Crowd-sourcing develops wisdom. It doesn’t find answers

I dream of sunrise by Indy Kethdy via Flickr
I dream of sunrise by Indy Kethdy via Flickr

Zeitgeist of our age

As I dillied-dallied this morning, putting off the moment when I bury myself in an Excel spreadsheet, I pondered the bizarre experience of academics, like myself, teaching management in a classroom, and checked out the twitter chatter on the new crowd sourcing website being offered by government.

Crowd-sourcing is here

People seem willing to consult the populace online but don’t know what to make of the responses they get back.  There was even a spirited interchanged between a Gen Y blogger, whom I follow, and a Gen X geek, whom I also follow.  The Gen Yer was telling the Gen X to take down all his comments and get behind her drum. Hmm . . .

Someone even challenged Nick Clegg on the workability of crowd-sourced consultation. Hat-tip to @DT for this audioboo from Mark Hilary.

We want answers so that we don’t have to engage

I couldn’t quite hear Nick Clegg’s answer but the dilemma seems clear.

People are looking for answers so they can say that’s done – don’t have to talk (to you) any more.

Engagement is ongoing, messy and never ending

Engagement is ongoing – more people, more complexity, rising understanding, defined initiatives in context of a conversation.

Social psychologist, Karl E Weick provides the basic framework for understanding engagement & leadership

I don’t want to turn this into an advert for my own work but by chance, or rather because, I tried to write a plain English a few days ago, I can point you to what Weick wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 – what constitutes leadership when the world shifts abruptly beneath our feet?

What does it take to lead a community when the issues are so widespread that we must get everyone involved to be able to move forward together?

Karl E Weick is a a notoriously difficult read and I am not sure that I simplified his work sufficiently.  So let me have another go here.

  • Basically, the country has moved from the flight-fight reaction to the financial crisis, the initial startle and anger response.
  • We can give this coalition government its due in that they have moved us through the bargaining stage and to a thinking-it out stage (hopefully by-passing depression).

We are in the over-complicating stage of collectively re-thinking our world views

Weick points out that in this stage, our discussion becomes more complicated.  Indeed it becomes overly-complicated.

Over-complication is a process of looking at a problem from many perspectives

But this process of over-complication helps us understand the social context in which we frame initiatives and make small experiments in our own lives.

We gain a deep and wide appreciation of the context, or in other words, the issues as the appear from the perspectives of many people who are different to us.

Wide consultation provides the backdrop for wisdom and judgment

The context provides the backdrop for wisdom and judgment.

With this backdrop, we can take tentative steps in our own lives and in areas of our own responsibility to move forward.

The principle of self-organization and emergence apply

The leaders won’t decide for us.  We will decide just as a flock of birds decides.

  • We fly in roughly the same direction as everyone else.
  • We fly at roughly the same speed as everyone else.
  • We keep a respectable “stopping distance” so we don’t bash into each other.
  • And when the bird “on point” (the leader in human-speak), gets tired, it falls back and someone else flies point.

And note, to know where to go, the bird on point is using an exquisite sense of where the birds behind it are going.  Like all good leaders, it finds out where its followers are going so it can follow them.

So how will crowd-sourcing online help us?

  • We will not get behind one leader and follow them through predefined cause.
  • It will be messy.
  • We will use some technology to vote issues up and down and to cluster through tags.
  • some of us with an academic/journalistic bent will trawl through the data and look for themese.

But it will be messy and the gains go to anyone who is bothered to listen.

The Special Advisors are going to earn their keep reading all the threads and summarizing them. That is their traditional role isn’t it?  That’s what they are taught at uni, isn’t it?

To discern the common threads and brief their principals.

People who have rallied behind one particular cause, like the legitimate marijuana crowd in the States, will be noted.  They will stand out.  But that is not what this is about. This is a listening exercise. This is a develop nuances exercise.  This is involve people who normally would stay quiet exercise.

The essence of crowd-sourcing

This is a an exercise in developing a common appreciation of where we are going together, so we can fly like a flock of birds to where we need to go without bashing into each other, and without assuming any one of us has super-human powers to understand where we are going.

Leaders get people involved.  Leaders get people to listen.  Our common sense of who and what we are will emerge from that process – special interests and all.

Work in the next 10 years and emergence

Emergence

I am tidying up and I glanced through a notebook from 2 years ago. I was utterly fascinated by ‘emergence’, the phenomenon where a flock of birds, for example, emerges from simple behaviour of birds.   With three very simple rules – join the flock, keep up and keep a respectable “stopping distance” – birds individually, and probably without thought, create a flock that looks as if someone did think it up.

Emergence, business & management

We are fascinated with “emergence” in a business context because a naturally-forming flock undermines the idea of the all knowing and ominiscent leader.  The planning, leading, organizing & controlling management theory of Fayol goes ‘for a loop’.

At first, I was puzzled that university departments hadn’t taken up this idea more vigorouosly, and more practically.

Including emergence in the theory of management

Two years on, I’ve found my thinking has drifted.  Yes, it is certainly true that the role of managers is probably exaggerated (with their pay).  But the project of changing management is unnecessary.  Overmanaged firms will self-destruct, possibly at great cost to themselves and others, simply because managers have to be paid for and management that is not necessary simply makes a firm unweildy, inefficient and unprofitable.

The real issue is where our better understanding of organization is emerging in business.  The best example that is written up is the motorcycle industry of China. The best example where an industry is trying to use similar processes is the aerospace industry in UK and the production of the Boeing 787.

Moving along to understanding emergence in business

The challenge now is to understand the variations of self-organizing networks.

I think, perhaps, the basic principle is that emergence, by definition, is not willed.

  • We can prevent it happening.
  • We can illustrate the principle.

But in real life, the probably the best we can do is create conditions for it to happen.  What are those conditions?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fractal . . . and positive psychology

Phoenix de Julia

So what does fractal mean in plain language?

In the social professions that are my milieu – psychology, HR, workplaces – fractal means “walking the talk”. It means using the working procedures you would like to see in an organization to bring those working practices about.

It means delivering democracy through democratic means.

It means having the same pattern of organization throughout the organization.

I attended the Bucks08 Social Media Camp

at Bucks New University in High Wycombe on Saturday 17 May 2008. It was organized by Chris Hambly and kindly hosted by Bucks.

It was an unconference. It is free, and registration is simple on an open wiki. Any one who wants to present, signs up in the room and time slot of their choice. It is gently organized with people changing rooms on the hour as they wish.

Around 60 people converged from as far afield as Brighton, Leicester, Nottingham and Sweden (yes, it was international with people from at least 7 countries there). Personally, I went to sessions on

How was this fractal?

Social media capitalizes on self-organization. We provide a framework where people can “read and write”. Social media is a framework in which the audience has a voice.

An unconference is minimally structured and, far from being disorganized, captures the energy of people with a purpose. So it is fractal in the subject matter is participation and the method of organizing is participative.

And then it becomes fractal again, because participants leave and blog about the conference on their own initiative and using their own resources. Before I had got home, a High Wycombe website designer, Paul Imre, had written up the session on metrics. Dan Thornton wrote up his take on social metrics with a parallel on reflecting on your marriage. Michael Clarke provided a running blog on the same session with comments on the whole day.

And it becomes fractal again, in that Dan & Paul summarized the discussion with the metaphors of marriages and  “investing in a dam” to build and release potential.  Dan’s metaphor was about managing social media.  Paul was talking about deciding how much to invest in social media.  In so doing, they effectively advanced the discussion and took it to another level. Within the afternoon, several people had replied, continuing the engagement, which I suspect will continue in other forums too.

Bucks New University must be very proud. They would have been happy, I am sure, with a smoothly organized event. This was so much more: it illustrated the power of social media, it supported a community of practice, it engaged new people, it generated new material.

To use Paul’s metaphor, investment that increases potential and to use Dan’s, when we enjoy ourselves, we come back for more!

PS The next media camp is at SAE in London on 5 July 2008.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Making molehills out of mountains

Oh! I do like this expression. How do we solve large problems or answer large questions? Break the question into as many small questions as we can.

And if we are group or a family, do the same thing. Brainstorm the question and ask everyone to contribute, “two or three (neither more or less) specific things” about how they will be affected by the big question.

Bang on time – this will be useful this weekend!

UPDATE:  Bang on time again.  This is an important hack to add to a manager’s quiver.  2 or 3 specific things (neither more or less) about how they will be affected by the big question!!

Useful coaching technique: a cloud journey

Are you wise, sometimes?

Have you ever kicked yourself for making a dumb decision?  Have you ever sat there thinking, why did I do that?

Turn on your wisdom

There is a way to turn on wisdom.  Peter K Webbs describes the research evidence for promoting wisdom.

#1  Talk a decision over with someone else.  They don’t give you answers.  The talking brings a wider range of facts and figures to your conscious decision making processes.

#2 Go on a cloud journey.  Imagine traveling around the world.  Think of different places and cultures.  Then make you decision! This is Staudinger’s and Baltes (1996) ‘cloud’ journey.

Complexity in organizatons

Peter K Webbs summarized complexity theory in organizations and psycholoogy very well.

For a poetic account, read Paolo Coelho, The Warrior of Light & Strategy.  I particular like the ideas of accepting defeat as what they it is: defeat.  I like the idea of preparing to fight by imagining fighting oneself.  I like the idea that friends remain with you through good and bad times.  They share the journey and the ups-and-downs of the journey.