Saturday, April 21, 2012

max mckeown

on amazon

My vantage point:
I love Dave Cormier's work. We have been following it for the last four years as we have been seeking to redefine school. Community as curriculum is what we are now prototyping. 
In a recent talk on rhizomatic learning Dave encourages us to stop measuring learning, and to prepare people for uncertainty.

Max McKeown writes a bold book on adaptability. Reading it was perfect timing for me.
Coming from the perspective of my world today.. below are my favorite parts. Many resonate with learning to be vulnerable in context, to prepare for uncertainty, or just jump into it. Many resonate with the quiet revolution we are playing out in ed. Many question our assumptions of having to prove and measure things, which we see as the very essence of freeing people up for brilliance.

[disclaimer: I struggle with the notion of so much of our lives being about competition and monetary economy. I think that is part of, if not most of, our problem today. The art of winning, in Max's title, didn't set well with me at first, but he addresses the essence of this throughout the book. I could squaller with him on a few references, but the bulk of this book is so much of what we need to hear, what we need to be doing.]
In the course of my own research, there was no prejudice against any source of knowledge about my question. In part, that’s about my view of the universe, my curiosity, does not set up boundaries between insights gained from observing improvized comedy on late-night television or from detailed measurements of ant colonies. They can all be relevant. 
It is entirely possible to fail repeatedly and learn nothing. It is also common for humans to learn lessons that do not lead to changes in behaviour. 
One reason for the slow acceptance of minority opinions is that majority opinions get an easier ride. If someone presents conclusions that agree with your existing viewpoint then they are unlikely to receive your most demanding critical attention. Studies of influence show that the opinions of rebels, or minority views, receive more scrutiny than majority views. Thus the minority view, particularly if extreme, will often receive more attention but, crucially, less patience than the majority view. Anyone who wants to change the prevailing wisdom on any subject is going to have to work with that human dynamic.  
Most people assume the majority is probably correct and are afraid of looking stupid, or being isolated, if they adopt a minority viewpoint. This is true for most people even if they are aware the evidence does not match the accepted wisdom of their group. The benefits of being accepted are worth the costs of being collectively wrong.
I can hear Richard Saul Wurman speaking to this.. and then Kathryn Schulz. 
We're letting people die with this type of thinking..
If you want to learn, listen to the other side of the argument. 
The danger of stability was avoided by not believing in the illusion of stability.
The point is not to learn to fail, but to learn what works from failure.
The criticism came months before the launch and it should have been possible to learn from the mistake before the mistake cost $33 million.
Are we listening?....
Equally, a change may make the situation worse because it qualifies as a maladaptation. It is change that is worse suited to the demands of the environment or events than the previous version of the human system. These changes do not merely hide the problem, letting it get worse, hidden in the background; these changes either magnify the original problem or add new problems. They may also represent a worsening of ability to recognize, understand or act in effective ways that adapt to the events or environment. 
What we’re doing now with fixes to ed.. no?...
The problem for the non-radical is that they are driven by everything but the thing itself.
Radicals help by insisting upon alternatives and obsessively proving they work.
Intellectual flexibility is more important than intelligence quotient when solving what has not been solved before. 
Divergents create as many answers to a problem as possible. The game is to generate options and possibilities. They see little interest in repeating what is already known. They cannot easily accept the limitations of a one-answer approach to knowledge or life. As a result they find IQ tests boring, do badly at them. They don’t value tests, so many of the people who overvalue tests undervalue them. Yet these are our radicals, those who can see new possibilities. And in times of great uncertainty or new challenge, we need them.
Forward-looking planners are confused if they assume other people think much like them. The ability to think several moves ahead is constrained by inability to empathize with a world populated by those who do not think several moves ahead. Only if they change assumptions will their plans be more likely to shape real-world events.
Understanding more about the gap between intention and reality can help us adapt more effectively to events and situations.
The damaging part of the fight over the US debt ceiling was that it was fought without trying to listen to each other.
Start by looking at how people think. Explore the way they reach decisions, examine where information comes from, and how they share their opinions. If you investigate how people think together, you can find creative ways to improve how they think together. 
Collaboratory thinking. Two conversations, one with self (be you) one with others (be us). 
Organizations get old. They grow up. They lose that edginess that gave them a competitive edge when they were start- ups. Most corporations lose the edge that led to their eventual success. The original entrepreneurs are replaced with professional managers who are given the responsibility to sort out the mess left behind by the amateurs who gave the company life.At HP, the crisis of youthful disorganization has long since been replaced by dysfunctional middle age. It’s all so wasteful. It’s so adult. It’s so painfully realistic leaving little room for joy, courage or humour. There’s the political fighting and the macho (male and female) posturing. It’s an unhealthy menu of the apathetic, the amoral and the incompetent.
 It is difficult to fight a group without a leader. It was particularly difficult for Sony to win against people not playing by traditional rules or for the same corporate objectives. Those involved didn’t have a profit motive. They were not constrained by hierarchy and could move in a multitude of ways, faster, and in more unpredictably, creative ways than Sony could manage 
...encourage better thinking together: emergent thinking.
Significant change is not possible without mass involvement; mass involvement shifts the answers.
They were able to experiment, according to their next CEO Charlie Bell, because they felt far enough away from the eyes of senior management to just try whatever creative adaptations seemed to make sense. 
Connected adjacency….. are we creating spaces like this? BMIF spaces via Saul Kaplan? Spaces where we don't have to prove or measure things?
He felt that people had to get back to where they would realize what they did was ‘not rocket science’, but that it was about ‘relentless focus on improving’ what they had.
By making it clear what had to happen he made it easier to understand. To encourage people to get involved in making it happen, he reduced the hierarchical barriers between ideas and action. ... Clarity increases engagement.
As does obscurity... no?
Evolution, it has been argued, does not care what we think. It cares about what we do. 
Sometimes such training does not take place because adaptive action becomes more effective when failure is discussed
It is simpler to engage human interest to create something better than to maintain what already exists. Ambition is how we plug into discretionary creative potential.
Beware the language of confusion. This kind of corporate speak is a clear indication that the culture has lost the ability to see and speak the truth.
At this point, they had competed for over 30 years and all they tried to adapt was the logo. It’s the culture that needs to change.
The number of meetings to explain the new culture increased. ..The joy had left the building.
Those with high status and high power felt it unnecessary to humiliate their partners. Feeling good about themselves, they chose easier and fewer tasks for their co-workers. In complete contrast, those with low status and high power forced their partners through demeaning tasks. 
Sometimes, perhaps often, the first people to recognize something, or gain an insight, are not appreciated. The more extreme, or different, or unpleasant, or radical the insight is, the more extreme or unpleasant can be the reaction from those who do not share the view.
Very often those who receive the Nobel Prize have seen something first and have adapted their work to fit what they have seen. On 8 April 1982, Danny Shechtman, ... saw something that should have not existed according to scientific knowledge at the timeThe head of his research group asked him to leave because he was bringing disgrace to them all. It broke so many basic rules that people would not accept that he could be right about what he observed
Mockigjay?.... something that should not exist? But yet, perhaps, our song of hope... a quiet revolution.
It started with curiosity. It continues to be nurtured with a kind of obsessive, altruistic fascination with making new ideas work through adaptation of existing technologies. Ideas are renewed with relentless experimentation. 
Online discussions, critiques and collaborations are much faster than with printed material. Speed may not be everything but if all interactions are of a similar standard then it is almost everything. The more attempts there are at solving something collectively, the more likely a solution is to be found....There are still benefits to publishing in paper but they may have less to do with making original contributions to human knowledge, much more with perpetuating systems of academic measurement and status. Those who seek urgent answers and deep understanding will not wait for referred journals with years of anonymous reviews and revisions. The adaptive process of recognition, understand- ing and action is accelerated by internet functionality and a collaborative sensibility. Some scientific communities have adapted centuries-old ways of working to the internet.
This resonates with Kirsten's post on hacking the diss.
And Stephen Downes:
But that said, as more and more of a person’s life becomes available online, the need for certification will diminish, as people acquire reputations of their own. A person’s standing in a community can be recognized by members of that community, and is acquired through months and years of participation in the work of that community. Where certification is granted, people presenting certification without having acquired a reputation for work in the community will be viewed with suspicion.  - (Downes 2008)

Back to Max:
The unacceptable is accepted daily.
Change is inevitable but progress is not. It is strange to how often attempts are made to change without any change being made. ... Too often there are changes made, perhaps hugely disruptive, expensive changes without moving forward. No better place is reached; no better game is played, so much so that the time and energy expended can appear worse than doing nothing. 
Traditions based on what people experienced decades or centuries ago can influence the way you look at a problem, or the way that other people see a situation. As a result, people make decisions based on the ways things were without ever really adapting to the way things are or could be.
Your deliberate efforts to provoke adaptation that leads to a winning position should focus on the smallest possible change to create the biggest possible long-term impact.

be you.. to be us..

To see Max live.. here he is talking about a year ago - on innovation.