Or Kolbs' OADI model and his Design mode?

Thirdly, complexity and the creation of knowledge through the act of thinking. Snowden says you don't know something until you need to know it. By keeping a journal you are exercising those resources, making connections. The act of thinking stimulates those muscles and makes them stronger. When you are writing you are also creating work for an audience, and effectively you are having a one-way conversation with them, they are your 'phantom' community, and their thinking influences you as much as yours.

I also like the subtle yet polar qualities of chaos and complexity, and want to explore them with this project, but am not sure how to do it, or it is wise to further add to the mix?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lenses, what are we filtering?

I've been pondering what to say in Wiki presentation that I'll be making to my colleagues and wondering what I should highlight in the 15 minutes I have allocated.

Less is more, is a maxim that makes a lot of sense to me as a designer, and is also indicative of a Knowledge Management philosophy that uses such paradoxes when knowledge is in play - complex, yet governed by such simple rules.

So I'm thinking that rather than talk about the 'how-to's' and getting amongst the trees, we should stand back and see the forest. This may help us get a sense of how our changing paradigm of work is altering the tools we use to do this work. That a large shift from Information to Knowledge work is occurring, and its only the way we look at something that makes it visible or not.

Let me give you an example. I was doing the shopping the other night and had picked-up a basket rather than collect a trolley, as I expected to be in and out fairly quickly. I soon realised my mistake when I looked at the shopping list and had already filled my basket with toilet rolls. I knew the trolleys were stored at the other end of the store (tisk), but thought while I'm down this end I'll pick-up some disinfectant. So I did - only there was a trolley in the way that one of the packers had left after unloading their products. I saw this trolley as something in the way, because I was on a mission to pick-up the bottle of disinfectant and then go to the other side of the store. It didn't fit with my model of what I was doing at the time, it was no longer a trolley but an inconvenience to move. Luckily I widened my focus enough to see what a goose I was.

I guess I'm saying that we judge things by our internal rules, those unquestioned assumptions we use as the stage to examine every objects from. A wiki will not be seen as an innovation if viewed from the light of 'previous' work habits. How does it more efficiently replace the 'Policy and Procedures' manual stored on a shared drive? Should the question not be about how to contribute amendments to the 'Policy and Procedures' manual?

This moves it from the old paradigm of Top-down hierarchy to a flatter structure (or Nonaka's Matrix structure) that can provide additional benefits, such as:
  • Employee Empowerment/Engagement
  • Information Capture from the coalface
  • Open Comunication
  • Expert Input
So that's my post today - seeing one thing makes you blind to others, its what lenses you wear that determine what you see.