Tag Archives: learning

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


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)


Semantics of the Spiral, Unwound

We’ve been talking around the idea of Spiral Thinking for several weeks now, but have yet to advance the metaphor beyond a general sense that it’s an improved way to think about learning. It’s a captivating visual. But in terms of manners and symmetry, it’s clearly less well-behaved than it’s straight-as-an-arrow distant cousin, Linear Thinking.

Spiral GOLD lighted

Spiral as a metaphor for thinking

We’ve learned to date that it’s hard not to run afoul through negative connotations of tornados, flushing toilets, and more generally “spiraling out of control”. We’ve concluded there are more negative connotations for spiral metaphors than there are positive ones.

Our only saving grace so far, perhaps, has been the DNA double-helix. Or the haphazard flight of a bumble bee.

To see if we might further use the Spiral metaphor in useful ways, let’s take it apart, as we think about what it might represent for us as a visual aid, in the context of thinking and learning.

  • Q1. Could each successive band represent progress?
  • Q2. If the bands converge to a single point, might that represent movement toward a solution? (see also Q8)
  • Q3. If the bands diverge into a funnel, might we infer exploration?
  • Q4. Are we mentally beholden to what Lakoff (1980) describes as a cultural certainty: “up is good?”
  • Q5. If we view the path of any given band as a gradual curve, might we regain a preferred sense of an orderly, smooth path?
  • Q6. Does the spiral advance the notion of flow?
  • Q7. How might this metaphor most used in our thinking? our learning? how we approach collaboration?
  • Q8. Is a linear model better when it’s time to move to a solution? (see also Q2)

We know we rarely experience the world or learn from it in a linear fashion. Our lives are a round-about journey.

Perhaps our prevailing metaphors should follow that lead.

We won’t stay in the Spiral metaphor too much longer. We’re clearly testing the limits of how spatial and visual a Twitter Chat can be. But it helps to know the limits of our visual tools. If we’re going to use Spiral Thinking as a metaphor, we need know how and when to apply it, but also, as Lakoff advises (to paraphrase) we need to know when enough is enough.

See you online, MON 8pET at hashtag #CDNA.

Chris


Spiral Thinking: The Next Level

Possibilities of Spiral Thinking: CDNA 2013 (c) 2013 Amberwood Media Group, all rights reserved

(c) 2013 Amberwood Media Group

Since December, we have sought to understand how Linear Thinking and intention traditionally combine to create an organization’s culture.  Now, to get to the next level, let’s look at how Spiral Thinking and alternative approaches to Organizational Learning can help culture evolve in new ways.

You may be asking, what’s Spiral Thinking? Stay tuned for a consolidation post here in the near future, but here’s a 2009 post by Robert Twigger that does a good job of laying out the concept.

Keep in mind, our goal is to fill in the Collaborative Learning framework we started back in December, shown here. We’re continuing to explore ways to get there. We’d love your ideas.

In our MON 3/11 #CDNA chat, Astrid Kowlessar will guide a discussion that takes us to the next level of dialog, as we explore:

  • Q1. Does culture or intention change when we apply  Spiral Thinking?
  • Q2. How is creating a Culture of Learning different with Spiral Thinking?

A big #CDNA thanks to Astrid for offering to facilitate this session.  She’s our first guest moderator, and we’re hoping the first of many.

Will see you guys online.

Chris & Astrid


Pathways: In Search of Collaborative Learning (4 Key Threads)

In search of Collaborative Learning

In search of Collaborative Learning

As our CDNA conversation on “Learning to Learn” continues, we’ve begun to turn up a variety of leads in our search for the path forward, including barriers and enablers.  To many, the holy grail of organizational learning seems to be hidden from view .. though many in our crew have ventured far to find it ..

We will continue our search, but we’ll pause now and again to deep dive on what we’ve uncovered to date.

All of the topics here were surfaced in our “open mic” on FEB 4 [transcript].

  • Q1. Time.  The enemy is necessity & our daily demands; one learning goal is time to explore. Can collaborators manufacture more time? [Kim]
  • Q2. Leadership. The ability to inspire greatness, trust and action can be rare. What is it about collaborative settings that spawns the opportunity? [Scott]
  • Q3. Deep Connection. “Intermingling” seems to be a great source of emergent insight. What conditions encourage it? [Astrid]
  • Q4. Possibility. Beyond strategy and planning? The realm of hope, faith, serendipity, opportunity .. how might we get in touch with them? [Paul]

We will press ahead soon, but with these insights surfaced, it seems prudent to stop and reflect .. if not fully understand .. the factors we’ve surfaced already.  After all, “synthesis” has been a key critical thinking step since Descartes .. and in @CollabDNA, it’s Ch.16, Step 6 ..

Navigating the Spiral

Navigating the Spiral

One of the key takeaways from our 2/18 chat was the discussion of a “spiral” methodology for traversing challenges vs. a more linear progression down or across our framework.  To advance that thinking and apply it a bit, let’s reflect on the double helix model of DNA as inspiration, as we explore “Navigating the Spiral:  How do we Keep Our Bearings?”.  8pET on 2/25 at #CDNA.

We’d love your thoughts here, as comments .. or in our Twitter Chat, Monday 8pET.  Most will use tweetchat to make the connection.

See you online.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Many Dimensions of Collaborative Learning: Where Are the Synergies?

Even on our worst days, we’re learning.  It’s a skill hard-coded within the human DNA for survival.  But in the context of education and business learning agendas, perhaps we can raise the stakes a bit, if ask this non-rhetorical question:  how could we get better at learning how to learn?

As we attack this in the early months of 2013, I thought it might be useful to look at how learning is approached in a variety of different disciplines, to see where we might find common themes.  This graphic was designed to get us thinking … and talking ..

I’ve attacked many of these topics in The DNA of Collaboration, especially as they pertain to Culture.  Over in the #K12 #ECOSYS chat community, we’re about to do a deeper dive on the K12 Advanced Learning Models.

In the meantime, lets keep the #CDNA conversation at a higher level for now, to explore the broadest synergies.  As we look across disciplines, what might we gain?  Here’s the chat format for the next several weeks at #CDNA, starting MON JAN 7 8pET.

To get started, we’ll walk down the chart, one row at a time, with these questions:

  • Q1.  What are the most common, fundamental, intrinsic drivers of human learning?
  • Q2. Who or what are the most important catalysts and motivators for this learning, over time?
  • Q3. What can we learn from traditional classroom methods across K12, HigherED & Business?
  • Q4. What advanced learning methods may be most interesting in this analysis?

I hope you find the frame as intriguing as I did, when we started talking about it on Twitter in December.  Interesting comments sprang from both my own sourcepov blog and our own new CDNA G+C Community “Collaboration DNA”.

I hope you’ll share your feedback with us, as we explore each impact vector (row) and discipline (column) in turn.

Our goal?  To rigorously explore the possibilities of Learning How to Learn.  You might say we’re using critical thinking to better understand and raise the bar on .. okay, you guessed it .. our capacity for critical thinking.

See you online.

Chris


Learning to Learn: The Evolution of KM and OD; Can they work with Education to change the game?

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD: Can we adapt to drive meaningful change?

As covered in my recent KM-OD post and discussed in my KM World 2012 W5 workshop, the modern organization needs every shred of productivity and innovation capacity it can muster. But buzz words and aphorisms abound in this space.

Can we actually make a meaningful difference?

I’ve found that traditional practices of Knowledge Management (KM) and Organization Development (OD) have struggled when it comes to getting people meaningfully engaged on the topic of learning. It can be an abstract discussion. Uncomfortable with ambiguity and not knowing, most of us quickly we turn to process manuals, documenting what we think we know, or running training classes.  For KM and OD to evolve .. for the modern organization to truly embark on learning how to learn .. we must change the approach.

And what role does organized Education play in all this?

I discuss some ideas for this in The DNA of Collaboration (Ch.19).  In today’s virtual Book Tour conversation, let’s discuss a few of the key points:

  • Q1. KM should help knowledge moves through organizations and generate value. Does this happen where you work?
  • Q2. Does an OD function in your organization exist? Does it help teach people to learn?
  • Q3. What are the synergies between KM and OD?
  • Q4. How can organized Education influence/guide this evolution?
  • Q5. Senge and Wheatley have said much on learning in the collaborative context. Is it still relevant?
  • Q6. New thinking about change (per Hagel): a shift from structure to flow, reflecting how we learn. Agree?

You can join the conversation via TweetChat here.

Note that Saturday is becoming our Global CDNA conversation, with N.Amercian (US & CN) CDNA conversations breaking out Monday evenings, moving to alternate weeks in January.

Intrigued?  Reach out, let me know your thoughts.

Chris Jones, aka @sourcepov, author


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