Archive for the 'complexity' Category

Jan 28 2016

“Finely calibrated moments of risk”

sunburstI’ve had this snippet in my queue for a while and decided to just BLOG it. I love the idea of “finely calibrated moments of risk.” Sounds like my life! This is the space of learning, of innovation. Can I get an “amen!?”

The quote is from Molly Melching in a piece by Courtney Martin,  The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems — The Development Set — Medium   The context was “development tourism,” which is an interesting issue on its own. Here is the context for the quote.

“Don’t go because you loved studying abroad. Go because, like Molly Melching, you plan on putting down roots. Melching, a native of Illinois, is widely credited with ending female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal. But it didn’t happen overnight. She has been living in and around Dakar since 1974, developing her organization, Tostan, and its strategy of helping communities collectively address human rights abuses. Her leadership style is all about finely calibrated moments of risk — when she will challenge a local leader, for example — and restraint — when she will hold off on challenging a local leader because she intuits that she hasn’t yet developed enough trust with him. That kind of leadership doesn’t develop during a six-month home stay.”

For my international development friends, you might want to peek at The Development Set. Many of us continuously wonder if we are adding value in our work. 😉 Here is the “about.”

Finally, a word about journalistic ethics. The Development Set is made possible by funding from the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Please know that the Foundation’s involvement with this publication stops there. They are interested in cultivating a dynamic space to explore the question, “How do we do the most good?” They do not have any sway whatsoever in our editorial decisions.

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Sep 17 2015

Empherality, KM, Inner Reform and Social Impact

IMGP3464Blogs are ephemeral. Today someone referenced a broken link on my blog back from 2005. I cruised across the page and alas, found many dead links. There was one quote on knowledge management that is still resonant to me… and the blog is gone. (Some of the posts are still visible via the amazing Wayback machine. For example here and here.)

Olaf’s Notebook: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?This post from Olaf’s Notebook speaks for itself: What is the relation between KM and inner reform?Knowledge management as social system change requires an inner reform of people involved. Where KM projects are usually ‘sold’ on the basis of business cases, they should be sold on the basis of ‘humanity and consciousness cases’ to be effective drivers for social system change.What can we do if we cannot cope with some aspects of our lives, if we fail in our relationships with other people, if we destroy our opportunities for the future, if we become ill because of work stress? Good chance that we will be advised to start psychotherapy.What happens if our organizations destroy societal trust relationships, opportunities for future generations, if they make workers ill because of work stress, or exploit workers and children in low-wages countries? Good chance organizational leadership receives shareholders’ praise, bonuses, and fame as a captain of industry. No psychotherapy there, and one could only wonder about this double standard.Corporations and governments debate endlessly on corporate social responsibility, draw up sustainability reporting schemes, codes of conduct etc. I do not deny these agreements can represent steps forward toward sustainable corporate policies. However, what is right or wrong for companies and company leaders to do is not so hard to imagine”

Source: Full Circle Online Interaction Blog: 11/01/2005 – 12/01/2005

In a bit of kismet, the Straits Knowledge newsletter arrived today with a link to a paper from my friend Patrick Lambe on Knowledge Organization and Social Impact. There is resonance from Olaf’s writing in 2005.

KM as an inner practice. Knowledge (in all its forms and practices) as a core for social impact. Lots of good stuff. Only need time and presence to weave the ideas and make sense. Or to lose things and to find them anew with fresh eyes. To destroy to create.

Ah, I dream.

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Jul 29 2015

The Power of Ordinary Practices – Quotes Worth Amplifying

Well, this seems to be a fitting follow up to my last blog post.

Amabile: I believe it’s important for leaders to understand the power of ordinary practices. Seemingly ordinary, trivial, mundane, day-by-day things that leaders do and say can have an enormous impact. My guess is that a lot of leaders have very little sense of the impact that they have. That’s particularly true of the negative behaviors. I don’t think that the ineffective team leaders we studied meant to anger or deflate the people who were working for them. They were trying to do a good job of leading their teams, but lacked an effective model for how to behave.

So, I would say sweat the small stuff, not only when you’re dealing with your business strategy, but with the people whom you’re trying to lead. I would encourage leaders, when they’re about to have an interaction with somebody, to ask themselves: Might this thing I’m about to do or say become this person’s “event of the day”? Will it have a positive or a negative effect on their feelings and on their performance today?codrawing2

Amabile also calls out the rich, internal emotional lives that we all have, and how that influences our working together and collaboration.

One, people have incredibly rich, intense, daily inner work lives; emotions, motivations, and perceptions about their work environment permeate their daily experience at work. Second, these feelings powerfully affect people’s day-to-day performance. And third, those feelings, which are so important for performance, are powerfully influenced by particular daily events.

This again has resonance with last week’s #UdGAgora work where we explored the role of empathy in course design. The red threads are really showing up today. Maybe this will help me start pulling together a full post about The Agora. Alan has already started the “reflective ball” rolling.
Source: The Power of Ordinary Practices — HBS Working Knowledge

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Jul 29 2015

Hospital checklists and Inviting Participation

5429335563_ebe9be20dcJohnnie Moore pointed to an interesting article on why checklists don’t always produce the kind of positive results expected in hospital operating rooms.

I remember a few years back when I had major surgery. I had been rolled into the operating room. I was looking around and I commented on the team’s use of a checklist. They looked at me, surprised that I noticed. I said I’m interested in group process. With that, they gave me my anesthesia. I think one of the things on the list was to shut up talkative patients. 🙂 But I wondered, did the checklist make a difference for that team? It seemed like they were comfortable and well-practiced…

Outside of hospital operating rooms, where I have no expertise other than as patient, I’m fascinated by what sort of invitation gets people to engage with tools that can increase their individual and collective performance. It seems to me the invitation is as important as the checklist. Here is a related snippet from the article:

Dixon-Woods did identify one exemplary ICU, in which a high infection rate fell to zero after Matching Michigan began. The unit was led by a charismatic physician who championed the checklist and rallied others around it. “He formed coalitions with his colleagues so everyone was singing the same tune, and they just committed as a whole unit to getting this problem under control,” says Dixon-Woods.

I don’t think the intention here is blind lock-step and I cringed a bit at “singing the same tune.” What I do think matters is that people understand the value of something they are asked to do, and that leadership walks the talk. That starts with an informed, intelligent invitation to participate. Not blind obedience. Not “because you have to.” And the ability to critically question an invitation, checklist or whatever, because in complex settings, not everything is predictable.

I’m currently reflecting on the last two weeks where a team of us co-facilitated 2 rounds of a week long learning experience for professors at the University of Guadalajara system in Mexico. (More to come on that.) I suspect where we created warm, intelligent INVITATIONS to experiment with mobile technologies for engaged teaching and learning, we had more professors “accept,” dive in and learn. Where we focused too much on content, we started to lose people. Interesting, eh?

Source: Hospital checklists are meant to save lives — so why do they often fail? : Nature News & Comment

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Apr 03 2015

Collaborating for Impact in Large Development Organizations

km4devimage1What feels like a long time ago and far far away, Rachel Cardone of Red Thread Advisors, Aldo de Moore of Community Sense and I decided to wrestle with some questions that were cropping up across our diverse work. We kept having clients say “we want to collaborate with our distributed teams,” and “what software should we buy.” Time and again, we saw so many of these initiatives fizzle out. It was our sense that we needed to look at the problem differently, with an appreciation for complexity and the diverse contexts across large international development organizations.  That really interesting things were happening on the edges, but they didn’t seem to penetrate deeply into the organizations.

Thanks to some support from IFAD (thanks, Helen!), we had some seed money to begin thinking together, along with friends/volunteers from five development organizations (listed below). What resulted is the following paper from the KM4Dev Journal.

Learning 3.0: collaborating for impact in large development organizations

Nancy White, Rachel Cardone, Aldo de Moor

Abstract

This discussion paper builds on the body of research and practice about technology stewardship originally explored in Digital Habitats, and on the findings from an initial probe into the experiences of five development agencies using collaboration platform technologies. The probe was conducted from September 2013 through February 2014. We propose a framework for looking at productive practices in selecting, configuring and supporting use of collaboration technologies in international development organizations by focusing on the opportunities that exist in the boundaries between different parts of a development organization and different kinds of interactions that lead to learning and development impact. We suggest that there is a very useful opportunity to expand this initial probe using collaboration pattern language and a complexity lens to develop a useful repertoire of technology stewarding practices for collaboration in international development with the goal of supporting greater impact of development work.

via KM4Dev Journal.

This snippet gives a bit of the context for the action learning agenda:

We worked with key staff from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Oxfam International, German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ), the World Bank Institute, the UN Development Programme (UNDP – special thanks to the ever enthusiastic Johannes Schunter!), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Our objective was to determine if common patterns or dynamics exist across international development organizations that could suggest models, approaches or methods organizations could use to increase value for money when making investment decisions in support of collaboration. We drew on the collective experience of our action research partners, and our own experiences working to establish, advise and manage collaboration technology platforms. Through a series of discussions, we developed an analysis of the contextual factors relevant to the international development sector.

You can find the full text PDF here. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

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