Author Archives: Chris Jones

About Chris Jones

Tech consultant. Blogger. Author. Social instigator. Passionate about learning in the workplace and the classroom. Founder of #smchat, #ecosys and #cdna online communities.

Deeper in the Flow: What are the Traditional Sources of Critical Thinking?

Making Waves, Silver Turbulence (c) 2014 Amberwood Media Group, all rights reserved

Critical Thinking: Deeper in the Flow | cc3 ncu ar 2014 Amberwood Media Group

In the rapid stream of ideas rushing past us each day, there is scant time or energy to capture and distill them all.

The current runs fast.

Sometimes we’re able to break free of the digital frenzy of information, able (if only briefly) to pull against the current of our social media stream to reflect in deeper waters. Once there, though, are we ready? Do we still have the skills to discern real events from fiction? Opinion from fact? Symptoms from causes? What of the core skills required for critical thinking to take hold, and what are their sources?

This is the line of questioning we’ll bring into focus this summer, and I think we might be best served looking at these matters across a time horizon: What were traditional sources? Where do these skills come from today? And where will we get them in the future?

We’ll start with a look back, to traditional sources. Certainly public education and higher education provide fertile ground. Do we go all the way back to classic influences, like Aristotle or Socrates? From my not so long ago memory of grade school days, forms of the Socratic inquiry (marked by it’s bedeviling “..and why is THAT?”) have remained alive and well on elementary playgrounds. But to what degree does classic inquiry still infuse the learning horizon? To what desgree does it need to? Let’s find out.

  • Q1. What role did the early greek classics play in establishing critical thinking?
  • Q2. How central have the liberal arts been in teaching critical thinking at the college level, and in which domains?
  • Q3. Has public education attempted to introduce critical thinking in primary, and with what success?
  • Q4. Let’s establish a common thread: how did past learners become comfortable with ambiguity?

I look forward to an interesting conversation. This current is likely to run particularly fast. I’ll be sure to bring extra paddles.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Learning in the Fast Lane: Winning the Battle for Focus and Attention

I was recently inspired by a tweet from KQED in N. California under the brand “Mind Shift” .. and my re-tweet is shown below. Not ironically, the visual of the various aspects listed caught my attention. Many of the elements shown hail from the realm of design thinking or critical thinking. Virtually all of them are worth some reflection.

As we think about the implications, let’s focus on 4 specific examples of content triggers that seem to be in contrast with traditional education/learning norms. Perhaps we might derive some insights.

  • Q1. Brevity – in stark contrast with textbooks and 100-slide PowerPoints; can we be more succinct?
  • Q2. Controversy – it’s out of place in an orderly classroom, but don’t our best teachers challenge our thinking?
  • Q3. Contrast – a strong visual impact can garnish attention, at least for a short while; but what about contrasting ideas?
  • Q4. Emotion/Story. A great story is packed with emotional content and triggers. Can more stories drive deeper learning?

Much is changing in education and our awareness of how we learn. Is there some new thinking in this diagram. Let’s mull these points in our next #cdna.

Tuck in the little ones, and top off your beverage of choice.
We’re hoping to start MON 5.18 at 10pm.

As always, I’m looking forward !

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Unpacking Diversity in the Organization: Implications for Critical Thinking

When we chat with co-workers and friends, it’s no suprise that different backgrounds among those in the group can enrich the conversation, introducing a depth that is difficult when everyone speaks from the same perspective. This is the notion of diversity in social interaction. It’s the case against echo chambers and group think.

But I think we should also ask: How deep does this go, and what are the forces at work?

Thanks to Jamie Billingham for teeing up 3 diverse perspectives on this:

  • Ev Williams (@ev of Twitter fame, now CEO of Medium) talks on the importance of ‘identity (or cultural, or gender) diversity’ to drive healthy, balanced discourse within a company [read more]
  • Scott E Page (a professor at U.Mich with expertise in emerging field of complexity) talks about the academic basis for diverse thinking [read more]
  • Jamie (a fellow #cdna collaborator, @jamiebillingham) offers the alternative of cognitive diversity, expanding on the others with an eye toward the implications [read more]

Add it all up, and there’s a strong case for all aspects of diversity in our organizations, as it shapes our collective mindset and influences our culture. The need may be most acute when it comes to deeper, more analytical thinking in groups.

At one level, it’s intuitive. People thinking differently generates more ideas.

To me, what’s NOT as intuitive, especially in the critical thinking context, is the importance of establishing such diversity in our organizations and teams, and the difficulty of sustaining it. Among collaborators, the forces of commonality create a comfort zone that often trumps diversity. Sameness is simply easier to manage. What are some of the factors that can make ‘nuturing more difference’ easier? Let’s have a look:

  • Q1. Types of Diversity. Why do sociology and psychology portray diversity differently? Which view is more common?
  • Q2. Recognizing Difference. We often work alongside others like ourselves. Do our shared filters and behaviors mask diverse views? What is the leader’s role?
  • Q3. Paradigm Blindness. Kuhn wrote we often can’t see past our own professional or world views. Does embracing diversity change this?
  • Q4. Managing Diversity. What are the most difficult challenges to overcome?
  • Q5. Culture. When and how does culture enter in?
  • Q6. Are there more Frames of Reference? We’ve focused so far on two major views: sociology and psychology; are there more?

As input to Q6 and to fuel a deeper dive on how we think and how we filter, consider the following graphic from The DNA of Collaboration, Chapter 3.

Shifting Frames of Reference.  Disciplines that introduce cognitive diversity, based on different paradigms of how things work, how problems are organized, and where we focus.

Shifting our Frames of Reference. Disciplines that influence cognitive diversity, based on different paradigms of how things work, how problems are organized, and where we focus.

 

Let’s discuss in our next #cdna chat, Monday 4/20/15, at 10pm ET.

Most every 3rd Monday evening a group of collaborators comes together at hashtag #cdna for a conversation on the dynamics and potential of critical thinking. Join us. We’d love your input.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Influence and the Change Horizon: What is our Potental Reach?

When we talk about change it’s often in abstract terms. But painting in broad strokes can work against us.

We may forge blindly ahead, embracing soothing generalities that hide (for a time) the challenges and hard work that lie on the path. Or, conversely, we may falter out of the gate, overwhelmed by the complexities both real and imagined, soon abandonning the work to braver souls with more time, money and resources.

In our urgency to divine the inner secrets of change, our thinking tends to the extremes. We land in places that are either too simplistic or too complex.

Is there no middle ground? How can we hope to influence change?

I believe the journey for achieving lasting change requires an honest and objective review of our potential (as both individuals and groups) to be effective change agents. I’m also increasingly convinced we should adopt a “walk before you run” model.

When we talk about creating environments for change, have we considered our potential reach?

When we talk about creating environments for change, have we considered our potential reach?

We all have unique talents and perspectives. We wouldn’t be talking about change so vigorously without some sort of inner energy that fuels our aspirations to achieve better things. In the diagram I’ve shown several factors that I think are worth considering as we explore this topic. How can we better define these factors, to reduce getting lost in abstract, conceptual debates? Reflect on:

  • Inner Circle. Friends, family, and colleagues. Truly our core base of support, but not a group that can scale.
  • Local Impact. Those we can see, get to know, and influence directly.
  • Global Impact.  Those we can’t see and won’t get to know .. a group which can prove daunting to influence.
  • Reach.  The degree (or scale) to which we can exercise influence, considerably enhanced by social media.

As we come together for #cdna chat on MON FEB 16 at 9pm ET, using #reach and #socialchange hashtags, let’s take apart the discussion of “reach” as a factor in social and organizational change. Our answers may help us understand whether we’re serving to empower or to contrain our chances for driving change.  Here are several questions to consider:

  • Q1. As an individual, what determines our personal influence and reach?
  • Q2. As a member of a group or community, what factors extend our #influence and what factors hurt us?
  • Q3. What are the unique qualifications for leaders in this space? #influence #leadership
  • Q4. What factors might serve as a ‘tipping point’ for broader or global change adoption?
  • Q5. What concrete steps should we embrace early on to expand (or optimize) our ability to reach others?

Props to Scott Smith (aka @d_scott) for his guest post and moderation last month on “Spheres of Influence” .. one of his ideas (and Q’s!) spawned today’s line of thinking.

The #cdna community meets every 3rd MONDAY of the month to talk about the possibilities of change. Please join us for the conversation. We are actively seeking guest topic framers and guest moderators. Let me know if you have interest.

See you online!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Intellectual Property Evolves: IP 3.0 and the Value of Good Ideas

Can we unlock innovation on the collaborative web?

Can we unlock innovation on the collaborative web?

It’s no overstatement. Good ideas are the fabric of creativity and innovation. Small wonder that over time we’ve learned to hoard and protect those good ideas. Fear of economic survival has been a great motivator. Our personal and corporate livelihoods .. in the context of income and profit .. can seem tightly linked with knowledge and resources that are ours alone.

Only problem? The forces that seek to protect our best ideas help us to strand them, starving them of opportunity to grow. It’s ironic. But in our attempts to protect, we suffocate. We always hurt the ideas we love.

Steven B. Johnson has written extensively on new ideas, and he may be the clearest contemporary voice on the subject. Much of his thinking comes down to a radical, almost sacrilegious notion: the best ideas come from other great ideas. Corporate attorneys will tend to bristle at this. It’s counter to all we know about the value of ideas in a competitive market, and the legal structures put in place to protect our good and valuable property. That’s well and good. It’s based on 5 centuries of legal precedent. But are we paying attention to structural changes in the markets themselves, and how insight is flowing faster all around us? Are we starting to slip behind those who are better at listening and collaborating?

Let’s reflect on the evolution of ideas in the commercial space, to see where the concept of Intellectual Property (or more commonly “IP”) may go:

  • IP1.0 Knowledge as Property. Using patents to protect unique designs, inventors claim rights to exclusive ways of doing something in hopes of economic advantage, but the rights are routinely contested in courts, tying up ideas, time and dollars.
  • IP2.0 Commons. Establishing intent to share ideas in the public domain, a new system provides  a way to classify shared content; while promising, the value and mechanics of the model are still being worked out.
  • IP3.0 Collaboration. An open and free exchange of ideas has been mostly on the commercial back burner, rendered inviable by centuries-old capitalist tradition of control and exclusion. Is the knowledge economy held hostage?

I am not suggesting we abandon IP and its associated legal underpinnings. Too much has been invested here, with whole industries and companies built on it’s foundation. The Creative Commons is clearly a step in the right direction. But for the long term, and especially as we consider the forces at work in a knowledge based economy, plodding along slowly may be the greater risk.  If we continue to hoard and protect our best ideas, hoping to cling to a razor thin economic advantage, we are effectively cutting off sources of further innovation.

I believe there are several collaborative building blocks in a healthy knowledge economy, elements of a framework that can unlock the flow of thinking that leads to deeper innovation. I’ve written on this topic, and we should continue to unlock its elements.

The practice of Knowledge Mangement (or “KM”) also continues to make inroads on how we marshall our ideas, but it’s an undertaking that often struggles. There are lessons to be learned from this, even as KM practitioners search for new paths forward.

It’s impossible, of course, to reduce innovation to a formula. Though many models are in place to help us visualize competitive knowledge and the dynamics that influence it (Porter’s “5 Forces” comes to mind), the evolution of ideas .. true innovation .. always comes back to people working with people. Our best ideas are made richer and more viable with the input from somone else. And our own musings may be the inspiration that brings the vague notions of others to fruition. Whatever the model, we’ll remain suboptimized as long as we hoard our best ideas. The advance of knowledge simply doesn’t work when it is kept behind locked doors. In 1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter:

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Illuminating, yes, but an insight on ideas that has been generally lost.

SLA CID WEBINAR

  • On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 1pm ET, I spoke at a webinar hosted by the Special Library Association’s Competitive Intelligence Division. We talked about evolving perspectives on how organizations and even ecosystems gain knowledge, exploring trends shared in this post, as well as some of the key drivers in Knowledge Management.  I hope you were able to join us.
  • If you missed it, here’s a link to the SLA CID recorded webinar page on You Tube; watch for our session to be posted soon.
  • We’ve also linked to the webinar PDF.

Best regards .. have a safe and happy holiday!

Chris aka @sourcepov

 

ADDITIONAL READING


Unpacking Change in 2015: We’ve surveyed the horizon, now we tackle the topics

In September 2014, we launched a comprehensive discussion of social and organizational change horizons. We tapped insights from Margaret Wheatley, framed here: Wheatley on Social Innovation: Do We Regroup? Our general takeaway was that social change inside organizations and out remains incredibly difficult. We agreed there are many in-depth discussions ahead to unpack it all. And we shared an overarching question: How might we best make progress?

Here are the discussion threads we surfaced to guide our chats in 2015.  As you have time, review these topics, and tweet out about those you find the most interesting, useful and relevant in the near term. We’ll pick up and extend the conversation in our monthly Twitter exchanges.

Our next #cdna chat is scheduled for Monday FEB 16 at 9 p.m. ET.

  • Q1. SOCIAL CHANGE vs. INNOVATION
    • a. Gap perception: grappling with ‘what needs to happen’ vs. ‘what’s been achieved’ (Tony)
    • b. Innovating within our sphere of influence. (Scott). We discussed this in some detail during our January 2015 chat, with this frame, and the transcript here; thanks to Scott Smith for teeing this up and for being our guest moderator. What more can we learn from this discussion?
    • c. Does the conversation take us toward Asimov’s ‘Psychohistory’? (Scott)
    • d. Change v. innovation: are both like ‘deviance’ .. in the end, subjective? relative? (Kim)
    • e. Not all social change is innovative (Kim)
    • f. Midgley’s boundary critique: who decides? who gets marginalized? (Alice)
  • Q2. MOTIVATION
    • a. Harmonizing motivation (Christy), perhaps via Maslow’s ‘pack’ response? (Jamie)
    • b. Gaming self and team to stay in flow (Christy)
    • c. Spreading methods (Christy)
    • d. Planning for change around adoption curves (Mike)
    • e. Does economic pain trump all other motivators? (Jamie)
  • Q3. CULTURAL FORCES AND TIME DIMENSION
    • a. Cultural resistance: our brains’ firmware seems programmed to hesitate (Scott)
    • b. Prescriptive behavior (Redge); market imperatives taken to be givens (Paul)
    • c. The function of speed vs. perceived value, and challenge of normalizing (Christy)
    • d. Wheatley: we are not in charge of time arc of change, or its scope, reach or uptake (Kim)
  • Q4. CHANGE DRIVERS
    • a. Visionary leadership (Tony), and a capacity to see a different world (Paul)
    • b. Case studies for social change: IBM/Gerstner, Apple/Jobs, GE/Welch (Chris, Redge)
    • c. Modeling change from a place of integrity (David)
    • d. Empowered individuals as means to disrupt cliques (David)

Click on the hyperlinked author to see the original tweet, or check out the cdna 9/15 transcript to see the conversation. Thanks as always for the investment of time, insights and positive energy. We always learn something.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Wheatley’s Latest on Social Innovation: Do we Regroup or Redouble Our Efforts?

Most of us can name our role models, including, if not especially, our favorite visionary thinkers. Their ideas resonate. They speak, and it all makes sense. So when Margaret Wheatley shared her doubts on our ability to influence social change and social innovation on a large scale, it was more than a wake-up call for me. It was more like a bucket of ice water.

Sure, it makes sense to hedge on our boldest forecasts. But should we conclude, as Wheatley has done, that there’s no evidence for lasting social change?

Let’s challenge that.

Listen to her 2013 interview or skim the transcript .. posted on i-Open courtesy Betsey Merkel, and shared on Twitter by my friend Bruce Watluck. Wheatley’s concern centers on the ubiquitous psychological resistance to change that she repeatedly encounters in her work. It’s a resistance fueled by powerful cultural forces that feed on self-interest and narcissistic thinking. We can see evidence of this everywhere, of course. We can see it in our ads, as she says, as well as in our sports and in our leaders. It’s a sobering message.

She’s left a door open. Some light still shines through, offering some hope. Wheatley acknowledges three fundamentals that remain in her work and her vision:

  • Strong relationships based on trust
  • Deeper thinking in teams, creating “islands of sanity”
  • A personal practice of reflection

So she hasn’t abandoned efforts to inspire, or to guide deeper meaning. She still talks of embracing and advancing the human spirit. But I’m afraid the elephant is still in the room.

Let’s not retreat on the scale of what’s possible. There’s too much at stake. Education. Healthcare. Energy. It’s a long list. So let’s ask this ..

How long should social innovation take? It’s certainly not overnight. And with extended timeframes, the critical element of resilience .. our ability to sustain visionary leadership .. comes into play. It’s interesting she has written on a parallel theme, perseverance.

From what I’ve read about culture and prevailing paradigms, I think it’s likely that social change would be best measured in decades, at a minimum. The larger the ecosystem, the longer change will take. The more entrenched the social conventions, the longer it will take to unwind them and to develop new ones. A few examples of decade-plus emergent innovation I’ll offer as evidence: the transformation of IBM from hardware to software (10-15 years), the American Revolution (50-60 years), and the global Human Rights movement (100 years plus). Each of these studies in social change took a long time to happen. Each was more fragile and difficult to achieve with scale.

Yet all these examples led to lasting ecosystem change. We can trace evolution from important initial conditions, strong and persistent local catalysts, environments that allowed new rule systems to emerge and to ultimately survive. These are features of a complex social system, one that learns and adapts.

I believe emergent innovation is possible. If I’m right, we’ll have to be patient. We’re wise to start small, and build slowly. Ultimately, as our innovation expands, we’ll have to lead with incredible resolve, operating within and among strongly connected, resilient, and well-aligned communities. And we’ll have to have the long term view.

For our #cdna chat at 8pm ET on MON 9/15, let’s take apart Meg Wheatley’s arguments and my own, to see what we might make of them.

  • Q1. Is social innovation dead? oversold? not fully baked? or misunderstood?
  • Q1(b.) [emergent] Are social change and social innovation interchangeable in the context of this frame?
  • Q2. What are your views on our ability to influence change in social settings (e.g., culture)?
  • Q3. [emergent] What is your sense of Wheatley’s concerns re: cultural resistance?
  • Q4. How does the time dimension factor into our chances? Can we accelerate our desired change?
  • Q5. What are the fundamental drivers in the discussion of social change?

I’ll bring an open mind to this, as always. But so far, I’m holding out for possibility. I have a deep conviction in our ability to make things better. Let’s discuss it.

Roughly once a month, a small but growing group of independent thinkers comes together around hashtag #cdna to unpack social learning and the nuances of intentional collaboration. It seems we always take a little something home. Given time, we may just come up with some new rules ..

Join the conversation using http://tweetchat.com/room/cdna .. simply sign-in with your Twitter account, and authorize the app ..

Hope to see you there !!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

___

Related reading:

  • Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962).
  • Margaret Wheatley, A Simpler Way (1996).
  • Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science (2006).
  • John Miller and Scott Page, Complex Adaptive Systems (2007).
  • Chris Jones, The DNA of Collaboration (2012).

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