Tag Archives: culture

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)


Innovation Within Our Sphere(s) of Influence:

The first point in any decision to change is a realization or recognition there is a need; that is to say, we have deemed our Present Condition to be Unacceptable. Ideally we have quantifiable measurements, and that may not be the case. We then envision a Future Condition which is forecast to be desirable.

Having decided we want to bring about this Future Condition, a Plan of Action is developed and implemented. There are a number of variables to be considered, sets of terms which drive the type of activity. The combinations of these variables are not fininite; however, they need to be understood and the impact examined. We can look first at the two broad categories (these are depicted in the attached Chart):

  1. Adoption which results in Change; and,
  2. Innovation which leads to Transformation.

These terms are defined as follows:

  • Adoption: The use of a different method from that which is in current use;
  • Change: Substitution to become different;
  • Innovation: Changing the established in favor of new methods or ideas (in use for the 1st time);
  • Transformation: Resulting in new composition or structure; thorough and dynamic.

Joseph Pine II in his 1999 book “The Experience Economy” describes the transformation of the economy from: Agrarian to Commodity to Service to Experience. The logic and support is quite clear and leads us to understand economies are dynamic. I was able to hear him speak a number of years ago where he noted his understanding of the next stage in the evolution of the economy. Pine described the Transformation Economy.

In the Experience Economy a vacation to Paradise Island in the Bahamas is exactly what it is intended to be: a wonderful experience. The time and expense meet the requirements of our expectations; however, we exit the same as we entered. Two weeks in the Colorado mountains at a retreat that focuses on exercise, diet, and mental health is intended to cause us to “take better care of ourselves” following that event – we anticipate a Transformation.

For final consideration: Spheres of Influence. There are five binary spheres in-play giving rise to complexity of combination. These spheres are:

  • Ourselves | Others  – (Personal reach);
  • Present | Future  – (Time horizon);
  • Direct | Indirect  – (Intensity of Action);
  • Individual | Group  – (Extent of reach);
  • Actual | Virtual  – (Network involved).

We accept the general need to change or become irrelevant. Adoption may be the course for organizations and individuals in most circumstances – applying “tried and true” methods to achieve the desired condition. When is Innovation the better choice?

Proposed Questions for the chat scheduled for January 19th, 2015:

  1. Adopt to Change and Innovate to Transform; Correct or other categories?
  2. What are our Spheres of Influence?
  3. Is there a way to determine if Innovation is better that Adoption?
  4. Can we utilize Pine’s Transformation Economy concept to build a biz model?
  5. What happens when the Desired State forecast proves inaccurate?

Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts and discuss them with each of you!Innovation.3


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)


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 :


Cultures of Fear. Is ‘Old School’ still in session?

Staring up the Corporate Ladder. With much at stake, do we dare take a step?

STARING UP THE CORPORATE LADDER. With much at stake, do we dare take a step? Original art by Robert Winkler 2012.

CHARLOTTE, NC. September 2013, by

Seems risk is everywhere in the world these days, and the work place is no exception.  Not long ago we could count on the corporate world to provide a secure income and career track. Today we so often find ourselves vulnerable, unsure of our next steps, with our professional future uncertain.

SEPTEMBER FRAME

I just picked up a copy of Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford, the NYT best seller that does a great job of focusing on this topic anew. She relates traditional views of leadership to ‘old school’ management styles that are based on fear: “Perform, or we’ll remove your ability to pay your mortgage ..” (p.16).

At some time or another, we’ve all witnessed situations where fear has been a factor at work.

To me, the question is how do we escape the destructive gravity of these situations, especially when there is so often critical mass pulling everyone down. Misery, they say, loves company.  Comaford offers solutions that track well with Goleman’s Primal Leadership as well as CollabDNA .. namely .. creating emotional connections, and working to influence the culture.

Let’s frame some questions that might help us on this path:

  • Q1. What are the org dynamics or management styles that make fear possible?
  • Q2. What is the difference between ‘commitment’ and ‘compliance’?
  • Q3. When is the notion of ‘accountability’ effective? Is it sometimes misused?
  • Q4. Can you describe actions, behaviors and challenges of leaders you’ve seen who were actively working to dimantle fear-infused culture?

Thanks as always for your time, insights and energy. See you at the chat, the week of 9/16. Watch for timing.

AUGUST FRAME

As I recently turned the pages of Susan Jeffers’ classic “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway” I found both comfort and common sense in the logic of “pushing through.” But in the work context, it seems the risks can so quickly outweigh the benefits. Do we dare raise radical new ideas? Think outside the safety of conventional wisdom?

Can we dare to be different?

Thanks to Scott Smith for his comment in July in the post of leaders who resist change. It caught my attention, and inspired this post.

In our Monday 8/12 edition of #CDNA, let’s ask a few questions about fear in the organizational context, to see if we might bring some new light to a area so often shrouded in the dark inner reaches of corporate politics:

Q1. Argyris (1980) spoke of fear as the unspeakable; has this changed, or is still prevalent?
Q2. Jeffers (1987) spoke of the need to “unlearn negative programming” .. is it safe for us to proceed when others around/above us have not?
Q3. Which is the more difficult fear to unlearn: survival? not knowing? or not fitting in?
Q4. As a leader, what is the first step in elminating fear in the workplace?

The 2nd week of each month at 8pm or 9pm ET, the #CDNA crew seeks to bring open minds to our ongoing conversation on organization change.

Sure, we’ll try to tap industry knowledge and the wisdom of sages along the way. But we favor a common sense approach. Challenging “what we think we know” and suspending our favorite paradigms is, almost always, the first step to new thinking.

Looking forward to seeing you at #CDNA.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Why Do Leaders Resist Change?

Our path to the present has seemed a steady march. Sure, we’ve taken detours and followed many courses. But from our factories to our business schools to Wall Street, the lessons are still loud and clear: a repeatable result, with minimal deviations, is the winning model.

Repeating what's worked, however imperfect

Repeating what’s worked, however imperfect

It’s generally true in manufacturing, when you’re making widgets. And it can work if the past holds all the secrets to our future success. There’s comfort in the formula. Within the long-stable walls of the organizations and brands and empires we’ve erected, we know which bricks need replacing.

But turning away from the familiar introduces new variables. The old rules are often irrelevant. Think about IBM. Microsoft. Kodak. When it comes to our mental models, significant change is the enemy. In our high-stakes, increasingly connected world, the risk of embracing change, or even talking about it, can send shivers down the spine of any executive who is held accountable for results. And that’s pretty much all of them. Risk of gambling on the wrong future looks greater than the risk of taking small steps from a proven though imperfect past.

We talk often on the “how” of change. But so often we assume the “why” is a given .. and go on to assume we have the critical change  mandate from the top.

Usually we don’t.

So amid the familiar chorus of embracing change for a sustainable future, it’s time to look at why that cry often falls on deaf ears.  Let’s look at the brick wall of uncertainty facing the modern executive, and ask:  Why do Leaders Resist Change?

Here are 4 questions to help us unpack the discussion:

  • Q1. Executive psychology typically presumes the need to have all the answers; how can we help leaders rethink that?
  • Q2. ‘Sense of urgency’ tops Kotter’s 8-step change agenda; must we wait for failure or concoct burning bridges to drive action?
  • Q3. ‘Group think’ can be fatal at the board level; how can this be attacked?
  • Q4. Organizational cultures can embrace or resist change, but the latter is most common; what cultural elements can drive adaptive behaviors?

Join us MONDAY 7/8 at 8pET for a discussion, the next in our 2013 series on collaborative leadership in the 21st Century. We’re unpacking the challenges one brick at a time ..

Hope to see you online .. or please, share your thoughts .. we’re hoping to extend the discussion blog-side (via comments, here), our G+ page and via twitter async ..

The @collabdna team


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