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21st. Century Skills Learning Mindsets Organizational culture

Re-thinking learning for the 21st century

On the Road to Self-Directed Learning

‘Meaning is not what we make it but what can be made — there is always more than one way, all we have to do is embrace what lays before us.’ Mark Dyson

The following article is a development of two articles first featured on the Teacher’s Guild in article 1 and article 2.

On the Road to Self-Directed Learning

“Learning and Innovation Skills: Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as the skills that separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not. A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.

Creativity and Innovation. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. Communication and Collaboration.” P21.org

To introduce the concept of lifelong learning is one thing. To take control is something else entirely: It requires a holistic, systematic and generic approach to make it happen, so we have somewhere to create, to own our own content and learn new skills. More importantly, it has to be visible, navigable while also opening for choice and personalization.

What if we can actually design, our own self-directed learning?

We live in a world of experts, or do we? Since those with key insights are often excluded from decision-making. This challenges the preconceptions as to who we are, our role, our importance even.

If we can direct our learning, we form it to our needs, desires, making it so it fits us, not us having to fit into the manacles of a curriculum decided by other people. We also need structure. In a complicated world we cope by specialization. Across industries, and within the boundaries of our professions, we create silos. Each silo speaks its own language.

We no longer have the ability of really interacting in the way we used to — when the world was a much simpler place to live and do business in. We also face unprecedented challenges. It’s estimated that by 2050 the world will be home to nine billion people, meaning current food production will need to almost double. Think about out. Producing food means using land, yet we have less land to use. Land means water. Some places of the world are drying up, others are drowning.

Take information; how many of us, when looking for information, in the course of our search, come across other sources, other articles or stories that captivate us. One thing leads to a next. This is discovery. It is to be encouraged in self-directed learning — but only when it serves purpose. Building a library can such a purpose. Or developing ideas, even for projects we are not currently involved in.

Designing Self-Directed Learning

Designing Self-directed learning implies a number of simple, yet very important interrelated aspects. One of these is EXPERIENCE — the experience of learning.

Experience is Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill. The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind. Or an event or a series of events participated in or lived through.

Another aspect is MINDSET. A mindset is a mental framework, one we use to pre-program the way we view and do things — before we do them.

Another is the ‘becoming an expert’. To be an expert is to know something at a high level of understanding, seeing implications, sensing what is important, what is not, so we can act as an expert and give objective opinion.

Yet another aspect is LEARNING MODELS — seeing how changing perceptions can be accommodated in a model that represents how we learn. In this respect we have the ‘experiential learning model’ from David Kolb. Kolb has built on those who has gone before him, and similarly, ideas extend forward in time because of what has gone before us. Learning is the same.

We have aspects of design, of changing existing conditions into more desirable ones. We have design thinking models that explain the mindsets, processes and frameworks of design thinking. However, the frame of reference is separate, when in essence, they are both elements of the same LEARNING ECOSYSTEM.

An ecosystem understanding and applying ecosystem concepts can help us to explore wider, adjacent spaces of possibility outside of traditional contexts , identify opportunities; co-create superior ecosystem interventions; improve the potential of existing situations; build capabilities and lead more adaptive, creative organisations (Lawyer 2017). We can use an ecosystem understanding to develop a framework for self-directed learning. A framework is the construction that bears the livable and the visible. It is the element with the longest lifecycle that is there to support the changeable, adaptive state of existing. Can we invent a framework that accelerates self-directed learning by making it dynamic, changing to our needs, visible, navigable and manageable?

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM ECOSYSTEMS?

The process of designing self-directed learning starts with an idea.

What if we could exert so much control over our own learning that we can influence the process of transition by being connected to it?

Only the right ideas can create our future: Ideas are often the first thing we need even before we start to analyze what is that is getting in the way of you achieving our goals. Ideas can from anywhere. Any idea is as valid as the next until weighed and validated.

So here’s the idea: The power of learning can be harnessed collectively if we see ourselves as part of an ecosystem. We need powerful concepts to pull in the interest and engagement of others. The concept of a learning ecosystem is connected to an aim:

To develop powerful learning tools that can transform the way learners think about themselves when they realize they can gain insights opening new opportunities.

We need to take control, that is for certain in the 21st century. But we also need to learn about the pitfalls, and be ready to face the storms and conditions that occasionally influence the world around us, which in turn influence us and not least how we become aware of the power to educate ourselves. The ecosystem is an interesting analogy since we will at some point experience the stormy weather in our lives which can no longer be separated into personal, educational or working — it’s all inter-connected.

KNOWING WHAT LIES ON THE HORIZON

So direct our own learning, we also need to see ourselves as being connected with the world. That may seem like stating the obvious but really, it isn’t. We need to take part in the process of transition from directed to self-directed learning. To do that, we need to be active in knowing what is on the horizon as much as what is around us. If we don’t take part in that process of transition, we take a large risk by isolating ourselves. So how can we understand this? What can we look at that can provide some insight and get to grips with some big ideas? We need something familiar we know, something we can work with.

We are good at seeing the world in terms of risks and what we need to do and build to avoid them — but are we good at doing that for ourselves and turn this around to see possibility instead? Here’s the difference — by being proactive in forming opportunity — we build resilience to the adverse affects of change. If we influence others, we can exert influence.

WE CANNOT AFFORD TO SEE OURSELVES IN ISOLATION

We can’t afford to stand still. Not if we want job security, happiness or to do what we enjoy doing. We are not passive people on the other end of the receiving end — we can feed the system as well — for the better. Education has become lifelong learning. Students and workers must educate themselves continually. So our personal, learning and working lives and how they related to the world around us — and the ebbs and flows of recessions and periods of growth are part of the system of change — are all connected even if we can’t see it today.

Just as a city can’t see what weather is coming in a month, or a year. What impact it will have — often leaving permanent traces — cannot be known. But it has to be planned for. We have never been more inter-related with our world than we are today. Our parents my have been able to separate them. Our grandparents certainly did. We can’t do that any more. So we can see ourselves as part of an ecosystem. Unlike the global warming and the side effects and detrimental effects on well-being, we can do something about our own weather system and do something about the changes.

The message here is, just as we need to plan and adapt to weather even global warming, we also need to monitor what is going on around us and see where we can create a better climate — by becoming an active part of the ecosystem we are a part of.

ADAPTATION BY SELF-AWARENESS

We need to sense what we cannot see — and adapt ourselves to the world in transition. We need to stay on top. When the wind blows, we have to stand on our own two feet. We need to feel secure that what we have to say has value, that what we do makes a difference, both to us and those we engage in.

Therefore, the world of transition can be reduced to the simple level of being aware of how we as individuals interact with the changing world around us. It is knowing that awareness of ourselves is a journey that never ends. I see this as a search for personal truth that is a dialogue with the people and the world around us. This search starts at school and once started, never ends.

Being self-ware also means seeing potential dangers — what can happen if we don’t tap into the ecosystem. What was a career path can become a fight to survive. What was once a skill can become redundant. These are the adverse sides of being part of a system we do not take part in. These are not just words, they represent a reality that determines our future. So just as in global warming, when the rules that were no longer really apply any more, we are part of a ‘paradigm change’ and that change effects all of us.

By not taking part in transition and creating opportunity, we risk not being part of it all.

So what are the upsides? What can we do so we prevent that from happening to us?

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT OWN LEARNING?

The change is also in knowing the control we exert over our own learning process is viable and adaptable. We can learn that our world is far from an ideal world but that should not deflect us from personal paths. Even those like myself, who have dedicated our lives to making, researching, studying and developing knowledge are vulnerable. No one is holy and nobody can afford to rest on laurels, because yes, the world is a different place than it once was and has embarked on a process of transition that knows no end — so the only thing that is certain at all is transition itself.

What was negative can become positive, by coming up with the right ideas. By acting on something, we can change the impact we have on our environment. For a city or a district that means also improving the quality of the environment. The thing is, we are in control and what may seem like a problem can become an opportunity. The same applies for us and how we live our future. The difference is: We are the ones responsible for making the right decisions.

BEING IN AN ECO-SYSTEM DOES NOT MEAN BEING ISOLATED

These are new times, changing times and requires an understanding of who we are, how we think and how we can take a step back and see how we interact with others. To manage our future, we need to navigate the present and be aware of how we can take responsibilIty for our own learning, so we can ride the winds of change and the storms that will come when we least expect them to. This is common to all people engaging with others, whether they be students, artisans, professionals or pensioners — it follows us but we need to open our eyes, hearts and minds to see it for what it truly is.

It is important we are ourselves, that we feel secure in being ourselves, that we question ourselves but also feel happy to share what we hold to be true. WE CAN DO THAT BY UNDERSTANDING how we are part of the greater perspective — that we are part of a world in transition and that creativity and empowerment is the key to progress. We need to adopt a different mindset that means thinking less of ourselves and more of sharing what we value.

So my message is this:

Share with open mind. Take control of yourself by learning. Make it a mission to feel good about interacting with the world around you. When you get to where you want to be going, then help others on their journey’s too. We need to understand that we are not alone, that we are part of a Learning Ecosystem. Neither are we alone in the planning or the journey that lays before us. We can help develop that Ecosystem and connect our minds in common understandings.

TOOLS FOR LEARNING — THE LOCAL GLOBAL CONTEXT

To take control of learning we need learning tools need to respond to the context of the individual in the world — call it a local-global contextual differentiation. And like the forces affecting weather, do the forces within the context of learning need to be integrated but differentiable — learning, doing and thinking requires integrating and aligning to both the local — and global context.

For learning to be truly open to self-direction, we need a guide to make the implicit explicit, viewing the big picture, relating real world processes, ideating own opportunities, activating dreams & desires. We have to learn to focus and learn to relate to the world. We need to frame inquiry, so self-directed learning requires a framework that has to be objective, relating to existing theories, but also made simple, as part of a universal body of knowledge with simple, identifiable and learnable concepts. Hence the use of ‘The Learning Ecosystem’.

ABOUT

> Present and future learning (CONTINUOUS LEARNING)

> Experiencing that learning is interconnected with thinking and doing (EXPERIENCE)

> Relating the above to internal and external global learning forces (FORCES)

> Take part and share connecting ‘our world’ to ‘the world’ (by PARTICIPATION)

> Attaining higher-order learning by creativity and invention (PROCESSES AND TOOLS)

References

Lawyer, C (2017). Design and Transform Value in Health: A Service Ecosystem Framework. Pdf file downloaded from www.umio-health.com

Categories
Organisation Organizational culture

Organizational Culture and Tribal Mindsets

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Sicore

Change and transformation

I hazard a guess that many would argue, transforming companies, innovating, responding to altered circumstances is about looking at all aspects, measuring benefit or assessing KPI’s (key performance indicators). However, none of this makes the blindest bit of difference if we continue to create gods in the vision of ourselves who fail to implement effective result in operations — for the simple reason people are not aligned to your cause. I doubt you’ll find ‘Playing God’ on the measuring scale.

So transformation first and foremost, has to arise from the ability to see self as it becomes, not as we have perceived it to be. It is about understanding how we see ourselves. Individuals work in teams, teams are managed by directors, directors report to those at the top making all the decisions, and yet does this represent the people and fit-for-purpose of an organisations strategical viability and validity?

To really understand this, we need some examples we can all relate to, no matter what level of the ladder we presently reside in order to understand the difference between what I’ll call the ‘old mind’ and the ‘new mind.’ To understand this aspect of ‘minds’ in more detail, I’ve spent some time looking at the sort of jobs being offered on the corporate level.

The old mind

You will have the opportunity to be part of a strong and dedicated team that is responsible for Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Strategic Projects.

Here you are being provided with an opportunity, you will be a part of a great team and have a lot to live up to since we expect a lot of what you do. It is based on the ‘expectation of performance’. It also places the candidate in a position of having to perform and places the candidate under the auspices of ‘expectation of delivery’. This example is a typical job description, in this instance taken from a major media company in connection with ‘strategy and projects’. Let’s look at this in a little more detail. This is telling you what you have to do:

Working as a Consultant you will be exposed to a variety of challenges and tasks. To lead and participate in strategic projects across the company, you need to participate in processes, conducting analysis and other decision support, solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers.

Let’s try and conduct a little analysis ourselves. To lead… you need. First, this is telling you how to lead. ‘To lead… you need.’ You are not being given a choice. It is saying, ‘we have decided that,in our infinite wisdom, that to lead successfully, you really do need to do it this way.’

Second, let’s look at that wonderful mantra of the old world — ‘problem solving.’ Solving problems in a structured and analytical way?

… solving problems in a structured and analytical manner and communicating insights and results to senior decision makers

If there is one thing I have learned (as an architect and innovator amongst many other things), it is that the only sure way to limit the scope of problem management, it is to do it in an analytical and structured way. It is as if conducting an empirical study of a fixed entity that can be dissected and treated as small parcels of information that can be analysed and number-crunched leading to the Utopia of enlightenment.

Implicit in the message is that in reality, by sending number-crunched byte-analysed wonders-of-wisdom up the line to the senior decision makers, you then pass power of judgement on to ‘the greater minds’. However, if they are the type who see themselves as gods who have the true insights needed to really know what to do with the information, your part played is one of ‘the grand scheme of divide and conquer’. Let it be said — this is all an illusion.

Reality for companies is generally based on an invisible culture of illusion. As Alan Hamilton of IBM writes (Business Partner Technical Leader in Europe for Collaboration Solutions), the utopian dream of culture is that we are all going in the one direction: ‘Cost cutting, productivity programs, motivational speakers and all the other techniques you see these days about aligning corporate culture often fail. But the reality is as surprising for most as it is real. As Hamilton argues, in many cases its because of:

1. No understanding of what the current culture is.

2. Unclear corporate direction — what do we stand for?

3. What does the organisation value? Profits, people, products, share price?

4. Poor communication — in both directions

And Culture change almost always needs to come from the top of the organisation: ‘your senior management doesn’t recognise the need, or doesn’t want it to happen, two things will happen:

1. Your marketing culture will continue to be completely different to your internal culture

2. Your best employees will leave and probably go to your competitors.

Truth

If there is any truth to be made in transforming from old minds to new minds, it is we cannot be experts any longer in a world that constantly changes. Truth cannot be based on ‘we need to do this and this to achieve this, and this is what we must do, passing it up to use to reflect on and pass judgement.’ This is an illusion for the simple reason that truth is temporary in a changing world.

We cannot know for long enough to have any truly meaningful impact. Neither can wet buy expertise or if we possess it, bring it to bear. Because expertise does not exist when truth is temporal. The remaining logic we have left to work with is expertise and control is an illusion.

So what are we left with if not truth to act upon?

Organisations often do not have an explicit strategy for being an engaging environment to be a part of — but this is just one aspect — the internal one — for a reality that bridges internal and external functions.

What we have left is not truth, but learning: The journey towards truth that is never attainable. Our reality is therefore our journey and not the destination that is learning. The new mind is based on aligning perception to 21st skills and mindsets.

Interestingly, IBM has a result of their own cultural identity, adopted ‘New Way To Learn’ as corporate strategy.

The new mind

Naga women from the Patkoi hills, Assam. by Collection of old photos, Flickr

If people got rid of unnecessary hierarchies and formalities, they would have a lot more fun and get a lot more done — Richard Branson

In the new mind, we can see ourselves as something else, as people with a sense of value acting openly engaging directly with their colleagues acting as one. Francois Gossieaux favors the metaphor of ‘tribe’ — he states:

‘Unless your company acts as a single tribe, which most companies don’t, you don’t have a single corporate culture. Therein lies the problem with most corporate culture initiatives — they start from the wrong premise that companies are people and that they therefore can have one culture. In reality, most companies have multiple cultures which results in having competitive behavior in the wrong place — within their corporate walls instead of outside in the marketplace.’

So instead of telling people what they HAVE to have as a list of parts, we can include, tell what it is we want to do in order to attract the right sort of mindset-based person. Here’s an example from another job description with a completely different bias than the pervious one:

Are you interested in bringing our 2020 Strategy to life by working with project management and organizational implementation?

This is asking you a question, it is asking you ‘what you are interested in?’ It is working with motivation instead of expectation.

‘If you have a business orientated mindset, and the capabilities for working with conceptual thinking, project management and a collaborative style — then we would like you to join us.’

This is telling you ‘if you think this way with these capabilities, you get to choose yourself what you do and how you do it’ and that ‘if you think this way, we do to and you become a part of our tribe’.

As long as there are more candidates than jobs, as can only increase in the future, then there will always be plenty of people more than willing to package themselves in any way any position description expects, but this is still an illusion and what it does is limit potential — for the candidate, for the execution of responsibilities and not least, for the ability of any organisation to respond to opportunity. Now it may come as a surprise to know this example of job description comes from a personal banking company.

‘We want to ensure customer centricity, communicate clearly, drive projects and design new ways of working and reporting — all of this in order for the bank to meet changing demands in the market and realize our new strategy.’

Hold on a moment — a bank wanting to design? Now they are telling us, ‘if you are conceptually oriented and open to being creative, we’d love for you to consider us as your tribe pursuing your interests.’ I’m applauding, since this is an entirely different message being communicated than the previous example.

‘We are looking for a person who thrives working with change, and who can both be a conceptual thinker and a strong project manager.’

This is illustrative of the ‘new mind’ — defining a singular tribal identity, building bridges across disciplines, in this instance ‘conceptual thinker’ with ‘project manager’ — that opens the candidacy to both:

1. Conceptual thinkers who may possess skills in project management as well as

2. Conceptually-minded project managers

This is new and vibrant, engaging to both ‘our interests’ and ‘your interests’ — an illustrative example of how the new agenda based on the new mindset is coming into play.

The vast ocean of jobs out there is the end conception of a system that is self-perpetuating, based on delusion of self. So ask yourself, which mind are you? Or rather, if you were a candidate for a job — bearing in mind that latest research actually points to drastic shortage of qualified nextGEN workforce — which place would you rather work in?

Categories
21st. Century Skills Frameworks Learning Mindsets

21st. century skills: Fundamentals 1

An article in three parts. Part 1 – Three Internal Forces.

A case for mindset tool development supporting 21st. century skills.


Background

In this series of three posts concerning 21st. century skills I want to discuss some simple ideas that are relevant to everybody — students, craftsman, academics, professionals alike. I want to discuss some basic fundamental aspects that relate to all of us: How can we be understand how our actions influence our ideas so we can improve both of them and be better at what we do?

This is based on one simple important idea — that the key to development, is through awareness of self — during activity. This is about developing a ‘new awareness’ — alone, and more importantly, together.

Why 21st. Century Skills?

For the first, because times are changing and we need to learn new creative skills better fitting for our age. Secondly, as a number design academics around the word are aware of, there is a ‘myth of design thinking’ that is prevalent amongst those who fail to truly grasp the fundamentals of creative processes. The business world is making a grab, design bureaus brand themselves on it, some wonderful guides have been developed by those in the know for tackling real world challenges and programs developed amongst the revered halls of esteemed places of higher education. However, despite all of this, what dominates, thanks to the search algorithms of the online services, is a repetition of the same recipe with minor variations – most of which is based on 20th century thinking and mindsets.

We are a world that develops inwardly by the ‘clip and paste’ culture: We think we know since we search for it on the web and paste it to our own recipes. Which is fine for some, but also bad news for others, since the repetition of out-of-date paradigms is what gains center stage instead of developing new thinking that is more suitable to the present climate.

Talking Of Which…

We are entering a new era. This new era is based on how people think for themselves when together with others.

There are many advantages to be gained and exploited — be it the work environment (organisational development, developing meaningful spaces to be in), a challenge in society to be faced (design thinking) or just wanting to be better at what we do (self-improvement).

All can be developed and improved opening new opportunities — by learning. How learning then conditions the re-application of what we have learned, developing new thinking is the next step in this new awareness. And neither can we afford to be complacent. We are all part of a paradigm change — the world is complex, changeable and nothing is certain. The tasks being laid before us as challenges are many and problems require invention as much as solution. Sometimes, chaos rules. Some call this disruption.

This article therefore addresses a simple aspect that is common concerning anyone who wants to learn a better way that is common to all: the one better way. Not the clip-and-paste way — but your way. Can there be a one better way when dealing with task — problem related productivity? And if so, how can this be supported? The objective for these posts is therefore to develop some simple fundamental thinking open to interpretation in all in order to develop learning, doing and thinking tools and the hell out of the rut of clip-and-paste navel watching.

The Problem Solving Agenda

Problem solving is here to stay. But is capturing and solving ‘problems’ the right way of addressing the challenges of the 21st. century?

I’ve spent the best part of my life designing, building, researching, thinking, learning and innovating (architecture and design) and here’s why I don’t like the term ‘problem’: It does nothing to suggest the ‘desired’. Problem solving is a 20th century century mindset. It suggests something is given and one way can be planned to solution. It says nothing about the doubt of which is the right way or indeed, the challenges of inventing or developing the right solutions to the wrong problems. Neither does it have anything to say about what we dream of. The difference between what fulfills our needs and what turns us on is the engaging of emotion — what gets us excited. It’s the reason we choose to fork out more for that new gadget. This is achieved by the process of design and is an illustration of why design and channeling creative processes in design is so important. So to get the ball rolling, here are a few simple insights:

Creative-Reflective DOING

This concerns the one better way, the way each of us can adopt to take control of our own learning and adapt it to our own doing processes — whoever you are, whatever you do, however you do it. It’s universal. By being universal, we climb right to the top of the tree and sit amongst the leaves in the crown, looking down.

The Importance of Design

Design is two things – a process and a product. Here I’m talking about the process. The process of Design concerns learning and thinking, teachers no longer teach and the dynamics of human interaction have been more challenging or exciting as they are today. In design we:

Keep assessing, keep testing, keep preparing, keep looking for opportunity…

Here’s what the expert says on design:

The designer calculates his moves in a threefold way: in terms of the desirability of their consequences judged in categories drawn from the normative design domains, in terms of their conformity to or violation of implications set up by earlier moves, and in terms of his appreciation of the new problems or potentials they have created.’

Donald Schön – The Reflective Practitioner. 1983

This still holds true today and in that respect, nothing has changed in calculating moves, in figuring out, what we are going to do next in any situation where we are in the driving seat. And let’s face it: Managers and educators are not going to do this for us — we have to learn to do things for ourselves and be aware of our thinking when we involve ourselves in what we do as and when we apply ourselves. We also need to figure out how best to communicate and share with our team or network what we have done through whatever media channels we use to do that.

Important References

Of other references can be mentioned Meta-cognitive strategy, Visible Learning (Hattie) and Experiential Learning (Kolb), Strategic Doing (Morrison) are just some of the new ideas, tools and methods being developed, discussed, shared and adopted to taking control of ‘better ways’: What we do when directing experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge (Association for Experiential Education).

Experience, Reflection, Meaning & Acting

Experiential Learning, or the process of learning from experience is especially interesting for all, since it reinforces an understanding that we already have some idea about, since it confirms our own way of interacting with the world around us. Represented by David A. Kolb as a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, making meaning and acting. However this shows what is happening, but tells us nothing about that magic word: Application.

David Kolb - model of experiential learning
David Kolb – model of experiential learning

Abstract conceptualisation and making meaning will be dealt with in the next installment. But for now, I want to make it clear that we need something, some simple model of understanding that accounts for how we do work, work made in the real world, while also showing us how to move forward. Call this a map of you like, a navigational aid that allows us to not only get from A to B, but to provide a means of assessing alternative routes so we arrive at a better destination than one we set for.

Best Fit

Learning is the model – based on the four aspect of experiencing, reflecting, making meaning and acting… learning, or experiential learning is what Kolb’s model is all about. However, for me this doesn’t quite equate to the way we work – the cyclical mode suggests one thing leads to the next in a cycle of activity. The real world does not work this way. I prefer instead to think of each as a ‘force’ – it is something we do that acts on something, or something that attracts us. It has effect both in the whole, but also in the parts. This can get quickly complicated which isn’t the objective of this exercise – which is to simplify.

Simplification

Let’s recap for a moment: Change today lies in the way we go about looking for a best ‘fit’ between what we perceive and what we do. Or put another way, between what we think and what we learn. We do according to what we have learned. We think based on our perceptions. Calculating what we do next is based on what we have learned.

So this isn’t rocket science, just a simple appraisal of what is important when looking for a better way of ‘thinking about doing things as we do them’ – using reflection-in-action as introduced by (Schön) coupled to some fundamental ideas concerning how we need to understand the way we work creatively in problem solving.

Mapping Out: 3 Internal Forces

The reuse of learning intelligent processes is task related:

  • How we think > conditions > what we do
  • What we do > conditions > what we learn
  • What we learn > conditions > how we think

Each of these three aspects is not hierarchical or necessarily dependent, they are three forces in the mind and the body. The focus is the person – me. And the group – us. These three forces has meaning but has little value unless applied. Think of them as three ‘forces’ connected by elastic bands that can never be broken.

DO LEARN THINK

The Kolb model can be referred to here, but this is not the same thing, this simplification (this not intended to be a replacement, just a simplification in order to develop some simple but powerful insights):

  • Experiencing – part of doing
  • Reflecting – part of thinking
  • Making meaning – part of thinking
  • Acting – part of doing

The difference in representation is Learning is treated as one force of two more forces, each given equal weight. Exerience as doing is treated equally with thinking about what we do. This is more general than the Kolb model but also more applicable, since the object to these posts is to develop learning, doing and thinking tools.

Developing Understanding

This is an important distinction even though it is very simple because the more we stretch one of them, the longer and stronger the relations to the other two. The longer we stretch one, the stronger the relations become. The three aspects are one, not separate. The other two act – not according to any laws of the universe – but according to ‘a law of us’, to pull the one aspect back into balance – as long as we are aware of all three.

Icons2

Thinking Alone

So in other words sure, we can sit on a bench and think about something. But we won’t be learning and we certainly are not doing anything else other than thinking. We can work as we want, immersing ourselves in each aspect, or in two. But without the other two even being together, we are really only on our own.

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(Photo by Paul Lieberwirth on Flickr)

Doing Alone

We can do, say play with Lego. One of the most enjoyable things about having boys as children is be able to just play, letting the process dictate the outcome. But doing without purpose is precisely that, play. It is not objective since there is nothing we have to do, we just do.

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(lego image. Photo by Steven Andrew on Flickr)

Learning Alone

We can learn by reading a book. The words on a page is not learning – we first need to have something from our own experiences to make real. So we read someone’s words, as mine here. We learn something because we have constructed an understanding by relating what we already have as experience – then transform that into perception using the words as a catalyst. By having that perception we did not have before, we have learned something.

Reading

(image: Yours truly)

The Three Internal Forces

Putting this all together is critical to be able to develop ourselves and our 21st. century skills. To do this we require an approach to real-world problems or challenges that this is truly about by understanding our three internal forces and how they work together. The same holds true for ‘thinking together’, ‘doing together’ and ‘learning together’. It’s when we can think and do and learn – both alone and together – and figure out how we can support that (so we can do so much more) for ourself, but far more powerfully together, that things start to get really interesting. That will be the subject of a future article.

Streamlining the LTD:

Learning – Thinking – Doing

If we can order our thinking, it becomes streamlined – it favours a particular direction above others, focussing our actions as the results of what we do show us what works, what doesn’t. By learning and adjusting our doing as we reflect on what we learn, we achieve in theory at least, a faster, better way of doing what we do.

Without learning, the value of how and what we think and do is limited. This might sound obvious, but the process, the exercise, that document, the act of doing or producing tends to take over the reflection of what we ought to be doing, not what we are doing.

Learning-Thinking – Doing:

Seeing The Wood & The Trees

DO LEARN THINKBy using the above as a simple tool for perceiving what we do as we do it, we have a way of:

  • developing understanding and knowledge of how we work, think and learn best
  • improve on what we do by seeing the wood and the trees.
  • see how our actions have influence on what we want to achieve in accordance with aims, wants, dreams and desires.
  • focus on our strengths and weaknesses by seeing how they relate

This article can also be read on Medium.

Categories
Frameworks Organisation

From IQ to CO-Q

Developing the Adaptable Learning Organisation – by Collaborative Intelligence

Introduction

The abbreviation “IQ” was coined by the psychologist William Stern for the German term Intelligenzquotient for ‘scoring method’ for intelligence tests in 1912. Over one hundred years later we’re about to move the goalposts well and truly into the 21st. century. Before we talk more about intelligence, let’s consider for the moment the difference between two organisational paradigms: The ‘traditional’ and the ‘untraditional’, which for the sake of argument will build on the accepted model of the ‘Learning Organisation.’

The Traditional Organisation

Traditional hierarchies and processes can be thought of from two perspectives: As an ‘operating system’ dictating the extents that the ‘people system’ are able to operate within: People and teams operate as the foundation upon which the structure of the organization rests, managers sending corporate or organisational strategies, plans, time schedules, direction on down from the penthouse suite to the team leaders and teams on the floors below, who then implement that strategy and convert it into organizational benefit.

The problem is, the strategies being developed in the penthouse suite often fail to reflect the disruptive environment the organisation is a part of and relies on for its markets or existence. Information is kept specific to the team domain, meaning it doesn’t get shared or is able to cross-pollinate other team’s ideas and understanding keeping the organisation inflexible and unable to adapt to the changing environment.

The Learning Organisation

In the learning organisation, leaders are designers, stewards, and teachers according to Peter Senge, whose breakthrough book ‘The Fifth Discipline’ changed we already thought back in 1990. The world has changed a lot since then, but the message still remains the same: That the problem with traditional ‘operating systems’ is that these are most often implemented by management are not capable of handling the dynamic challenges of complexity, change and person to person interactions that increasingly define how we do business today. The people at the bottom traditionally go about doing what they are good at using their intelligence in the fulfillment of strategical objectives. Until recently, this is the way things are done. But not any longer.

TradOrg

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CO-Q by Mark Dyson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

In the learning organisation our actions create our reality. Our reality is who we are, who we work with, how we can contribute to the success of the organisation so we have a place in its growth and development, cementing us as people in the greater context of sharing and interacting.

  • The structure is based on people, not on strategy
  • The division of information and team working is a thing of the past
  • Managers are not a barrier between us and the development of strategy

Dealing with Disruption and Change

In times of change and disruption, strategy can be or even worse, non-aligned to an appreciation of context and operating environment. Kotter introduced the idea of a new operating system continuously assesses fit for purpose, monitoring and to provide an active self-adjusting means of implementing strategy:

‘An organisation that’s facing a real threat or eyeing a new opportunity tries – and fails – to cram through some sort of major transformation using a change process worked in the past. But the old ways of setting and implementing strategy are behind us… the existing structures and processes need an additional element to address the challenges associated with complexity and change. The solution is second operating system, devoted to the design and implementation of strategy using an agile network and a very different set of processes.’ (Kotter 2012)

Advocating a network instead of hierarchies, the keypoints of the second operating system were:

  • continually assesses the business, industry, organisation
  • reacts with greater agility, speed & creativity
  • compliments the traditional hierarchy freeing resources
  • makes enterprises easier to run
  • accelerates strategic change

LearningOrg
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CO-Q by Mark Dyson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

What we have is a reversal of the traditional model where strategy and objectives, visions and concepts must be aligned to the eyes, ears and minds working together – adapting and adjusting to latest observations, perceptions, understandings and insights to keep on top and ahead. This is why we advocate CO-Q or Collaborative intelligence. The common denominator characterizing multi-agent, distributed systems.

In such a distributed system each agent is uniquely positioned to contribute to an evolutionary network of people interacting to produce intelligent outcomes, sharing information & reusing it so others learn and share their knowledge in turn. So what happens is the external ‘reality’ is used to foster interaction as CO-Q developing new, aligned capability that in turn can contribute to better, smarter, better aligned strategical plans and canvasses to ‘reality’ – what is going on around you: Your market, your competitors, your dna.

Multi-agent interaction

In a learning organisation based on a distributed system, we work as ‘multiple agents’ developing CO-Q collaborative intelligence. As a part of a multi-agent network, an agent is not only aligned with the current visions of the organisation employing you – but far more importantly works pro-actively to co-develop the same strategies, evolving the organisation along the way.

This means directors need to let go as close-tie teams using key players tuned in to management objectives effectively and continually assessing objective, process, organisational composition and fit-for-purpose.

Developing the adaptive learning organisation.

This means a business or organisation us able to develop an internal dynamic operatability  – working not the way they want to but working the way they need to, since the collective aspect means the test lies in fit for purpose over and above any persons individual purpose. This is the adaptive organisation actually learning, acting and working as an intelligent organism. The result is faster reaction times, increasing speed and adaptive agility – so agents and teams able to influence their organisation and organisations strategic intelligence with the capability to constantly redefine.

What we end up with is an evolutionary networks motivated by and contributing to central CO-Q drivers. These are the engines moving minds forward by interaction, aligned understanding. In CO-Q, people contribute to each other’s task as well as their own having influence on strategy and direction that is now receptive to the ‘minds in the field’: By linking people to process through CO-Q.

The success of the organisation is of course dependent on the level of understanding and knowledge of how CO-Q can be implemented. Therefore, it is paramount that tools and mindsets are developed that allows the agents, or team members to work systematically within an overall thinking-doing framework. In turn, this enables adaptive fleixble processes that change in accordance to insights and decisions that continuously define ‘the learning plans of action.’ This can only arise by close-tie intelligent team collaboration. But don’t just take my word for it:

IBM look at the same issues from the point of view of developing responsive technology. As a business on the front-end of innovation they see the problem as being one of developing key cornerstones that changes the way organisations work so they themselves are responsive and adaptive to change.

Many companies want to innovate—but not all understand the importance of collaboration to making innovation possible. Many are hobbled by old concepts of collaboration that can slow their success. People in the company may, for example, consider collaboration to be extra work. But to today’s innovative worker, collaboration is what work is all about. In the old way of thinking, employees make themselves valuable through what they know. But in the new way, people make themselves valuable by seeking opportunities to work with others and tapping into the expertise that others possess. (IBM 2008)

The Value Proposition: From IQ to CO-Q

When we boil it down to the simplest ingredients its really quite simple. The value proposition is this:

We may have the connections and may have the skills to develop dynamic interactions. What we don’t have is the understanding, the skills or the tools to implement them. In other words, no amount of know-how or technological investment will make difference without effective collaboration and intelligence sharing. And that’s why CO-Q comes into the picture.

Our message is the development and implementation of smarter and better ways of working is the key to adaptation. To adapt does not to send strategy down to the teams, but to see the entire organisation as a self- evolving hub of people, ideas and interactions where managers, team leaders and personell are equally valid according to the extent they can contribute to the collective development of knowledge and understanding.

In the old way, content is owned and protected. In the new way, content is developed through participation; it is fluid, contextual and leveraged to create opportunities through ongoing collaboration. In the old way, directories of people provide static contact information. In the new way, dynamic profiles reflect what people do, with whom and how well they do it. (IBM 2008)

Agent-to-agent evolutionary close-tie networks: A reversal of traditional management practice

This is a radical and different proposition than the one most of us have been used to and effectively challenges the traditional structures advocated by management. It means understanding and adapting: How we interact and combine to develop ideas, content and action. Smarter ways of working is the doing part and is based on thought – developing ways of thinking, thinking about doing and thinking about how people work best together. As collaboration is implemented and becomes successful, it becomes both more fluid and responsive. And this is where the thinking side of things enters into the equation.

CO-Q teams impart ‘strategic fitness’ to process, organisation and the interactions between people. The more the organisation exercises strategy skills, the more trying out feedback and iterative development is offered by the teams on the evolving strategy, what Kotter describes as ‘a hypercompetitive environment’ (Kotter 2015). IBM look at this from the aspect of transcending normal document based working connecting systems and data. As IBM points out, this too often ends up producing content for its own sake:

The people-focused style, which connects people and ideas, taps people for knowledge and insight in pursuit of an activity in which content is only one part. In the new collaboration, information is made available to a wider group of people who work together openly, quickly and more cost-effectively. Finding and connecting with subject matter experts are critical steps to the success of collaboration. (IBM 2008)

It’s all based on team performance. The more the organization exercises its strategy skills, the more adept it becomes at dealing with a hypercompetitive environment. The network and the hierarchy, functioning as dual operating systems (CA’s generating system), can produce more wealth, better products and services, and a more exciting place to work in an era of exponential change (Kotter 2012).

With new styles of collaboration in place, companies can be positioned for solid business benefits because they can harness the innovative power of shared knowledge. Companies can improve service to customers, partners and other stakeholders because they can not only communicate more readily, but they can also work together to solve common problems and meet common needs. (IBM 2008)

***

Kotter’s 8 Accelerators

CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY around a SINGLE BIG OPPORTUNITY

COALITION: Build and maintain a guiding coalition

FORMULATE VISION: Formulate a strategic vision and develop change initiatives designed to capitalize on the big opportunity

COMMUNICATE VISION: Communicate the vision and the strategy to create buy-in and attract a growing ‘volunteer army’

REMOVE BARRIERS: Accelerate movement toward the vision and the opportunity by ensuring that the network removes barriers

CELEBRATE: Celebrate visible, significant short-term wins

LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE: Never let up. Keep learning from experience. Don’t declare victory to soon. (Or at all)

INSTITUTIONALIZE: Institutionalize strategic changes in the culture.

References

IBM 2008: The new collaboration: enabling innovation, changing the workplace.’ Online; January 2008. http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cio/pdf/new-collaboration-white-paper.pdf

Kotter 2012: Kotter, John: Accelerate – How The Most Innovative Companies Capitalize On Today’s Rapid-Fire Strategic Challenges – And Still Make Their Numbers’ . The Harvard Business Review; November 2012.