E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

State of the Net 2012 – People Tweet Tacit Knowledge – Part Two

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Spring (This is Part Two of the series … Part One can be found over here) And on that spirit of what the real impact of Social Computing is, we are going to move onwards on to the second keynote speaker session that I would want to share with you all and talk for a bit about it. Again it took place at the State of the Net 2012 event, the same one where Euan was also one of the keynote speakers. This time around though by one of my favourite thought leaders and KM / Complexity mentors, the always insightful and incredibly knowledgeable Dave Snowden, whose blog, along with Euan’s, are two of my most essential, critical reads of the day, every day. Couple of the main online resources on KM, the Social Web, Collaboration, Narrative and Complexity that keep feeding my brain into the bursts that you folks get to read over here and in other social networking sites over the course of time. 

Thus when I bumped into Dave’s recording of his keynote “Tacit Knowledge I just couldn’t help finding some time and watch through it. It lasts for a little bit over 35 minutes, but it’s one of those essential recordings of the year you just can’t miss out on and I am not too sure I’m going to be doing proper justice to it by sharing along some of the golden gems and insightful glimpses that Dave himself shared throughout all of that time. However, I’m going to try it, encouraging you all though to not miss out on the video clip itself, because it’s one of the most essential resources on The Social Web, KM, Narrative and Storytelling, Complexity, Collaboration, etc. etc. that you would find out there. Yes, indeed, that inspirational altogether and here’s why.

As a starting point, Dave gets to talk about tacit knowledge, about the differences between knowing and knowledge and where we should be focusing on. Knowledge is basically collective in nature. And as groups who get to share and exchange that knowledge he brings up a superb point of encouraging, within organizations, the setup of crews (In the military sense) to replace teams, as the latter have got to go through a process of formation and knowing the capability of other people, whereas crews themselves can immediately perform since they are ready to go, trained on role and their role expectations well defined. Brilliant point as well to focus on exaptation, not adaption citing Apple as being the prime example. Truly enjoyed his definition of such concept as well as that other notion that we all live in a state of messy-coherence, although I won’t be saying much more on it, other than encouraging those folks in favour of management, and managing things and people, in general, to go and have a watch. It will help change, or snape, your prospecting on managing things and people.

However, the main starting point from Dave’s keynote, and which I got as a key takeaway is how organizations, as we know them today, need to switch from robustness, i.e. organizations preventing failure, to resilience, that is, organizations no longer risk averse, but very capable of learning, adapting, in an agile manner, and recovering quickly from those failures. And how if we would want to make our businesses successful we need to starting thinking about architecting on the assumption of failure and not on the assumption of success, and we would all be much much better off! Truly fascinating!  

Best practice is a bad idea. Full stop Dave’s words, not mine, not much to do with the flow of this article, I know, but I just loved it when he mentioned it, because, as plenty of folks out there who know me would tell you, for a long while “best practices” still remains as one of my pet peeves, specially, when dealing with knowledge work. They just don’t exist and I am surely glad Dave was so categorically when stating that quote! Loved it! Ok, moving on … Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo & La Culata

One of the interesting things that you may not know about Dave, but that I have learned from him over the course of the years that I have known him is how when you talk to him, or watch him speak on a keynote, he gets to talk about a whole bunch of different things that initially don’t probably make much sense together, but when you look into it as a whole and you muse about those conversations or presentations you would see how it just makes perfect sense. That’s the full impression you will get as well from this keynote and it’s all probably down to his perception of how we are all Irrational creatures, pattern based intelligences, and not information processing devices. And the best part of that is that we make lots of decisions along the way under these circumstances! Wait till you see his short dissertation on sensemaking and how he describes it as see, attend and act model, three completely different processes altogether. 

He also talked about singularity, how and why it’s not going to happen any time soon, not just from a cognitive perspective alone, but drawn from plenty of research around the implications of our physical bodies in constant contact with the world and how we make decisions and choices based on the combination of both of them. Mind-blowing, is the only word that I can think of to describe his insights in this space. 

He also discussed how human knowledge requires mediation. We don’t trust something just because it’s published, we trust it because we link through a human network of some type. He ditches the whole concept, notion of Web 3.0, and instead advocates, big time, about how the Web is turning itself into a distributed App environment, where we would get to use multiple specific Apps which embody human knowledge and facilitate us to create composite, allowing to create massively coherent systems. And funny enough if I look into my own Social Web consumption and production of content, he’s absolutely spot on! 

From here onwards Dave moved on to what I thought was the best bits in his inspiring repertoire, because he talked about how we need to humanise the Web, how we need to actually recognise that we are humans and we live in a human system. How we have had three decades of a so-called techno fetichism where we needed to adapt to the tools and that implied that we didn’t do much of a good job at it, and how if we pick up a tool it will need fit our hands, and that way we no longer need to re-engineer them, i.e. our hands, to fit the tools, but adapt technology and tools to our hands themselves, which is what we have been doing for thousands of years already. Ha! Taking the whole concept of mobile and HCI into a new level altogether! 

Extrinsic rewards destroy intrinsic motivation“. Another one of those priceless quotes that I just have to jot down somewhere on this blog post to remind me every time that someone brings up either intrinsic or extrinsic rewards to motivate your employee workforce. Perhaps one of the biggest issues within the corporate world at the moment, don’t you think? 

Incredibly inspiring his words as well on being proactive, on not focusing on measuring networks or the use they make of the social tools at their disposal, but instead stimulate the formation of networks around purposes. Distributed cognition, as we he calls it, giving them freedom within constraints to make decisions. Apparently, the key here is to have those constraints. That’s how we seem to operate better, as human beings. Goodness, who would have thought about that, eh?  

Fascinating commentary as well when he describes how we are really homo narrans, vs. homo sapiens. How we are the storytelling apes. Even to take things one step further how the primary mechanism for human knowledge transfer and meaning is through stories. Stories determine our culture. We live in a narrative flow which constrains and directs the way we think, clearly reminding us all the power of storytelling, even for business purposes, like I have recently blogged over here as well. 

His final words during his keynote were very motivational and moving altogether, because he kept encouraging us all to, once and for all, leave behind that techno fetichism that has been with us for decades, even on the Web, and how we need to embrace the fact that we have a need for constraints and human interaction. How, used properly, technology can augment human memory and experience. How, used improperly, it can destroy human capability. His final words: “We live in a time of choice between those two alternatives“… And it’s our choice to go for the right one. And somehow I think we all know, deep inside our heads and our hearts, which one we would need to go and aim for, don’t you think?


Whoahh! What an adrenaline rush! Head spinning wildly, eh? Well, that and so much more is what you will be getting yourself exposed to if you just hit play, on the embedded YouTube video link shared above, but I would just want to leave you now with what is my favourite quote not just from his keynote session, but perhaps from the last few years that I have been involved with Social Computing myself. It’s just so close to some of the recent stuff that I have been blogging about, that’s just perhaps a bit too scary, if not hopeful, that we are on track on to greater, better, bigger, more meaningful things. If not, judge yourself from this quote:

“98% of our genetic history is as clearly seen as hunting gatherers; our brains and social processes evolve for small, family clan-type groups and tribes. A model of an organisation all for that matter and economic model of society which is based on personal self-interest is fundamentally inauthentic to the nature of human evolution. We evolve as social entities, able to act and know things socially, not individually, and you can start seeing that happening on the Web”.

Colour me excited and rather privileged for having the great pleasure of thanking both Euan and Dave for their truly inspiring keynote sessions that surely have helped me overcome, big time, those moments of weakness that we all know we face every now and then. Whenever I would have the next one, I will just start reading that quote from Dave and remember both these two articles and their presentations. And I know I’ll be just fine. And I’ll know things will be all right eventually, too!, getting back in business with all of that excitement and joy of continuing to make a difference.

Our difference. Yours and mine.

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