The Metaphor of Sloths

 

Thinking Outside Box

Back in 2014, one of my colleagues, Enoch Hale, posted the following blogging challenge:

“I want to pose an open challenge: Post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for 30 days.

What followed was an amazing six weeks (we decided to do 30 work days) of out-of-the-box brainstorming.  Our collective questions were captured here.

Yet, while it was fun and intellectually stimulating, did it change me?  Maybe…it certainly flavored my teaching.

I thought of this thought-exercise as I was reading Joe Brewer’s Medium post “The Look and Feel of 21st Century Science.”

Brewer noted that humanity is going through unprecedented global change.  And while some processes adapt to change very quickly (our use of smartphones for instance), other things move more slowly.  He noted historical sloths such as academic disciplines at universities and libraries.

His point about libraries reminded me of Dave Weinberger’s earlier book, Everything is Miscellaneous.  Weinberger noted that in a digital age, there is no one way to classify information.  Rather than trying to put books in one place (like the Dewey Decimal System does), he suggested that information can live in multiple places.  This premise of information and knowledge living in multiple nodes and the concept of networked knowledge was expanded in his book Too Big To Know, which is the textbook for my ILD-831 classJoe BrewerBrewer noted that “…libraries are “going digital” and building up a network ecology framework for organizing the knowledge of societies.”

Brewer suggested that science is currently in crisis alongside the political and economic systems of the world.  He points out:

“So we must envision a look and feel for science in the future that is networked, agile and ever-evolving, relevant to the pressing issues of the day, and deeply, DEEPLY ecologically human.”

Brewer suggested that part of the problem lies in our adoption of systems thinking…the “illusion of separation between machines and living things.”  He pointed to the need to adopt instead ecological networks.

“…The look and feel of 21st Century science will be human through and through. There will be holism and integration; emotion and reason recombined in resonance with findings from the cognitive and behavioral sciences. And it will be ecological; embedded in human networks which are themselves embedded within physical and social geographies.”

Weinberger in Too Big To Know captured some of that library thinking when he concluded:

“…We thought that knowledge was scarce, when in fact it was just that our shelves were small.  Our new knowledge is not even a set of works.  It is an infrastructure of connection…”

Coming back to our 30-Day Challenge, Enoch had us questioning our teaching in ways that surfaced holism and integration…that surfaced integration of human and technology.  I have tried to bring aspects of that thinking into my current courses – Creighton University’s ILD-831 – Technology and Leadership – and Northeastern University’s EDU-6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning.  In both classes, I struggle to move past the sloths of old…of hierarchical thinking in leadership…of classrooms based on scarcity of knowledge.  Yet, I am encouraged and even buoyed by ideas surfacing from my students in our blog aggregation for ILD-831 and our Twitter hashtag discussions in #edu6323.  The first stirrings of ecological networks appear to be developing!

I would be interested in your thoughts.  How do we move the sloths of academia and leadership in our digital age?

{Graphics: Bud Deihl, Brewer}

The Leaky Social Media Question

There is supposedly an old Chinese curse that states, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”  I would think that this last week – the first week of President Trump’s administration – qualifies as interesting times.

As someone who teaches about social media in both leadership and education classes, it was fascinating to watch unfolding events around social media in the federal government…which has lessons for those of us anywhere in leadership.

On Tuesday, the new administration attempted to control any communication with the public, ordering employees at multiple agencies to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence.  This raised a firestorm of reaction, with the Department of Agriculture amending its policy:

“Yesterday, we sent an email message about Agency informational products like news releases and social media contact,” another email to employees said. “This internal email was released prior to receiving official Departmental guidance and is hereby rescinded.”

Not all agencies quietly complied. A series of tweets that went viral appeared to come from one of the National Park Services, quickly generating the hashtag #badasslands:

Officially, the Park Service reported that the tweets came from a former employee who still had access to their account.  The Park pulled down the tweets…but by then, many copies were circulating (as I am doing here).  A number of “rogue” Twitter accounts surfaced to continue pushing back against the perceived attack on science by this administration.

So one of the lessons is, in a digital age with multiple channels of communication – and the ability of anyone to communicate – “controlling” the message, whether from a federal department, a business, or an educational institution, is problematic.

Eighteen years ago, Jon Husband coined the term “wirearchy” – “a dynamic flow of power and authority, based on information, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected technology and people”.

Unlike a hierarchy, a wirearchy assumes openness and transparency.  In a digitally connected world, information is going to flow…control is no longer possible.  A 2014 Gartner report suggested:

“…Digital business is not just about expanding the use of technology. Digital business leaders must think about technology in a fundamentally different way than in the past…”

Westerman, Bonnett, and McAfee, in their 2014 book Leading Digital, noted that in the past, standardizing limited empowerment.  Controlling impacted innovation.  The desire to orchestrate action suggested “leashing” rather than unleashing employees. The wirearchial world in which we lead today requires the opposite – empowerment, innovation, and the unleashing of employees (or students).

My students in ILD 831 next week will be grappling with the implications of leadership in a hyperlinked world.   I look forward to seeing their thoughts on our class Netvibes site.

{Graphic: Hugh McLeod}

 

Other Tools to Consider

In my ILD831 class for Creighton University this week, my 12 students will be looking at digital tools.  Using Jane Hart’s C4LPT Top 200 list as a starting point, they self-selected the following tools to explore and analyze from a leadership perspective (number indicates rank on the Top 200 list):
digital tools

As part of their analyses, they will be factoring in insights as they start to read David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know, as well as thoughts on an interview with Clay Shirky on the disruptive power of collaboration.  Their analyses will appear later this week in our Netvibes class page.

It is always interesting to consider the tools not selected by students as those selected.  Jane this year has divided her Top Tools into three sub-lists – Personal Learning, Workplace Learning, and Education – and noted the following:

  • “Individuals continue to reap the benefits of the opportunities offered to them on the Web to learn in all kinds of ways – both planned and unplanned, formal and informal, through content and people, online or on smart devices.
  • Education is also making use of a wide range of multi-purpose web-based tools – probably because they are free and easy to use – alongside dedicated educational tools.
  • Workplace learning, however, is still largely dominated by the use of traditional commercial tools for creating, delivering and managing e-learning. However, there is increasing use of new-style content development tools and greater use is being made of tools for social collaboration (and social learning) within work teams and groups.”

My class has business and non-profit executives, teachers and education administrators, military, corporate trainers, and healthcare managers.  What I will find interesting is not what tools they chose or how they might use them, but “why?” they might make a choice.  As an interdisciplinary group, I know we will learn from each other.

I found Jane Hart’s observations in each sub-group insightful.  Professionals reported to her that they were using digital tools to search and research the web, learn from others, aggregate and curate resources, store and sync their various files, and increase their productivity, using a variety of smart devices.  They reported a lot of experimentation on their own before they might bring a tool into the workplace or education.

In workplace learning, it was interesting and somewhat comforting that the number one tool was still Powerpoint.  As my students know from watching my class videos, I lean towards Prezi myself, but Powerpoint has advantages, not the least being accessibility.  Workplace tools included authoring tools, asset development tools (like infographics that I have played with), course management tools, and webinar tools. There is increasing use of time-line authoring tools, audience response tools, social tools, and web conferencing tools. I found it interesting that Jane noted the decreased use of FREE tools.

The opposite trend appeared in education, where free tools continue to be widely used along with commercial products.  Tools that increased interactivity were particularly popular.

Right Tool

After 10 years of reporting the top tools, one thing that remains in my thinking is that tools come and go, but the processes seem to become more focused and defined.  The specific tool is always less important than how and why it is being used.  I look forward to hearing what my students have to say this week!

{Graphics: kelcyc, Bob Crumb}

Leading in a Wired World

Next week, I will once again be teaching a section of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership – in Creighton University’s Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership.  I have taught this course for five years and over those years, evolved the course, shifting the textbook from Tom Friedman’s (2007) The World is Flat to Clay Shirky’s (2008) Here Comes Everybody to currently Dave Weinberger’s (2011) Too Big To Know.  The course flow looks like this.

This is a fascinating time to consider leadership in a wired world.  As the past few weeks have illustrated, we have a government in transition in America in which policy implications are unfolding on the President-Elect’s Twitter stream.  What does this suggest for those studying leadership in courses such as mine?  At a minimum, old rules no longer apply!

We will have two sections of ILD 831 exploring topics around leading in a networked and wired world, and I look forward to the blog commentary that will start up later next week.  I will be aggregating posts in Netvibes, so feel free to join in and comment as you see opportunities.

Leader Strength is the Pack

As ILD 831 was wrapping up this week, I was down in Rhode Island spending spring vacation with my grandkids.  That meant a trip to the movies to see the latest Disney Movie, The Jungle Book.

pack_The-Jungle-Book-2016

Great movie for adults and kids alike!  A key feature of the movie which is repeated throughout is “The Law of the Jungle”, dutifully true to Kipling’s original:

lawofjungle

As the picture above showed, the “pack” morphed into a diverse group binding together to overcome the danger that the tiger Shere Khan represented.  I was thinking about the line “…the strength of the Wolf is the Pack” as I read through the final blog posts for this term of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership.  It is clear that one of the readings I shared, Michele Martin’s “A Deep Dive into Thinking about 21st Century Leadership” really resonated with the class.  Michele wrote about moving from leader as hero to leader as host – “hosting the space for people to come together to discover solutions through meaningful conversations and structured exploration and action.”  Sounds a lot like networked leadership…and on depending on the strength of the pack!  Here are some quotes from my students’ final reflections as they came online this week:

“…What has changed the most in my leadership style through this course is my understanding that I must be an adaptable leader … and wiling to be more flexible if I want to succeed and lead successfully for many years to come. Being more adaptable means far more than embracing technology, which is important, but more importantly is the growth that I experienced knowing that in order to be successful as a leader I must lead through areas that I know little about, such as technology and be willing to learn about them and embrace the changes in the digital age…” LeadershipandTechnologyBlog

“…The amount of information available to any employee connected to the Net provides seemingly endless opportunities for creative and free thinking. Therefore, leaders must create, or host, work environments that welcome individuals to meet, share ideas, and create solutions…” ILD831BlogChris

“…The greatest message within this lesson that I have learned is you will get back what you as a leader put in. I may be able to do an adequate job as a leader without embracing some of the opportunities the internet and collaborative discussion allows. However, if I put myself out there as a leader, sharing what I know, and opening my mind up to the knowledge that is out there from others, I have more of a chance for success…” AdventuresInTeachnologyandLeadership

“…If the public’s romanticism of technology is accurate, and the future is about creating tools making work easier for individuals and the organizations they work for, each must learn and adapt to evolving technology in order to remain competitive. For myself, beyond the discussion about specific technologies and our networked world, this course has reinforced a number of thoughts or forced me to consider the following as action we need to take today in creating an appropriate culture moving forward…” TechLeadershipCanada

“…As individuals, we are compelled to participate in using technology if we want to be socially connected, knowledgeable, or contemporary in our relationship practices. As organizations, technology can empower and enable services, increase productivity, improve efficiency, advance quality, and take over mundane or routine tasks.  The most significant challenge, however, is the nexus between man and machine.  The creation and application of technology happens because humans use their divine talents and gifts to create and the result has been breakthrough innovation and advancement of technologies that can change lives…” Raven765

“…Traditional hierarchies that operate from principles of command and control, the chain of command, and unity of command are a threat to increasing organizational adaptability and diffusion of technology.  In many government, tenured organizations, and institutions, much of its talent in information technology exists in lower ranking positions in the organizational structure. The percentage of personnel competent in the internet, technological tools, and social media platforms generally diminish the closer you get to the top of the pyramid.  The emerging principles of wirearchy (Husband, 2000) and leaders as social artists (Martin, 2015) offer non-traditional solutions to organizational management which maximizes idea management and diffusion of technology…”  CochranCreighton

“…Leading from the middle moves the sole liability of the organization from one person or a small group of individuals towards the entire community as a whole.  The idea of leading from within or the middle sets the named leader to become a host or guide rather than the hero (Martin, 2015). Maxwell (2010) discusses leading from where you are as being a way to share the responsibility and allow others to find their inner leadership strength and lead as well as the named leader…”  TechRyuu

“…With the rapid development of technology, trying to keep up with it is going to be not only a personal project but an organizational one also. Organizations will have to navigate the digital world in order to maximize the benefits it can yield…”  CupOfTeaWordpressom

“…I begin to conceptualize the notion that each of us could possibly be living within our own paradigm(s), which are defined by our own unique experiences, both formal and informal, and that that may also be influenced by other paradigms espoused by others. For example, if it is one’s practice to typically use or rely upon a certain type of technology or preferred leadership approach, this might be inferred as living within a particular paradigm that may or may not be shared, or completely shared, by others. However, if one were to discover, or unearth, new knowledge or ideas that would challenge and consequently cause one to question one’s current paradigm(s); and thus prompt one to remodel it—a shift would or might occur. This could be a shift in one’s thinking or practice that would cause one to act or operate differently. After reading Michele Martin’s article, A Deep Dive Into Thinking About 21st Century leadership, the idea of living within one’s own paradigm seemed to emerge as well…” SitiSnyder

“…Stephen Covey’s, author of The 7Habits of Highly Effective of People, noted that people who were able to use synergic communication, that is, the ability to open their minds and hearts to new possibilities, alternatives, and options are leaders (cited in Sprung, 2012). To be a leader in the digital age, we need to be open to innovation and welcome any and all ideas that may impact the learning outcomes for our students…” AlohaILD831

“…I continue to appreciate the importance of recognizing that successful leadership starts at the top, but it does not mean “top” in the traditional sense of hierarchy (or in this wirearchy). Instead, as a result of this course (and my Ed.D program) is that leadership is an intentional, interactive and based in relationships. While this particular posts focuses on leadership in the digital age, the core values and characteristics learned are applicable regardless if it is in person or online. Leaders and follows are connected and bond by the work we are doing…” lrILD831

Some have suggested that “it is a jungle out there” in referring to the world in which these leaders work and lead…perhaps it is time to update the Law of the Jungle:

For the strength of the Network is the Leader,
And the strength of the Leader is the Network.

I have really enjoyed our 8-week journey together exploring the intersection of technology and leadership.  I look forward to this cohort doing amazing things in the days to come!

{Graphics: RogerEbert.Com}

Is Knowledge Management Relevant?

This week in my course for Creighton University – ILD 831: Technology and Leadership – the students are exploring the concept of knowledge management.  Nancy Dixon had described the three eras of knowledge management back in 2009 as moving from leaders leveraging explicit knowledge, to leaders leveraging experiential knowledge, and finally to leaders leveraging collective knowledge.  I have remixed her graphic some to suggest that we have moved into a fourth ill-defined era:

KM Evolution RevisedHarold Jarche in his post “Loose hierarchies for knowledge management” noted that KM has become contextual, requiring loose hierarchies and strong networks.   This networked concept also surfaces in Weinberger’s (2012) Too Big To Know, which suggested the internet has fundamentally altered how organizations will work and succeed.  According to Weinberger, knowledge in the past was seen as a narrowing pyramid, with those at the top having the most critical knowledge. Yet the web now allows any level of employee to gain information from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, and share that with anyone else at any level of an organization … or outside the organization.  Jay Cross called this “social learning“.

sociallearning_cross

If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management…particularly in a world in which, as Clay Shirky suggested, anyone can publish anything…and it is up to us to filter, rather than the previous centuries-old vetting process of filter…then publish?  After all, is not knowledge management a form of filtering?

Thomas Davenport wrote off knowledge management in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal last year.  He suggested that individuals focused on managing knowledge missed the boat when big data came along.

“Any chance that this idea will come back? I don’t think so. The focus of knowledge-oriented projects has shifted to incorporating it into automated decision systems. The hot technology for managing knowledge is now IBM Corp.’s Watson—very different from the traditional KM model. Big Data and analytics are also much more a focus than KM within organizations. These concepts may be declining a bit in popularity too, but companies are still very focused on making them work.”

The tag line for David Weinberger‘s book is “Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room.”  In this era of machine intelligence and rapidly evolving work structures, we need to rethink knowledge.  Davenport ends his piece suggesting that one should continue to believe in knowledge management, and I agree … but as Weinberger noted, we have to be smart differently.

I am looking forward to hearing what my students make of this evolving concept!

 

Exploring the Intersection of Leadership and Technology

I am always stoked when I get a chance to teach ILD 831 for Creighton University.  This course in their Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership Program has an eclectic group of leaders from around the world exploring the impact of technology in general and the internet in particular on leadership in organizations. Through this examination, these students struggle with how leadership does (or should) adapt to a changing world. In the past decade, the internet has certainly become a part of life and work. The internet has moved from a virtual space where people went to find information to an active place that is open, social and participatory. This shift has profound implications on leadership. How does a leader manage information (and knowledge) when the sum of all human knowledge is available to anyone in her or his organization from their smartphone? How is communication evolving? What are ethical issues associated with networked employees, students, or patients? What is on the horizon? This course gives students the opportunity to explore leadership mediated by a digital world.

My course map shows the flow of this 8-week course, which is starting this week:

coursemapILD831

This Spring class has teachers in K-12 and higher education, technologists, industry managers, a fire chief, and the CEO of a health system.  I always love the mix of experiences these students bring to this examination.  As we move through these eight weeks, they will all be blogging.  You can see their posts – and interact with the class – at our Netvibes site.

ford_riseofrobotsThese are interesting times to examine this intersection.  I am currently reading Martin Ford’s 2015 book, The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.  It paints a rather bleak picture around the idea that technology – and in particulary artificial intelligence – is creating a future where lots of jobs are eliminated but few jobs are created in their place.  In other words, according to Ford, we face a future where unemployment and inequality will reach catastrophic levels.  Scott Santens in an article in the Boston Globe last week mirrored similar thoughts.

Last week in Medium, danah boyd discussed “What is the Value of a Bot?”  She noted that as systems get more complex, it becomes harder for developers to come together and develop “politeness policies” or guidelines for bots. She noted that it is getting increasingly difficult to discern between bots that are being helpful and bots that are a burden and not beneficial.  One of the key points she made:

Bots are first and foremost technical systems, but they are derived from social values and exert power into social systems. How can we create the right social norms to regulate them? What do the norms look like in a highly networked ecosystem where many pieces of the pie are often glued together by digital duct tape?”

This is the world these leaders are and will be leading in…and there are no easy answers.  I am looking forward to our dialogue on the open web over the next two months!

 

Digital Leadership

westermanbookI have read about half of a recent book from George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfeeLeading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation (2014).  Their premise is that the innovations of the past decade have been nothing short of astonishing – yet they are just the warm up acts for what is to come.  They suggest that those that master the digital playing field will be able to combine big data, machine learning, and visualizations such that their organizations will make smarter decisions, see the future more clearly, drive out inefficiencies, and better understand their customers.

This book was published by Harvard Business Review Press…and is certainly geared towards business professionals.  They note that the elements of the digital world – software, hardware, networks, and data – are “pervading the business world, and they’re doing so quickly, broadly, and deeply” (p. 5).  The first half of the book focuses on two driving capabilities – digital capability (customer engagement, operational processes, and business models) and leadership capability (vision, governance, and infrastructure).

The authors matrix these two capabilities to suggest four levels of digital mastery:

  • Beginners
  • Fashionistas
  • Conservatives
  • Digital Masters

Plotting these by industry gives the following graphic (p. 22):

DigMastery

Noteworthy (to me) is the absence of higher education.  Yet, as I considered this, it struck me that it is more difficult to pin down any university (or college or department within universities).  There are programs and faculty just beginning the digital journey.  There are programs and departments that jump on bandwagons but do not have a compelling vision for where they are going.  There are definitely conservative programs that are carefully considering their digital future.  And there are higher education programs that seem to have successfully made the digital transformation, and there are numerous centers for teaching nationwide that focus on facilitating this digital transformation.

My colleague Jeff Nugent over the past few years has suggested three “truths”:

  • We live in a networked world where the vast storehouse of human knowledge is literally accessible at our fingertips.
  • There are unprecedented opportunities to create, share and interact on the web.
  • We are witnessing the increased digitization of the university.

If one agrees that these are true, one would naturally cultivate both the digital capability and leadership capability necessary to succeed in this digital world.  Yet, the lack of urgency in developing these capabilities across much of higher education seems to suggest that some of our colleagues do not hold these as truths.

It brings to mind research conducted by Carol Dweck and others that has identified two distinct ways in which individuals view intelligence and learning.  Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is simply an inborn trait—they have a certain amount, and that’s that.  In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can develop their intelligence over time.  One wonders if faculty – many of who achieved success in a pre-digital era – are operating from a fixed mindset when it comes to digital literacy?

It raises the question of whether one can focus on digital mastery without first tackling the issue of mindset?

The second half of the book provides strategies for framing the digital challenges, investing in actionable ways, mobilizing and motivating workforces, and sustaining the transition.  This book has me thinking … which is good.  I would be interested in your thoughts around the digitization of the university – faculty and students – and the mindset associated with that transformation.

30-Day Challenge – Day 23 – Trust, Leadership and Learning

Harold Jarche had an thoughtful post – really a series of quotes – today – “Move the hierarchy to the rear.”  Harold started with a quote from the Harvard Business Review:

In an environment where everyone is a leader, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward. – Harrison Monarth: HBR

Harold is focused on business leadership, and the “other mechanism” he suggests is “the wirearchy framework,” proposed by Jon Husband as a web-based alternative to the hierarchical model.

But what if we changed one word in the Monarth quote?

In an environment where everyone is a learner, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward.

For me, the wirearchy framework can work just as well in a classroom.  Jarche goes on to state:

Solving problems is what most knowledge workers are hired to do. But complex problems usually cannot be solved alone. They require the sharing of tacit knowledge, which cannot easily be put into a manual. Tacit knowledge flows best in trusted networks. Trust promotes individual autonomy and this becomes a foundation for social learning. Without trust, few are willing to share their knowledge. An effective knowledge network also cultivates the diversity and autonomy of each worker. Connected leaders foster deeper connections, developed through ongoing and meaningful conversations. They understand the importance of tacit knowledge in solving complex problems. Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.

networks and nodes - gapingvoid cartoonNow again…think classroom…

  • Solving complex problems…
  • Sharing of tacit knowledge…
  • Trusted networks…
  • Individual autonomy and social learning…
  • Deeper connections…
  • Ongoing and meaningful conversations…

“Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.”

I would submit that connected teachers likewise understand that they are a node in a learning network.  They understand trust, leadership and learning.  This aligns so well with the connectivism approach to learning!

For my 30-Day Challenge question today, I am wondering…

Day 23 – How can I lead from the rear to build trust and facilitate networked learning as a norm in my class?

In another Jarche post – Hierarchies are Obsolete – Harold noted that hierarchies may technically be networks, but they are simply branching ones, good when information flow is one-way and down.  Hierarchies do not facilitate creativity or innovation.  Some classes I have seen in higher education seem to be set up to facilitate the one-way flow of “content” without engaging the students.  In today’s rapidly evolving knowledge era, co-learning with your students seems to be more aligned with the digital world in which our students (and we) reside.

So open up, build trust, and let the learning flow (with all its messiness).  As Harold noted:

“Evolution is on the side of those who cooperate.”

Thoughts?

{Graphic: GapingVoid}

 

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My Next Summer Reading Plans

A delivery from Barnes and Noble is like Christmas in July.  As much as I like digital, there is something comforting about holding a book.  Here are the next four books I plan to read this summer:

books.

Looking forward to jumping in!

And by the way, they are sitting on one of my favorite chairs, designed by a student in the Interior Design program at Gwinnett Technical College many years ago.  It, like these books, reminds me that we can go anywhere our imagination will take us.

chair

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