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.

The Fallacies of Control & the Quick Fix: On Culture and the Complexity of Organizations

Anyone seeking to change an organization has known the pitfalls of trying to control behavior and motivation. Setting goals and expectations is not so hard. One-off wins tied to an event or a compelling speech can move the needle. But execution over the long-term .. including any lasting, sustainable change in thinking .. is another matter.

Ask Lou Gerstner, the man who moved IBM from hardware to services in the 1990’s, who said:

Culture is not just one aspect of the game, it IS the game.

I’ve always seen this as a fundamental breakthrough, a wake-up call for change the modern organization. Yet leaders will routinely, if not obsessively, plod through short-term ideas for long-term results, without ever seeing the fallacy. What’s missing is an understanding of how people in groups behave, and the implications that complexity has on an organization.

I won’t try to unpack all that here.  Frankly, it’s enough to fill a book (or two), and the subject of some in-depth posts. But for the sake of discussion, let’s establish a premise:  people in organizations are driven more by a need for belonging and conformity with group aspirations, and less by draconian measures to direct, incentivize or otherwise control it’s members. In this light, culture can be defined (if loosely) as a set of groundrules for survival, based on what has worked in the past.  New leaders and programs come and go.  But the memory of groups runs long and deep.

Try changing the minds of an organization on how things work. Ask Lou Gerstner.

For our #orgdna chat on MON 9/21/15 from 9:30 to 11:00pm ET, let’s tee up the conversation like this:

  • Q1. If we can’t control behavior or results, what CAN we influence? Does environment play a key role?
  • Q2. Why do organic ways of thinking (forests, ecosystems, viruses) provide rich metaphors for understanding people in groups, and org culture in general? 
  • Q3. What can leaders try to do in the near-term to impact the long-term?
  • Q4. Can a culture be changed?

The #cdna community of thinkers became the #orgdna community last month, to better describe and focus our dialog.  I think we’re off to a great start. Evidence?  When one chat among a few of us creates enough ideas for 2-3 more chats, imagine what can happen if we keep going, learning as we go, even as we expand and diversify our group?

Please join us. The conversation gets more lively with more ideas in play. And lord knows we enjoy a lively conversation.

As always, thanks for stopping in.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

Possibility and the Connected Thinker: On Hashtags, Change & the Cultural Imperative

For people to connect, they need a space to come together. It must be a distinct place, familiar to those who gather there and welcoming to visitors who may have the chance to join. Visualizing such places in the world of brick and mortar is not difficult. The corporate conference room. The town square. The coffee shop. The water cooler.

In the context of internet spaces, we must rely a bit on our imagination to craft that common space. We might use blog sites like this one on wordpress .. which we refer to as our “framing site” .. to post our ideas and frame problems to be solved.

Twitter is where we talk it out. And that demands a versatile hashtag.

The #cdna community, with this site as it’s home base, is finalizing a new hashtag for the next 3-years of conversation. Why 3 years? It makes the decision important enough to invest some time, and transient enough to allow for mistakes. On the internet, of course, nothing is permanent. Our current tag “#cdna” is 3 years old this month. As discussed last month, it’s time for a change, a new hashtag that’s more intutive in describing what we’re about. But in spite of some ambiguity, something manages to bring us back each month, bridging conversations with insight and energy, going beyond simple social media aquaintance.

Part of the equation is personal relationships, no doubt.

But another part is harder to define, because it is more capability or capacity than a tangible action. It is a breeding ground for ideas.

We might to choose to call it possibility. It’s what happens when thinkers come together, bringing a small but willing supply of insight, energy and a little focus.

To date, #cdna dialog has been about organizations at large, including how they seek to tackle change, and how they contemplate learning. It may seem a broad set of brushes, but we’ve used the rich palette of our experience to help us paint (re-paint, and paint anew) the complex problems and possible solutions that face leaders of all industries, spanning for-profit and non-profits alike, taking on the large and the small, the global and the local. For complexity theorists, a strong thread of social complexity is at work here.

Bruce and Alice said it well earlier this week, helping me define the kind of community we are talking about:

On Monday, 8/24, at 9:30 p.m. we will bid adieu to #cdna the hashtag, and finalize our go forward nom du chat from a small list of alternative finalists:

  • Q0. Which hashtag best represents #cdna interests for the next 3 years? #orgchange (or #orgchg) #orgdna #futureorg (or #futrorg) #21cOrg #nextorg (we’ll accept these and other nominations from the virtual twitter floor, but these have provided the most traction so far) ..

Care to vote on this? Try this poll, courtesy Poll Daddy:

With new hashtag in use, we’ll embark immediately on our next conversation: the notion of “Cultural Imperative” using the following frame:

  • Q1. If “Cultural Imperative” is a firm conviction that an org must have and embrace a healthy one, where do we look for it? #culture
  • Q2. How do we define culture beyond a collection or roll-up of behaviors? #strategy
  • Q3. What can happen to organizations when culture is ignored? #leadchange
  • Q3. Can leaders improve and/or shape their organizational culture, and if so, how? #leadership 

Note the crossover tags listed. These may prove important in the conversation, as we seek to further contextualize our ideas and their impacts in broader, related domains.

More on culture? Have look at my original 2010 org culture series.

Ok. Hashtag change is ambitious. Brands are rarely if ever able to pivot and survive. Can an online community pull it off? Let’s give it a go. We will continue to meet each 3rd or 4th Monday of the month at or around 9:30pm ET, to afford our west coast members a chance to get home at 6:30pm PT.  We’re still trying to solve for the global chat equation. Stay tuned on that one.

For now, we’ll look for you Monday .. let us know your hashtag preferences !!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

Dialog for the 21st Century Organization: A Focus on Culture, Change and Learning

AMG152695b WeaveI had a fascinating exchange Saturday morning with Panteli Tritchew and Ken Gordon, sparked by a response from Mike Itzius. It was a spontaneous twitter chat (sometimes called ‘async’) that sparks from a tweet or two, aided by twitter-enabled phones with alerts on audible.

We brainstormed a few threads that run through the modern organization. Even in our short dialog, it was clear: there are so many interrelated threads, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s been a challenge for #cdna too, as it’s long been for leaders.

Where does change in an organization begin?

Since mid-2012, a group of us have chatted on these topics under the concise but obscure #cdna hashtag. The tag was short and sweet and it served us well. But with conflicting use now among genetic scientists and stock market traders, we need a new moniker.

In our impromptu Saturday chat, we touched on organization development (“OD”), change in general, and the various aspects of learning that weave in and out of these sometimes academic topics.

We didn’t mention, but have in the past, culture, the forces of social complexity, knowledge management (“KM”) and of course, the overarching umbrella of leadership. Those topics often get woven into our chats. Together, they are the fabric (resilient or otherwise) of the 21st century organization.

Add all that up and it’s one whopping hashtag.

But we must find a new one. A hashtag to focus the conversation must foster freedom and independence of new ideas. We can tap other tags (and their stakeholders!) as specific topics afford. I’ve found #orgchange #orglearn and #orgdev all have links back to individuals or corporate initiatives, and some great content. Tags like #leadership and #change need no introduction. We just need a twitter place to call our own.

What do you think? Here are some Q’s to help us sort it out:

Q1. Org Change – the action or the destination?
Q2. Org Leader – the critical catalysts?
Q3. Org Development – the practice and the mission?
Q4. Org Learning – the capacity .. & the missing link?
Q5. Org Complexity – the game changer (if we explain it?)
Q6. Org Culture – the ultimate enabler?

I hope you can join us MON 7/20 at 9:30p ET, 6:30p PT. We’ll take on each thread one by one, to see what kind of magic we might weave. By the end of the chat, we should have clarity on our new hashtag. Until then, we’re still #cdna ..

See you online!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

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)


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