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.

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


Wheatley, forward: We’ve surveyed the horizon. Where to from here?

I truly enjoyed the twists and turns of our 9/15 chat, Wheatley on Social Innovation: Do We Regroup?

Our general takeaway: social and organizational change are incredibly difficult. We agreed there is significant, in-depth discussion still ahead to unpack what this means, and how best to attack it.

As a stepping stone to those conversations, let’s tee up some potential follow-on threads, based on a few of the more provocative insights from our last chat.

We can frame the next conversation like this:

What are the ideal threads to explore and expand on Margaret Wheatley’s latest thinking, as we wrap up our 2014 #cdna series and lay the groundwork for 2015?  Feel free to move beyond the choices offered here. Are there other, better threads?  Expand!  Just note that these were stakes in the ground on 9/15, and in many cases, worth more discussion. The author and original tweet contributing to these insights is noted.

  • Q1. SOCIAL CHANGE vs. INNOVATION
    • a. Gap perception: Grappling with ‘what needs to happen’ vs. ‘what’s been achieved’ (Tony)
    • b. How do we innovate within our sphere of influence? discussing scale (Scott)
    • c. Is our dialog moving towards Asimov’s ‘Psychohistory’? (Scott)
    • d. Change v. innovation: are both like ‘deviance’ .. in the end, subjective? relative? (Kim)
    • e. Focus: 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 re: Maslow, focused ‘pack’ response? (Jamie)
    • b. Focus: Gaming self and team to stay in flow (Christy)
    • c. Focus: Spreading methods (Christy)
    • d. Focus: 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. Focus: 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); capacity to see a different world (Paul)
    • b. Case studies for social change: IBM/Gerstner, Apple/Jobs, GE/Welch (Chris, Redge)
    • c. Focus: Modeling change from a place of integrity (David)
    • d. Empowered individuals as means to disrupt cliques (David)

More context? Click on the hyperlinked name to see the tweet. Or check out the cdna 9/15 transcript to see the conversation.

Very much looking forward to our next dialog.  And I truly can’t thank the #cdna crew enough. Your time, insights and positive energy are so valuable. It’s an inspiration to be a part of this group.

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).

Patterns: Are They Keys to Unlock Deeper Learning?

Thinking in Patterns: Can they help us unlock deeper learning?

Thinking in Patterns: It’s not all that hard.  But what more can be learned by looking at the relationships between things?

CHARLOTTE, NC.  As we continue to examine what we know (and what we don’t!) about 21st-century learning, I’ve recently stumbled back upon a foundational element of our cognitive process: the search for patterns.

As adults (including those parents helping kids with homework!) we might not even call them “patterns”.  But look back. The trail is clear ..

Since our school days in math class we traced relationships, from number lines to fractions to geometry and beyond, gaining our first inkling about how our world relates. Positive and negative. Numerator and denominator. Slope and intersect. Sine and Cosine. A bit abstract for some, of course; many were happy to leave it all behind. But have we truly left it behind? In your mind, sneak back into art or music class. The language of patterns literally leapt from THOSE class rooms.  So often we were learning about relationships (across a color palette, say, or discerning nuances among different styles, or notes, or textures) .. and ultimately .. it came down to learning how to navigate similarities and differences.

Thinking in patterns lies in stark contrast to rote memorization model, where everything is classified, discrete, and frozen.  We can learn that way too, of course.  But relying upon a heavily structured, pre-defined taxonomy of knowledge (or brush strokes, or notes on a staff) can get top heavy quickly.  And it is, I think, fundamentally convergent and limiting ..

Contrast that with the alternative. There is a flow of options available when we learn through pattern matching.  In this learning mode, the flow of insights is often continuous, providing us with a steady supply of raw materials, as options.  Our thinking here is expansive and more open ended, as we seek not to classify but to connect, not to name but to relate.

It is easy to label these thinking models ‘left brain’ vs. ‘right brain’ because there has been so much historical debate.  The CW then (and sometimes more recently) would hold that left brainers seek to reason and be rational, and right brainers favor imagination and creativity. The debate hasn’t always been friendly.  More recent f-MRI scans tell a more holistic story, but the diverse brain functions are still there.  I often refer to Iain McGilchrist’s very excellent 2010 RSA piece on the topic as more recent thinking on this. It’s as good a stake in the ground as any I’ve seen, and worth a look.

My most recent personal epiphany (and the one that inspired this post) came from my piano teacher, Natalie. I was complaining about the number of notes she was asking me to play in arpeggios, and my complete inability to memorize all those keys.  Her response: “Ah yes, grasshopper” (ok, not in so many words, but I digress) “.. look closer: the interval between the 1st, 3rd and 5th of each chord repeats.  It’s a pattern, and if you can learn that ..”

And so I did. My arpeggio playing skills have improved rapidly.

Maybe we can score some more breakthroughs on the topic of “thinking in patterns” .. as we explore the implications. Seems it’s a topic with broad application.  Let’s tackle these questions:

  • Q1. How does thinking in patterns differ from learning by classifying?
  • Q2. Can we introduce pattern thinking in domains historically given to structure, taxonomies and rules?
  • Q3. Is the left-brain vs. right-brain debate still relevant?
  • Q4. Which discipline thrives in teaching patterns? Art? Math? Music? Do English and Science have a chance?

Hope you will join us for #cdna on MON 6/16 8p EDT.  We’ll discuss, reflect, and even brainstorm a bit .. in hoping we might learn a few things.  Seems we often do!

Looking forward!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Rough Waters: Leading and Learning in Turbulent Times

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

Turbulent Waters in the Organization. Can we still make headway when our emotions turn to survival? image (c) 2014 Amberwood Media Group

CHARLOTTE, NC.  Leadership and organizational learning are hard enough on a good day, when things are calm.

When our surroundings become turbulent the situation can worsen quickly, as we begin facing new obstacles. The rules change. Challenges arrive more rapidly. Problem definitions morph before our eyes. Goals begin to shift in real time. Team members may end up in different roles, and the opportunity to communicate with them may be limited.

Whether its new management, new competitors, or even new regulatory presures, leading in times of change places considerable demands on us (ref: 21st century Kotter; see also: Collaboration DNA). Learning focus can move to the back burner.

Out of fear, do we simply latch onto survival instincts?

Or do we manage to focus, somehow, on the challenges flowing toward us?

Too often, fear consumes us. When we most need our thinking and perception skills, the flood of rapid change can cause paralysis or panic.

I love the metaphor of turbulent water (think flood waters, river rapids, or heavy surf) because the notion of rough water demands attention, skills that favor balance, and a clear ability to react in the moment. In short, turbulent change requires all of our energy. If we apply the metaphor in the organizational learning context, what may leaders take away? Let’s discuss it:

  • Q1. What are some secrets for change and learning leaders seeking to function in turbulent situations?
  • Q2. Can an organization still learn when rough waters distract us?
  • Q3. Are there good arguments to suspend learning when focus shifts to survival?
  • Q4. As the world grows more connected and accelerated, the rate of flow can only increase; will we ever see smooth sailing again?

I hope you will join us MON May 12th at 8pET using hashtag #cdna. Water metaphors or no, we always have in-depth conversations. Bring an extra paddle, and let’s see where we might go.

See you online.

Chris @sourcepov


Making Waves: Learning to Innovate in the Flow of Insight

Are we losing insights in the flow?

Insights flow past us, faster than we dare notice; what are we leaving behind?

[Note: This original content has also been posted at http://innochat.com/ with permission of the author, to facilitate a conversation at the #innochat hashtag on THURS 4/17 at 12pm ET.]

CHARLOTTE, NC. April 2014, by .  Classic innovation practice tells us to catalog and rank our ideas. It’s a time tested way to surface newer, more creative means for getting a job done. It’s a sensible approach. The big ideas should, by all rights, float to the top.

But what happens when the currents of change are strong? What if the rules for success become fluid?

At a minimum, we’ll struggle to keep our bearings. At worst, we’ll lose momentum, leave our best ideas stranded, and fail to achieve our innovation targets.

I’ve been reflecting on an alternative approach to learning and innovating that is at once more simplistic and more complex. In a word, it involves “flow” .. and it starts with suspending judgment, refocusing, and listening. This approach allows raw insights, not shrink-wrapped ideas, to flood our thinking spaces, using notions like cross-over and edge-exploration to mix things up. Patterns replace processes. Simple rules replace best practices.

And we change the currency. Insights are the gold standard for innovation and creative learning, not ideas.

The ability of the human mind to perceive and solve problems is vast. Effective collaboration serves as a multiplier. Put some of those strong minds together into small teams. Help those thinkers to focus and frame and communicate and synthesize in real time. Pay attention to roles. Seed the group with an iterative, adaptive framing model. Then stand back. Powerful things begin to happen. 

New ideas emerge; we find we’re innovating in the moment.

Of course, the modern organization provides a host of formiddable barriers to this. These include all those cultures, behaviors and silos that seek to control. We find orgs that are consumed by process or paralyzed by aversion to risk. And at times, we aren’t helpful: our hyper-structured methodologies serve to put our best thinking into boxes. No surprise that our latest innovations seem like breakthrough candidates from the past: we use the past to classify them.

When trapped in structured models, there is limited or no flow of insight. Innovation will consistently struggle. It’s time to let the insights flow. Consider the notions pictured here:

 

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in "The DNA of Collaboration" (2012)

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in “The DNA of Collaboration” (2012)

What can we make of this?

I think there are several important questions that could help us suspend our assumptions about innovation practice, as we discuss new ways to approach old problems:

  • Q1. How do ideas differ from insights, and why does it matter?
  • Q2. In terms of innovation process, is flow a better metaphor than structure? 
  • Q3. When does collaborative innovation or OI move of us toward flow, and when does it not?
  • Q4. Can “flow of insight” be viable for driving new thinking re: new capabilities?

Let’s discuss these questions at #INNOCHAT on Thursday 4/17 at 12pm ET. I look forward to exchanging insights with you. Maybe we’ll make some waves.

I hope to see you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov


ADDITIONAL READING

Ideas come from many places, and some of the concepts discussed here had their roots in Twitter conversations. I’m grateful to the many #INNOCHAT, #SMCHAT and #CDNA thought leaders who contributed to these (and related) concepts about collaboration and social learning.  For more reading, here are some references from The DNA of Collaboration :


The Nature of Fear: Are We Paralyzed by Conformity?

AMG121606a-dilworth-leaves

Conformity in nature and human nature. Survival is at our core. Are we afraid to be different? Where has Darwin taken us?

Understanding the notion of conformity is important when we talk about culture, inside organizations and out. It’s become a key driver in our thinking. As we’ve discussed, our mindset is subtly but deeply influenced by our own vauge perceptions of things are supposed to be, consumed by a feeling that our survival may depend on our ability to fit in.

Can we actually be paralyzed by conformity?

To Margaret Wheatley, there’s no beating around the bush. She says we are. Consider these excerpts from A Simpler Way (1999):

“We have terrorized ourselves by the thought of evolution, driving ourselves into positions of paralyzing conformity, for fear of getting things wrong .. (where) extinction will follow swiftly on the heels of any mistake.”

“.. fear is the darkest of Darwinian shadows.”

Wheatley likes to cut to the chase.

Can we find examples to support her claim? I think they are plentiful, and they are all around us. Consider:

  • a consumer culture that thrives on conformist based purchasing (think: brands, trends, styles)
  • social circles that favor (or outright demand) fitting in
  • work environments that favor the status quo, resisting alternative viewpoints
  • education systems increasingly riveted to standards
  • organizations that cling to structure/hierarchy over more dynamic/collaborative modes of interaction
  • a Western busiess culture modeled upon repeatable, uniform, mechanistic models of efficiency

Much has been written (by me and others; see also a book by C.Christensen, and a great RSA animation by K.Robinson), on the downside of our mechanistic, structure-focused paradigms. It’s thinking that makes us slaves to someone else’s blueprint. Our culture and our thought processes seem literally consumed by the conformist view.

Can we break the cycle?

I say yes. If we can find ways to fundamentally change our mindset.

I’m intrigued that in the very same book, Wheatley goes on to describe patterns and rules in nature that seek to discover what works. Conformity, perhaps, is not all bad, like a tree seeking a greater share of critical sunlight, or vying to expand its rainfall catching potential. Have a need for more light and water? Grow a little taller. Sprout some more leaves.

AMG121607a-dilworth-leaves

A better, more useful frame might be: conform if it’s working, adapt if it’s not.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balancing act. So often, we don’t see a choice. Conformity of purpose is important where precision, quality and scale are required. But when we limit our exploration of new ideas or way of doing things, we cut off our chance to learn, to innovate, and to grow.

Conformity can be a trap. And it can also be our saving grace when we frame it as a repeatable pattern, a platform for new possibilities.

Both. And.

The #cdna community hosts a periodic exploration of social learning, a deep dive into the factors that help us learn together. We seek to identify enablers that help us discover, and the barriers that tend to keep us from learning.  At our next discussion, let’s tee up these questions on conformity in the context of culture:

  • Q1. What reactions or thoughts does mention of comformity tend to trigger?
  • Q2. Can we advance metaphors for conformity that focus on upside (tree leaves) and caution of the downside (factory model)?
  • Q3. If you agree with Wheatley on the dark side of Darwin, why does conformist thinking carry a special risk?
  • Q4. Can we influence the cultural implications that conformity introduces? How?

I can help on that last one with a hint: if you’re a Peter Block fan, you’ll know the answer to “How?” is almost always “Yes!”  Our next #cdna chat is slated for Monday March 10th at 8pm ET.

Bring your ideas and an open mind. We hope to see you there.

Chris Jones (aka @sourcepov)


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