hold space for complex problems

Professor Lynda Gratton at the London Business School outlines five forces in The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here, that will shape the future patterns of work.

“Technology (think 5 billion people, digitized knowledge, ubiquitous cloud).
Globalisation (think continued bubbles and crashes, a regional underclass, the world becoming urban, frugal innovation).
Longevity and demography (think Gen Y, increasing longevity, aging boomers growing old poor, global migration).
Society (think growing distrust of institutions, the decline of happiness, rearranged families)
Energy resources (think rising energy prices, environmental catastrophes displacing people, a culture of sustainability emerging).”

Work informs much of our relationship with society. It is common to ask new acquaintances what they do for a living. Our jobs are often the prime source of personal wealth. Many jobs provide benefits we could not otherwise afford. Too often, we are our jobs, and when that changes, on a large scale, society will change.

Work-Changes.001The changing nature of work will have ramifications across society. There are strong indicators that we are moving into a post-job economy, with routine cognitive work being continuously automated. Structural changes in jobs and the education needed to do work are already being felt. Is a university degree worth the debt load? Is backward-looking data – how well a degree prepares one for today’s work – a valid indicator to look forward into the next decade? Young people are less involved in the political process, even as current legislation affects their future. Where is the disconnect? But we need to first prepare people – individuals, families, communities – to be adaptable in dealing with technological and demographic changes, in a globalized, resource-challenged world.

Work-Changes.002Every one of the major challenges facing us is complex. But our organizations are not designed for complexity. Our education institutions do not teach an understanding of complexity. Our workplace training does not factor in complexity. While not all of our problems are complex, the simpler issues are being dealt with. We need to take what Clay Shirky calls the cognitive surplus, and use it to wrestle with complex problems. Understanding complexity must be part of any informed discussions on government policy or governance. We ignore it at our peril.

Work-Changes.003We already have many methods and frameworks to address complexity.

We can build new structures that promote whole, self-managing, and evolutionary organizations as explained by Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations. Of course one model is not adequate, and there is more than one way to organize for complexity. Overall we should reinforce democratic principles in order to have organizations that can adapt to perpetual beta.

In addition to structures, we need new practices that helps us address complex problems. Cognitive Edge, based on the Cynefin framework, gives us tools like Sense-Maker to address complexity. Personal knowledge mastery is how individuals can take control not only of their own learning, but build professional social networks for knowledge-sharing and cooperation. Powerful visualization tools, fed by increasing amounts of data, can help people make sense of complexity and easily share new insights.

We have many tools, and a number of techniques to deal with complexity. What we need are structures to hold the space  so that our collective intelligence can deal with the wicked problems we face. Holding this critical space is a key role that government can play in the emerging complex network era.

DIY Learning

dogI’m writing a book on learning for oneself, without training. It’s for knowledge workers and bosses who have been told “You’re responsible for your own learning.” I imagine they feel like the dog who got on the bus. “What do I do now?”

Aha! is a book for people and small groups of colleagues who are taking their professional development into their own hands. No instructors, no classrooms. It’s DIY learning coupled with Modern Workplace Learning.

The first deliverable will be an inexpensive book, probably both an ebook (cheap and easy to distribute) and a paperback (works better for checklists and highlighting). Later, the text and patterns from the book may become a playlist of exercises and/or a deck of cards. If we achieve liftoff, I expect to continually improve the book with additional examples.

Currently, the book focuses on these patterns:


Are you interested in helping me change the world?

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.” (Women okay, too). I need co-conspirators, advisors, editors, a coach, and other true believers. I could really use an intern with editing skills. And several hundred people who want to improve the way they learn.

The payoff will come from being in on the ground floor of something big: PULL learning on a scale rarely imagined, helping people leverage learning to work smarter. And, you get to work with (ahem!) the thought leader I’m reputed to be. Talk about Action Learning!

Please volunteer. Sign in at http://internettimealliance.net. (Note: .net, not .com). Or call me at 510 323 7380.


sense-making friday

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

Manage your time like Google invests its resources: 70/20/10 via @reuvengorsht

  • Designers: 70% on the visual specs for upcoming features, 20% exploring new features, and 10% on wireframes for entirely new concepts/styles.

  • Engineers: 70% building features and fixing bugs, 20% on prototyping fledgling ideas or exploratory data analysis, and 10% on speculative initiatives like a 10x performance improvement.

  • Sales: 70% on closing deals, 20% on bigger I/Os for the next quarter, and 10% on long-term relationships with agencies and big advertisers.

The Humbling Reason Why It’s Vital that You Encourage Autonomy at Work, via @marciamarcia

“The rule is this: the very best of us only get product decisions right 60% of the time. The rest of the time, we’re wrong … When Savage realized the 60% rule, that made him realize how micromanagement harmed his company. Micromanagement means actively getting involved in decision-making where you’re detached from the problem and lack situational awareness. Under these disconnected conditions, your hit rate on making the right decision as a manager is much, much lower.”

How the next technological revolution starts

“There has been, and continues to be, a lot of discussion about what sort of technology will change everything – 3d printers, AI, space.

That is the wrong way to look at it. It is not technology that does the changing. Deep change comes from reorganizing ourselves around new principles in order to take the best advantage of the new technology.”

Humanity V The Automaton Corporate by @Indy_Johar

“We have unwilling and unknowing let loose an age of global corporate automatons — without the safe guards of Asimov’s Laws.

These automatons are increasingly systemically beyond governance and driven to optimise ghost share holders returns even if the development of those returns destroys the social & environmental capital essential for the viability of its eventual ghost like beneficiaries — us …”

Sensemaking by Igor Kopelnitzsky via @sebpaquet

Image by Igor Kopelnitz

Image by Igor Kopelnitz