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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