Tag Archives: patterns

A Time for Sense Making: Then, as Now, Our Understanding Evolves

While the search for understanding can be traced back to the ancient greeks, the modern take on sense making has a history of it’s own.

Space will not allow for a full accounting, but I see four primary vectors to help us track its modern evolution, unwinding both the practice and promise of sense making in modern terms. Consider:

  • Dervin (1983, 1992, 1996), and Russell, et al (1993, 2009) – on the human-computer interface, with the earliest explorations on the psychology of recognition and understanding.
  • Klein, et al (2006) – studying frame-to-data, and data-to-frame matching as a means to test patterns observed, advancing the earlier work of Cohen, et al (1996) and Piaget (1972,1977).
  • Weick (1979, 1988, 1993) – exploring organizational implications, with 7 discrete properties in the sense making process in groups or teams; without delving into them in detail, they are:
    • Identification – the role/sense of self, as it relates to the observed
    • Retrospection – looking back, considering the function of time
    • Narrative, discourse, and feedback – developing context and understanding via story, often through real-time dialog
    • Cues – using familiar points of reference
    • Plausability – establishing viability of scenarios
  • Snowden, et al. (2003, 2007) – with the “Cynefin” framework, introduced complex and chaotic scenarios, in contrast with the simple, the merely complicated, and the hopelessly disordered; with this more robust landscape, real world situations were more accessible, or at least visible.

How have these understandings evolved?  Has sense making come of age?

This, of course, will launch a good discussion, if not a healthy debate. In our #orgdna chat MON 2/20/17 at 9:00pm ET, let’s explore this question with the following frame:

  • Q1. HCI as Foundation. Was the early research important to what came after?
  • Q2. Klein and Pattern Matching. How influential have patterns become re: sense making & complexity? Are we returning to foundations?
  • Q3. Weick on Narrative. Has story consumed our dialog in the modern framing of sense making? For better or worse?
  • Q4. Snowden & Complexity. How has Cynefin changed the sense making dialog?
  • Q5. Futures. What is the path to practical application for sense making?

Our back story? The #orgdna chat community has been meeting since late 2012 on topics from leadership to learning, most often focused on the social dynamic.

To what end? Making sense of it all, of course. This topic is right up our alley.

Our conversations are typically lively. Just add #orgdna to your tweets at the appointed hour. We recommend a streaming app like TweetDeck. After the conversation, we’ll share a PDF transcript. And there’s likely to be a follow-up chat on a related thread. We do this every 3rd Monday, 9pET/6pPT.

Props to group member Christy Petit, who helped me shape this conversation.

Intrigued? I certainly am. The rest is up to the group. Hope to see you online Monday night.

Chris (aka @sourcepov, now on Medium)


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)


Synthesis in the Collaborative Flow: Why Process Matters (Ch.16)

As we move toward team dynamics that are based less on structure and more on flow, we face a dilemma. We gain the benefit of new thinking, serendipity and emerging ideas, but isn’t there danger that we lose focus?

The short answer is yes.

We must explore the need for balance points. We’ll also need a flexible lightweight process that allows us to navigate the challenges we’ll encounter. In my experience there are several ways we can enable the benefits of collaborative flow without losing our way. In today’s Book Review topic, as we explore The DNA of Collaboration Chapter 16 on Process, let’s take apart some of the most important contributing factors:

  • Step 1. Framing. We need enough structure to support a dialog, but space for it to evolve. How can we shift our facilitation thinking away from control?
  • Step 2. Guidelines & Introductions. Who is here? Why? How is this going to work?
  • Step 3. Context. We often plow into collaboration w/o thought to relevance. What are the challenges of changing context in real time, during the conversation? When should context be set? held? changed?
  • Step 4. Brainstorm & Dialog. How will we interact?
  • Step 5. Patterns. Looking for Patterns is like “mining for gold”. What practices can make this easier, more intuitive, more common?
  • Step 6. Synthesis. Aka “curation,” it’s about capture, prioritization of outcomes, and teasing out the value. Why is this so difficult? How can we get better at it?

Many who participate in the most established Twitter Chats will notice some of these elements. I believe they have evolved into their current form due to social collaboration in action. In fact, we continue to explore these dynamics at #smchat (social media), #ecosys (k12 edreform) and of course here at #cdna (collaboration practice).

Share your thoughts. Which aspects of these steps resonate? Which of these do you use most frequently?

Looking forward to our conversation. See you online.

Chris aka @sourcepov