8 Principles For Disruptive Learning Environments

31 Flares Twitter 16 Google+ 8 Facebook 6 LinkedIn 1 Email -- 31 Flares ×

Disruptive LearningI am finally giving in and writing my first list post, ugh!  But I promise this not some shallow list designed for social media virality.  I have been storing away notes and observations on this topic for quite some time.  Many of these observations come from my personal experience over the past two years with crossfit – a program and community that is dramatically disrupting the health and fitness industries.  Other observations derive from innovations in the start up community and social media.  The significant overlap between these seemingly disparate domains serves as evidence that these are real trends rather than passing curiosities.  The eight principles:

Learning By Doing & Incrementalism

These two go hand in hand.  During slower times it might have made sense to map out educational goals and curriculum years in advance.  In a rapidly evolving world it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty what knowledge you will need years in the future.  At the same time, the diversity of possible directions any individual might choose to pursue has expanded dramatically.  Consequently, rigid multi-year bets on education, in the absence of real world experience, no longer make much sense.  As the sub-title of one of my favorite books states:

Small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion.

The future of education will look much more like the prescriptions being developed by the start up community: experiment, test, evaluate, iterate.  Work and education merge together and become a perpetual search for purpose and direction.

Coaching and Mentoring Replace Teaching

The explicit information we all learned in school is ubiquitously available on the internet.  The traditional teacher who lectures to a group in order to convey this information is obsolete.  In environments that encourage learning by doing, we need coaches rather than teachers.  We need people who observe us in action, correct our mistakes, and point us in the right direction.  We need mentors who have the experience to help us formulate the questions we don’t yet know how to ask.

Safe Failure Environments – Part 1

Too much fear of failure discourages participation and risk taking.  Too little encourages excessive risk taking and lackadaisical attitudes.  Obviously it is critical to find the right balance.  Less obviously, the correct balance shifts over time.  Expectations must be allowed to naturally increase as experience and expertise increase.  When scaled correctly, this dynamic creates environments in which new participants gradually “become the type“.

This is readily apparent in the crossfit community.  Many people join based on simple ‘new years resolution’ type goals – losing weight, exercising more, or whatever.  Inital expectations suit these goals - come in, work hard, go home.  Over time, people who stick with it become the type…they start to see themselves as the type of person that lives a healthy lifestyle, eats well, sleeps enough, and practices correct form.  It’s not exactly that they fear failure more than the beginner, but their expectations have grown…and by that point those expectations are deserved.

Safe Failure Environments – Part 2

Balanced attitudes towards failure encourage experimentation and thereby help participants discover weaknesses and grow.  This is not only a matter of the level at which expectations are set, but is also a matter of how failures are characterized.  This brings us back to the incrementalism described in the first point.  When people are judged on the basis of infrequent imposing tests, then failures can be crushing.  When success is seen as a process of constant experimentation and iteration, then a failure is but one more challenge to overcome…one more lesson to learn, one more limit to push.

Both crossfit and the start-up community place a heave emphasis on tracking results.  This might seem at first blush to create excessive pressure, but when everything is tracked no specific result takes on undue importance.  Results become feedback rather than judgements.  One of my former coaches once described crossfit as diagnostic.  You are tested in so many ways that you discover weaknesses in areas you’ve never even thought about before.  These weaknesses don’t indicate failures but instead opportunities to grow.

Variety Keeps You Humble and Hungry

Walk into any meathead gym and you will easily spot the person who does nothing except lift heavy everyday.  This character lives a comfortable existence knowing that no one in his little pond will ever outshine him.  His problem is that he has become utterly complacent.

Facing varied challenges forces the adoption of a growth mindset.  You may be the strongest person in the building, but if you are asked to run a mile chances are you won’t do so well.  That result is both feedback indicating an opportunity for improvement and motivation to break through the complacency.  Embracing varied challenges and stimuli capitalizes on the Pareto principle - 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Promulgators of shallow wisdom will suggest that we should therefore focus only on the 20% and ignore the 80%.  (Un)Fortunately, we do not live in a static world.  The 20% today is not necessarily the 20% of yesterday.  Besides, such a strategy would only lead back to complacency.  The solution is perpetual growth-inducing variety that continually redirects attention towards the current 20%.

Short Bursts of Intensity Trump Prolonged Willpower

The crossfit program is premised on the idea that short bouts of exercise at maximum intensity (usually less than 20 minutes) are significantly more beneficial than extended periods of lighter exercise.  The body adapts more readily to a short series of all out sprints than to an hour of jogging.

The same logic applies intuitively to education.  The vast majority of the information we “learn”, formally and informally, is glossed over or quickly forgotten.  It is the infrequent moments of clarity, the epiphanies, that stick with us and impact the remainder of our lives.  It is the surprising discoveries that we research manically, whether due to need or curiosity, that we actually put to use.

This is a somewhat subtle point.  I don’t mean to undermine the importance of persistence.  The question is what should we persist at, a constant low level of muddling through or a series of oscillations between high intensity output and recuperation?  I vote for the latter.

Encourage Postive Sum Competition

Combine all of the above and what you end up with is positive sum competition.  Positive sum environments are those in which competition provides motivation and inspiration rather than threats and rivals.  Peers are both competitors and collaborators.  Competition demonstrates what is possible and provides context for goals and expectations.  Collaboration helps everyone share knowledge and improve more rapidly.  Neither is an end in itself.  Both are tools to help each individual tackle the challenges that he or she has chosen.

Organize Around Intent and Purpose Rather Than Goal or Cause

This is the final key to positive sum competition.  In my lexicon a goal or cause relates to a specifc outcome.  Intent and purpose are more general notions of direction.  The problem with specific causes is that they are rigidly defined and therefore avail themselves to equally rigid doctines.  This type of organization encourages people to bicker over best practices and jockey for leadership positions.

Organizing around purpose or intent suggests the pursuit of parallel goals.  Start-up incubators have demonstrated that dozens of potentially competitive companies can easily coexist in collaborative environments when each is evaluated individually on its own merits.  Each company shares the same purpose but not the same specific goal.  Have the same companies compete for a fixed pool of investment capital and the competition would not be nearly so congenial.

The key them to many of these principles is to expand the perceived sphere of possibilities.  A static and predictable world leads naturally to one set of strategies.  An uncertain and rapidly evolving environment favors an alternative set of practices.  As we shift more towards the latter the traditional models will increasingly be disrupted by new approaches that acknowledge the changing reality…

What have I missed?  What should be added to the list?  What did I get wrong?

Save & Bookmark

  • Pingback: Educational Imaginations

  • http://www.openworld.com Openworld

    Greg,

    I’m with you except for the final point, where I see things differently on goals and causes.

    The X Prize Foundation, Innocentive.com, and “Results-Only Work environments”  offer rewards for team and/or individual breakthroughs.

    Tangible challenges on these lines (and their associated rewards) tend to nourish, as I see it, the other learning styles that you’ve identified.

    What do you think?

    Best,

    Mark
    @openworld:twitter

    • http://twitter.com/ToughLoveforX Michael Josefowicz

      Mark,

      Maybe Intent and Purpose is best for the Long Now , while Goal and Cause are optimal in a Time defined engagement. What I’m trying to say is that for an individual in their personal Time – the Long Now – Intent and Purpose is precisely the way to frame the problem. Goes to notions of Creating a Meaning for one’s life and behaviors. It also goes to the question of ethics as a framework for decision rules.

      Goal and Cause on the other hand are what drives projects and games. Crystal clear rules and crystal clear goals have always been the critical components of team success.

      In a nemetics framework, we say , with Alvin Toffler, that Time is the Deep Fundamental. In this case it’s the different Time frames that define which attitude is optimized.   When Intent and Purpose of individuals in Long Now is in synch with Goal and Cause of Defined Time innovation is easiest, fastest cheapest and way most fun.

      • http://www.spirospiliadis.com/ Spiro Spiliadis

        I agree with your assessment, but I think that where Mark is going with playing devil’s advocate in relation to Intent and purpose with goals and cause, has to be understood on the basis of momentum…

        I’m one of those who is driven by the “long now” intent and purpose, but I’m also in tune with my goals and causes, kind of look at G.O.A.L. as “Go Out and Live” in other words, Intent requires attention to be successful, and our attention is always attracting “cause and effect” of which goals are required, but in “essence” we are in the momentum of that “long now”

        Let’s use Emergent by Design for example, there was no goal in place at the “time” we all gathered around Venessa’s “An Idea worth spreading post” it was a cause, that cause had intent that was of “value” (which value means personal and contextual) but the effect, the goals both directly and indirectly were and still is a combination of sharing tweets, insights, ideas, but where the goal becomes more defined is when that self organizing structure creates leverage on it’s power to create more depth in a specifics of a goal… Ex. Venessa has done several projects with those that “gathered” around that topic that day…

        Does this make sense?

        • http://twitter.com/ToughLoveforX Michael Josefowicz

          My take is that amazing post “an idea worth spreading” had intent and purpose, but did not have a Goal or Cause.

          What I think I see is that it was Venessa’s Purpose and Intent to figure “It Out.” What I think made the environment so fertile was her Caring and Humility in pursuit of that knowledge. She fearlessly put her Self out there, Mulling aloud and welcoming all.

          To me that blog post and the ensuing conversation is a perfect example of a “nemiTube filled with caring and love that was optimized for ez.pz. “neme Exchange”

          It’s been over a year methinks and the threads that were started there have grown into other interests and branched into many directions.

          I can only speak with knowledge about the thread that you, me and Mark started with Ebdish as a symbolic language to capture complexity. You know that it was just one question from you about putting it into symbolic language that triggered a cascade that has been growing since that moment. As it developed @ddrrnt:disqus  took it up. In the last few months, I’m pretty sure the language is pretty useful.

          From the standpoint of Goal or Cause as  an emergent property. First is Intent and Purpose that attracts people for whom that resonates. ( nTangling  “nemiTubes” on the basis exchanges that trigger similar vibes ) Cause and goal emerge from the sharing of ideas, links, words within those nTanglements

          Ya think that makes sense?

          • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

            Yes, this is the way I am using the various terms.  If the environment allows you to adopt some set of ideas and take them off in your own direction, then I would say that specific goals have not been defined.  But again, I won’t claim my definitions are necessarily the right ones.  The point is that being strictly organized around rigidly defined goals is a recipe for groupthink and stagnation.  Define the ends or define the means but not both.  

          • http://twitter.com/ToughLoveforX Michael Josefowicz

            One technique I’ve found that helps is to not “define goals” Rather to define desired  “End States.”

            Back in the days of teaching, I would challenge my students with “If you had all the time and money you needed,  what do you want to see to be true about X, that is not true today.”

            Be curious as to your thoughts.

          • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

            I definitely agree with the direction you are going though I will quibble a bit for the sake of argument.  

            I would ask you to contrast ‘end states’ from ‘goals’.  I gather that you are likely using end state as less rigidly defined construct that allows for more self directed pursuit.  I wonder though whether it doesn’t work better when formulated in the negative: “What do you want not to be true in the future that is true today?”  You may not know what future state would be better but you can certainly identify what you are currently dissatisfied with.  

            Perhaps the positive formulation follows from the negative:

            Answer1:  I want X to be different
                 Question2.  What future state would be preferable?

            If you can answer Q2 then start experimenting with solutions.  If you can’t answer Q2 then start experimenting with alternative states until you find one that is preferable.  

          • http://twitter.com/ToughLoveforX Michael Josefowicz

            Hardly a quibble.  “What do you want not to be true in the future that is true today?”

             It goes to common language used by the – in my opinion – the most successful designers. A bit snarky but the same idea. “How can we make this suck less?”

            What I think is so helpful in that framing is the humility it implies when facing a world full of other people, different needs and the inevitable un anticipated consequences.  There is a long history of discovery that is “accidental”  or “lucky.” I think it’s fair to say that one can make one’s luck with a “prepared mind” and a constant awareness of the new possibilities.

            A focus on the negative seems to me precisely the best way to get to that mindset.

            Thanks for making the distinction.

        • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

          I think this is consistent with my responses above.  Admittedly the purpose/intent/cause/goal language is imprecise.  With regard to your examples though, they allow outlets for “renegade” thinking.  The community of readers surrounding Venessa’s blog is organized in the sense that they are aware of each other, but they are not sufficiently organized to create pressures towards groupthink.  In that context I think your use of “gathered” is an apt in place of “organized”.

      • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

        I think I agree, at least to the degree I am following the references.

        I am realizing in considering these comments that there is a more fundamental theme than the one I identified that relates to my concluding comment – “expand(ing) the perceived sphere of possibilities”

        If you have already firmly defined the goal to be sought after then you want to avoid organizing contributors to whatever degree possible.  People who are organized with naturally try to define standards of practice.  If you have firmly defined the goal and you then subsequently firmly define the means by which it is to be achieved, then your sphere of possibilities is pretty well boxed in.

        If you intend to organize people then avoid defining outcomes to whatever degree possible.  The organized group may subsequently converge on a rigid set of best practices but the ends towards which those practices are to be applied will remain open, still allowing for innovation.   

        • http://twitter.com/ToughLoveforX Michael Josefowicz

          I think it helps to frame the conversation within the context of “complexify-simplify” as a short hand to describe the evolution of any Complex Adaptive System. There is a Time when expanding perceived possibilities is the task at hand. The complexify stage.

          But with present danger or opportunity, narrowing possibilities is what is needed to craft Timely responses. The Simplify stage.

           You make an important point when you say…”If you have already firmly defined the goal to be sought after then you want to avoid organizing contributors to whatever degree possible.”

          The challenge of organizational management is to be able to manage two seemingly contradictory capabilities.

           My approach would be organized around Time. New possibilities are best considered in the Long Now, by which I mean to indicate a situation where Time is the Dependent variable. This is an approach which is starting to get some traction in education, where the Learning is the Independent Variable and moving kids through the prescribed Grade levels is dependent.

          On the other hand, with proximate dangers and opportunities the speed of response framed by a notion of acceptable failure will usually win the day. 

          I think this goes to a persistent problem I’ve seen discussed on twitter. What is the path that gets from generative new knowledge on twitter, or in the R&D Lab or at the Company Retreat and implement them to get to positive change in the real world.

          There’s lots to dis entangle in that problem, but just to share, my sense is looking through the lens of Time will help.

    • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

      In an attempt to organize these thoughts and keep the threading consistent, I’ll respond to each comment individually…

      This may be a semantic point that I didn’t define very well and the prize model serves as a good example.  It is my understanding that the X prize, for example, pre-defined as little as possible and organized participants to the minimum degree.  Though achieving the “purpose” did require organization into teams, there were many parallel teams tackling the problem at once.  Moreover, the individual teams were not “organized” in the sense of bringing them all together in one physical location or into a single virtual forum.  Had all the teams all been organized in one place I suspect there would have been significant temptation to start defining standards and otherwise bureaucratize prematurely. 

      Now suppose instead the goal of the X prize was not necessarily to achieve a single specific goal but instead to advance spaceflight technology generally.  Now, by all means bring everyone together (physically and/or virtually) and encourage them to collaborate with each other.  When the groups are pursuing complimentary parallel goals, direct collaboration will tend less towards trying to define how everyone should move forward together and more towards basic knowledge sharing.   

  • Pingback: Quora

  • http://www.spirospiliadis.com/ Spiro Spiliadis

    Enjoying the thread :-)

    The important thing to realize here is that self organizing and natural ways of “social” inside this complexity is “working the net” though we hadn’t planned on coming together, it came about because points of interest were attracted together…

    To build on this, the momentum is to remain open, yet if it need be form value networks for goals and causes. For example, I’m still “part of” this emergent group, through intent and purpose, from my own value offering, however, I haven’t participated inside a group think or goal ortiented project, but i’m always in tune with whats going on, so people can come in and out of these value networks…

    The point i believe of the original thought is “organize around” intent and purpose is to keep moment…um going…

    It’s almost like choices and decisions, choices can be seen as the goals and cause, and decisions as the long term of goals and causes that surface….

    I’m methodically trying to formulate a case study around emergent by design, my observations and the work of Mark, Michael and a few others.. to kind of make it simpler to understand why intent and purpose are always going to be primary… 

    easier said than done though :”-)

    • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

      You are correct that “organize around” is a key phrase.  I could have written this point as a contrast between “organize around” vs “organize to effect change”.  ”Organizing around” implies mutual interest in some topic or issue but does not necessarily imply collective action.  As you note, the purpose of “organizing around” could simply be knowledge sharing and momentum building, after which the individual parties act in distributed/emergent fashion.”Organizing to effect change” suggests that everything has already been clearly defined…the problem is well understood, the solution is known.  All that remains is organizing individuals for collective action.  In most cases, I find this to be simplistic thinking.  Once the problem and solution are well defined, the organizing usually emerges of its own accord.

  • http://twitter.com/hodger Rick Hodge

    Greg, I much prefer Purpose/Intent over Goal/Cause though I understand where goals are more easily measurable and useful in certain situations. As a motivational tool setting intention and getting clear on a purpose are infinitely more useful and meaningful to me. I also have an easier time setting goals when I am clear on my intentions so I can be more effective with short term goal setting. I like your list and have a particular interest in the idea of ‘Short Bursts of Intensity’ and how it would apply to other organizations. Most organizations I know are completely uncomfortable with this concept and tend toward a forced participation in marginally useful activities to keep participants trudging on toward some goal. If a group of people have a shared sense of purpose then many traditional activities (like weekly meetings) become unnecessary. Instead they could focus their energies on the activities that really mattered to them. I love the concept of Emergent Networks and hope they some day replace what we currently think of as Organizations. 

    • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

      Rick, absolutely agree.  Are you familiar with the “Maker’s Schedule” essay by Paul Graham (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html)?  And a lengthier treatment by Venkat Rao ( @vgr:twitter  )(http://blog.trailmeme.com/2010/12/maker-time-daemon-visits-and-the-4-hour-workday/)    The more I am aware of this the more I find it to be true.  Different activities have distinct “warm-up” requirements and if the potential exists to be interrupted before the warm up is completed, then it is very difficult to get started at all.  

      The problem for the hierarchical organization is that in most cases they have no idea what else to measure.  Reminds me of the classic ‘Office Space’ quote: “What exactly would you say it is that you do here?”

      I think the emergent network is definitely gaining ground, in part because it removes the need for supervisory measurement.  Each individual may experiment and measure productivity, success, or failure in whatever way they deem appropriate.  

    • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

      Rick, absolutely agree.  Are you familiar with the “Maker’s Schedule” essay by Paul Graham (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html)?  And a lengthier treatment by Venkat Rao ( @vgr:twitter  )(http://blog.trailmeme.com/2010/12/maker-time-daemon-visits-and-the-4-hour-workday/)    The more I am aware of this the more I find it to be true.  Different activities have distinct “warm-up” requirements and if the potential exists to be interrupted before the warm up is completed, then it is very difficult to get started at all.  

      The problem for the hierarchical organization is that in most cases they have no idea what else to measure.  Reminds me of the classic ‘Office Space’ quote: “What exactly would you say it is that you do here?”

      I think the emergent network is definitely gaining ground, in part because it removes the need for supervisory measurement.  Each individual may experiment and measure productivity, success, or failure in whatever way they deem appropriate.  

  • http://OnTheSpiral.com/ GregoryJRader

    You are correct that “organize around” is a key phrase.  I could have written this point as a contrast between “organize around” vs “organize to effect change”.  ”Organizing around” implies mutual interest in some topic or issue but does not necessarily imply collective action.  As you note, the purpose of “organizing around” could simply be knowledge sharing and momentum building, after which the individual parties act in distributed/emergent fashion.

    “Organizing to effect change” suggests that everything has already been clearly defined…the problem is well understood, the solution is known.  All that remains is organizing individuals for collective action.  In most cases, I find this to be simplistic thinking.  Once the problem and solution are well defined, the organizing usually emerges of its own accord.  

  • Pingback: Structural Change, Learning Curves and The Dual-Mind Limitation | OnTheSpiral

21 Responses to 8 Principles For Disruptive Learning Environments

  1. Principles for Disruptive Learning…

    On unexpected sources, topics close to home, and a blog post that someone needs to write…….

  2. Openworld says:

    Greg,

    I’m with you except for the final point, where I see things differently on goals and causes.

    The X Prize Foundation, Innocentive.com, and “Results-Only Work environments”  offer rewards for team and/or individual breakthroughs.

    Tangible challenges on these lines (and their associated rewards) tend to nourish, as I see it, the other learning styles that you’ve identified.

    What do you think?

    Best,

    Mark
    @openworld:twitter

    • Mark,

      Maybe Intent and Purpose is best for the Long Now , while Goal and Cause are optimal in a Time defined engagement. What I’m trying to say is that for an individual in their personal Time – the Long Now – Intent and Purpose is precisely the way to frame the problem. Goes to notions of Creating a Meaning for one’s life and behaviors. It also goes to the question of ethics as a framework for decision rules.

      Goal and Cause on the other hand are what drives projects and games. Crystal clear rules and crystal clear goals have always been the critical components of team success.

      In a nemetics framework, we say , with Alvin Toffler, that Time is the Deep Fundamental. In this case it’s the different Time frames that define which attitude is optimized.   When Intent and Purpose of individuals in Long Now is in synch with Goal and Cause of Defined Time innovation is easiest, fastest cheapest and way most fun.

      • I agree with your assessment, but I think that where Mark is going with playing devil’s advocate in relation to Intent and purpose with goals and cause, has to be understood on the basis of momentum…

        I’m one of those who is driven by the “long now” intent and purpose, but I’m also in tune with my goals and causes, kind of look at G.O.A.L. as “Go Out and Live” in other words, Intent requires attention to be successful, and our attention is always attracting “cause and effect” of which goals are required, but in “essence” we are in the momentum of that “long now”

        Let’s use Emergent by Design for example, there was no goal in place at the “time” we all gathered around Venessa’s “An Idea worth spreading post” it was a cause, that cause had intent that was of “value” (which value means personal and contextual) but the effect, the goals both directly and indirectly were and still is a combination of sharing tweets, insights, ideas, but where the goal becomes more defined is when that self organizing structure creates leverage on it’s power to create more depth in a specifics of a goal… Ex. Venessa has done several projects with those that “gathered” around that topic that day…

        Does this make sense?

        • My take is that amazing post “an idea worth spreading” had intent and purpose, but did not have a Goal or Cause.

          What I think I see is that it was Venessa’s Purpose and Intent to figure “It Out.” What I think made the environment so fertile was her Caring and Humility in pursuit of that knowledge. She fearlessly put her Self out there, Mulling aloud and welcoming all.

          To me that blog post and the ensuing conversation is a perfect example of a “nemiTube filled with caring and love that was optimized for ez.pz. “neme Exchange”

          It’s been over a year methinks and the threads that were started there have grown into other interests and branched into many directions.

          I can only speak with knowledge about the thread that you, me and Mark started with Ebdish as a symbolic language to capture complexity. You know that it was just one question from you about putting it into symbolic language that triggered a cascade that has been growing since that moment. As it developed @ddrrnt:disqus  took it up. In the last few months, I’m pretty sure the language is pretty useful.

          From the standpoint of Goal or Cause as  an emergent property. First is Intent and Purpose that attracts people for whom that resonates. ( nTangling  “nemiTubes” on the basis exchanges that trigger similar vibes ) Cause and goal emerge from the sharing of ideas, links, words within those nTanglements

          Ya think that makes sense?

          • Yes, this is the way I am using the various terms.  If the environment allows you to adopt some set of ideas and take them off in your own direction, then I would say that specific goals have not been defined.  But again, I won’t claim my definitions are necessarily the right ones.  The point is that being strictly organized around rigidly defined goals is a recipe for groupthink and stagnation.  Define the ends or define the means but not both.  

          • One technique I’ve found that helps is to not “define goals” Rather to define desired  “End States.”

            Back in the days of teaching, I would challenge my students with “If you had all the time and money you needed,  what do you want to see to be true about X, that is not true today.”

            Be curious as to your thoughts.

          • I definitely agree with the direction you are going though I will quibble a bit for the sake of argument.  

            I would ask you to contrast ‘end states’ from ‘goals’.  I gather that you are likely using end state as less rigidly defined construct that allows for more self directed pursuit.  I wonder though whether it doesn’t work better when formulated in the negative: “What do you want not to be true in the future that is true today?”  You may not know what future state would be better but you can certainly identify what you are currently dissatisfied with.  

            Perhaps the positive formulation follows from the negative:

            Answer1:  I want X to be different
                 Question2.  What future state would be preferable?

            If you can answer Q2 then start experimenting with solutions.  If you can’t answer Q2 then start experimenting with alternative states until you find one that is preferable.  

          • Hardly a quibble.  “What do you want not to be true in the future that is true today?”

             It goes to common language used by the – in my opinion – the most successful designers. A bit snarky but the same idea. “How can we make this suck less?”

            What I think is so helpful in that framing is the humility it implies when facing a world full of other people, different needs and the inevitable un anticipated consequences.  There is a long history of discovery that is “accidental”  or “lucky.” I think it’s fair to say that one can make one’s luck with a “prepared mind” and a constant awareness of the new possibilities.

            A focus on the negative seems to me precisely the best way to get to that mindset.

            Thanks for making the distinction.

        • I think this is consistent with my responses above.  Admittedly the purpose/intent/cause/goal language is imprecise.  With regard to your examples though, they allow outlets for “renegade” thinking.  The community of readers surrounding Venessa’s blog is organized in the sense that they are aware of each other, but they are not sufficiently organized to create pressures towards groupthink.  In that context I think your use of “gathered” is an apt in place of “organized”.

      • I think I agree, at least to the degree I am following the references.

        I am realizing in considering these comments that there is a more fundamental theme than the one I identified that relates to my concluding comment – “expand(ing) the perceived sphere of possibilities”

        If you have already firmly defined the goal to be sought after then you want to avoid organizing contributors to whatever degree possible.  People who are organized with naturally try to define standards of practice.  If you have firmly defined the goal and you then subsequently firmly define the means by which it is to be achieved, then your sphere of possibilities is pretty well boxed in.

        If you intend to organize people then avoid defining outcomes to whatever degree possible.  The organized group may subsequently converge on a rigid set of best practices but the ends towards which those practices are to be applied will remain open, still allowing for innovation.   

        • I think it helps to frame the conversation within the context of “complexify-simplify” as a short hand to describe the evolution of any Complex Adaptive System. There is a Time when expanding perceived possibilities is the task at hand. The complexify stage.

          But with present danger or opportunity, narrowing possibilities is what is needed to craft Timely responses. The Simplify stage.

           You make an important point when you say…”If you have already firmly defined the goal to be sought after then you want to avoid organizing contributors to whatever degree possible.”

          The challenge of organizational management is to be able to manage two seemingly contradictory capabilities.

           My approach would be organized around Time. New possibilities are best considered in the Long Now, by which I mean to indicate a situation where Time is the Dependent variable. This is an approach which is starting to get some traction in education, where the Learning is the Independent Variable and moving kids through the prescribed Grade levels is dependent.

          On the other hand, with proximate dangers and opportunities the speed of response framed by a notion of acceptable failure will usually win the day. 

          I think this goes to a persistent problem I’ve seen discussed on twitter. What is the path that gets from generative new knowledge on twitter, or in the R&D Lab or at the Company Retreat and implement them to get to positive change in the real world.

          There’s lots to dis entangle in that problem, but just to share, my sense is looking through the lens of Time will help.

    • In an attempt to organize these thoughts and keep the threading consistent, I’ll respond to each comment individually…

      This may be a semantic point that I didn’t define very well and the prize model serves as a good example.  It is my understanding that the X prize, for example, pre-defined as little as possible and organized participants to the minimum degree.  Though achieving the “purpose” did require organization into teams, there were many parallel teams tackling the problem at once.  Moreover, the individual teams were not “organized” in the sense of bringing them all together in one physical location or into a single virtual forum.  Had all the teams all been organized in one place I suspect there would have been significant temptation to start defining standards and otherwise bureaucratize prematurely. 

      Now suppose instead the goal of the X prize was not necessarily to achieve a single specific goal but instead to advance spaceflight technology generally.  Now, by all means bring everyone together (physically and/or virtually) and encourage them to collaborate with each other.  When the groups are pursuing complimentary parallel goals, direct collaboration will tend less towards trying to define how everyone should move forward together and more towards basic knowledge sharing.   

  3. Quora says:

    How can we solve the problems with public education in America?…

    1: Replace traditional lectures with tutorials and problem solving. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/science/13teach.html provides an excellent overview of an experiment conducted by Carl E. Wiemann (a Nobel laureate), showing that students taking tut…

  4. Enjoying the thread :-)

    The important thing to realize here is that self organizing and natural ways of “social” inside this complexity is “working the net” though we hadn’t planned on coming together, it came about because points of interest were attracted together…

    To build on this, the momentum is to remain open, yet if it need be form value networks for goals and causes. For example, I’m still “part of” this emergent group, through intent and purpose, from my own value offering, however, I haven’t participated inside a group think or goal ortiented project, but i’m always in tune with whats going on, so people can come in and out of these value networks…

    The point i believe of the original thought is “organize around” intent and purpose is to keep moment…um going…

    It’s almost like choices and decisions, choices can be seen as the goals and cause, and decisions as the long term of goals and causes that surface….

    I’m methodically trying to formulate a case study around emergent by design, my observations and the work of Mark, Michael and a few others.. to kind of make it simpler to understand why intent and purpose are always going to be primary… 

    easier said than done though :”-)

    • You are correct that “organize around” is a key phrase.  I could have written this point as a contrast between “organize around” vs “organize to effect change”.  ”Organizing around” implies mutual interest in some topic or issue but does not necessarily imply collective action.  As you note, the purpose of “organizing around” could simply be knowledge sharing and momentum building, after which the individual parties act in distributed/emergent fashion.”Organizing to effect change” suggests that everything has already been clearly defined…the problem is well understood, the solution is known.  All that remains is organizing individuals for collective action.  In most cases, I find this to be simplistic thinking.  Once the problem and solution are well defined, the organizing usually emerges of its own accord.

  5. Rick Hodge says:

    Greg, I much prefer Purpose/Intent over Goal/Cause though I understand where goals are more easily measurable and useful in certain situations. As a motivational tool setting intention and getting clear on a purpose are infinitely more useful and meaningful to me. I also have an easier time setting goals when I am clear on my intentions so I can be more effective with short term goal setting. I like your list and have a particular interest in the idea of ‘Short Bursts of Intensity’ and how it would apply to other organizations. Most organizations I know are completely uncomfortable with this concept and tend toward a forced participation in marginally useful activities to keep participants trudging on toward some goal. If a group of people have a shared sense of purpose then many traditional activities (like weekly meetings) become unnecessary. Instead they could focus their energies on the activities that really mattered to them. I love the concept of Emergent Networks and hope they some day replace what we currently think of as Organizations. 

    • Rick, absolutely agree.  Are you familiar with the “Maker’s Schedule” essay by Paul Graham (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html)?  And a lengthier treatment by Venkat Rao ( @vgr:twitter  )(http://blog.trailmeme.com/2010/12/maker-time-daemon-visits-and-the-4-hour-workday/)    The more I am aware of this the more I find it to be true.  Different activities have distinct “warm-up” requirements and if the potential exists to be interrupted before the warm up is completed, then it is very difficult to get started at all.  

      The problem for the hierarchical organization is that in most cases they have no idea what else to measure.  Reminds me of the classic ‘Office Space’ quote: “What exactly would you say it is that you do here?”

      I think the emergent network is definitely gaining ground, in part because it removes the need for supervisory measurement.  Each individual may experiment and measure productivity, success, or failure in whatever way they deem appropriate.  

    • Rick, absolutely agree.  Are you familiar with the “Maker’s Schedule” essay by Paul Graham (http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html)?  And a lengthier treatment by Venkat Rao ( @vgr:twitter  )(http://blog.trailmeme.com/2010/12/maker-time-daemon-visits-and-the-4-hour-workday/)    The more I am aware of this the more I find it to be true.  Different activities have distinct “warm-up” requirements and if the potential exists to be interrupted before the warm up is completed, then it is very difficult to get started at all.  

      The problem for the hierarchical organization is that in most cases they have no idea what else to measure.  Reminds me of the classic ‘Office Space’ quote: “What exactly would you say it is that you do here?”

      I think the emergent network is definitely gaining ground, in part because it removes the need for supervisory measurement.  Each individual may experiment and measure productivity, success, or failure in whatever way they deem appropriate.  

  6. You are correct that “organize around” is a key phrase.  I could have written this point as a contrast between “organize around” vs “organize to effect change”.  ”Organizing around” implies mutual interest in some topic or issue but does not necessarily imply collective action.  As you note, the purpose of “organizing around” could simply be knowledge sharing and momentum building, after which the individual parties act in distributed/emergent fashion.

    “Organizing to effect change” suggests that everything has already been clearly defined…the problem is well understood, the solution is known.  All that remains is organizing individuals for collective action.  In most cases, I find this to be simplistic thinking.  Once the problem and solution are well defined, the organizing usually emerges of its own accord.  

  7. [...] personal example… I have written previously about the lessens learned from my experience with crossfit.  That experience offers an appropriate example here as well.  Suppose I am training some [...]

31 Flares Twitter 16 Google+ 8 Facebook 6 LinkedIn 1 Email -- 31 Flares ×