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Future Skills: Being Both Soft Specialists & Hard Generalists

The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030 report has an interesting section entitled Action for Future Skills which highlights the following things that individuals will need to do to prepare themselves for the future.

Change mind-set regarding the nature of work, as it becomes less location-specific, more network oriented, project based and increasingly technology intensive.

Take greater personal responsibility for acquiring and continuously updating skills for progression and success in the face of limited investment from employers and government and increasing division between low and high-skill jobs.

Be open to and take advantage of new and different approaches to learning, for instance self directed, bite-sized learning, peer-to-peer learning and technology enabled training opportunities.

Be willing to jump across specialist knowledge boundaries as technologies and disciplines converge, developing a blend of technical training and ‘softer’, collaborative skills.

Focus on development of key skills and attributes that will be at a premium in future, including resilience, adaptability, resourcefulness, enterprise, cognitive skills (such as problem solving), and the core business skills for project based employment.

If you encapsulate these things all together, you get a picture which looks very similar to the one I’ve been envisioning as already emerging for quite some time now.

We are radically changing the meaning of playing, learning, and working and understanding how they are becoming more integrated, whereby they are no longer sequentially progressive actions done at different stages of our lives—as a child I play, as a teenager I learn, and as an adult I work—but are now needed on a continuous daily level (i.e. lifelong learning) to adapt to this new world emerging.

Using self-directed learning methods, such as Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain and Progressive Summarization (or even just blogging or journaling on a basic level), we become more open, curious, and playful in exploring not only the world around us but our very selves, as we discover what pulls us and motivates us intrinsically.

Because of this, our imagination opens up and allows us to leap across disciplinary boundaries and see deeper connections between things that our previous conventional mindset blocked us from seeing, due to the rigid, limiting beliefs that comprise it.

And just as we are able to integrate previously separated and perhaps even marginalized bodies of knowledge together, so too do we begin to integrate the separated and marginalized aspects of ourselves, discovering a deeper, truer Self below the surface of our existing limited self.

In doing so, as we evolve and grow beyond seeing just the surface of ourselves in a technically, specialized sort of way (i.e. hard skills), we discover deeper social skills and abilities (i.e. soft skills) at the core of ourselves that form the roots and foundation of why we gravitate to certain technical skills in the first place.

Thus when we shift our perspective to seeing these deeper social skills and abilities at the core of ourselves as our real specialization (that everything meaningful in our life emanates from), suddenly we realize that every meaningful job or experience we’ve ever had in our life were just different, technical generalist perspectives or expressions of this deeper, specialized social self within us.

When we make this leap and radically shift from just trying to specialize ourselves technically (i.e. hard skills) to beginning to specialize ourselves socially (i.e. soft skills), everything changes and is reframed, suddenly make the impossible possible. No longer are we stuck in a “dead end” job with a specific technical specialization that has a limited “shelf life”. Instead we can now fluidly adapt to life as it changes because our identity and sense of Self is not contained in just a limited, technical generalist expression of who we are but within the deeper social specialization of who we are.

In this way, we are now like a house that has deep foundational columns that provide a greater stability during shifting seismic changes. Or we’re like a surfer or kayaker who wave after bigger wave can still remain upright because we’ve “re-conceived our own authentic center” to stabilize us. Or like astronauts traversing and navigate between worlds, we have created our own internal gyroscope to help us maintain a stable sense of direction.

Or perhaps most fitting of all, we individually are like an organization going beyond its limited, bureaucratic, conventional self by connecting up and networking once previous siloed aspects of itself, thus transforming and evolving it into something much more meaningfully human and alive than it was before.

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Getting Out of the Way

When we’re our best selves with each other, I don’t think that’s what’s possible between people. I believe that’s what’s true between people.

And I don’t think we have to work to make it true between people. I think we just have to get the stuff out of the way that’s stopping it from happening.

Brené Brown
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Articulating Myself as a Creative Catalyst

While rereading sections of What Color is Your Parachute 2020 by Dick Bolles, specifically the section on doing an inventory of yourself and figuring out what type of People you like to be around, he mentions using Holland Codes to figure this out. While I’m fully familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter (which builds off of MBTI), and even personality systems that expand upon these both, I found the Holland Codes system to be an interesting new perspective of trying to understand and articulate myself better.

John L. Holland’s RIASEC hexagon of The Holland Codes

What I found interesting about the Holland Codes is that you’re not figuring out exactly which one of the six personality types (i.e. Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional) you are but are instead trying to pick the three (as Dick Bolles suggests) that triangulate and encapsulate you the most. Also note how the cross-section of the diagram helps you to define yourself in terms of Conformity and Sociability.

For myself, I immediately gravitated to the Investigative, Artistic, and Social personality types. Artistic is most definitely my primary personality type with Investigative and Social coming in second and third.

And looking at these three collectively, it becomes apparent that I abhor environments that promote rigid conformity and a necessity to “fit in” but instead prefer more open, looser environments which help people “step out” and be more themselves.

In terms of Sociability, I’m more evenly spread out. I’m creatively Artistic, not liking structures or rules, thus Investigative in researching new ways of being, thus helping people to “step outside” current Social systems and be more their true selves.

The most difficult of these three for me to achieve though is definitely the Social personality. I love helping and empowering people but was highly introverted as a child, thus was often afraid to step forward to help. But as I’ve aged over the years, I’ve found that my unique knowledge and perspective (and how I can help people with it), helped me to come out of my shell more and more. Virtual game environments, where I could role-play someone else, made this an easy first step within the online communities I helped to build which I later replicated offline within professional work environments as well.

What’s evident in understanding myself from this newer perspective is how clearly it defines me as someone who obviously does not want to be forced to fit into and chained to the status quo or norms of conventional society. And it reminds me of when I read the book The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, wherein they describe a Catalyst as a person with the following characteristics.

Catalysts are bound to rock the boat. They are much better at being agents of change than guardians of tradition. Catalysts do well in situations that call for radical change and creative thinking. They bring innovation, but they’re also likely to create a certain amount of chaos and ambiguity. Put them into a structured environment, and they might suffocate. But let them dream and they’ll thrive.

The Starfish and The Spider

That pretty much describes the Artistic, Investigative, and Social aspects of myself, whereby I’m seeking radical change and social innovation which shakes up and shatters existing social constructs and institutions, making room for people to step outside and grow beyond the limited, outdated beliefs we are currently living within.

But what does this look like in more tangible terms? The following additional quote may help out with this.

But just because catalysts are different from CEOs doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place within organizations. Top-down hierarchy and structure can be repressive to the catalyst, but some situations are uniquely suited to catalysts. Want to figure out an innovative way to promote a new product, expand into a new market, build a community around your company, or improve employee relations? By all means, bring in a catalyst.

The Starfish and The Spider

I’ve helped to promote a new product, built a community, and improved employee relations, as noted above. But what’s critical to understand about these things is that I often did them as a disruptive catalyst, often going against and not conforming with the structured, conventional norms to achieve them.

This is why I most definitely do not fit into conventionally structured companies which are specifically looking for people to fit into an exist space, silo, or slot. I’m not optimizing for fitting into siloed slots. I’m optimizing for stepping out of them and discovering new slots or spaces that are often unseen and invisible to most people but with which can hold enormous potential and possibilities for helping people grow and become who they truly are, rather than just being who they are expected to be.

The question though is “Are there companies out there who embody these characteristics I’m looking for?” As I’ve said before, especially within the city of Vancouver, BC, I highly doubt I’ll find such a company because the city is optimized for technical innovation rather than social innovation. Thus again, my only option would be to create the type of creative company that I’m looking for.

And the next question after that is “What would this company do?” It’s weird. I feel like I have all of this knowledge and awareness of this Big Shift that is going on but I feel like I don’t know what to do with it. In effect, I have no plan. But perhaps that’s my problem. I’m trying to figure out what to do before I actually do it and only by doing something will the natural plan emerge over time. This mirrors the process of writing in that often only by starting to write something do the words actually emerge in the moment and not beforehand.

What is becoming evident to me though is that even though I don’t know what I should be doing, I am greatly aware of things that a conventional person and company are often completely aware of (i.e. this Big Shift occurring societally and understanding why the changes are occurring). Perhaps that’s a simple starting point. Sharing my awareness and advocating the aspects of that awareness to those who are starting to get a glimpse of this awareness as well and wish to learn more about it.

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The Future of Work is Being Yourself

Tiago Forte has two recent posts that are profoundly important to understanding The Future of Work that is emerging right now but with which most companies are completely blind to seeing. The reason for this is because most companies are looking at iterative changes to the existing central landscape or curve, rather than seeing a whole new curve being peripherally created on the edge of society (which is how emergence works, as Margaret Wheatley highlights in her book So Far From Home).

Let’s look deeper at the main principles that Luhmann used in his work, which Ahrens has adapted to the modern age. The explosion of technology and connectivity has inundated us with an overabundance of information. These principles go a long way toward reestablishing the boundaries and constraints that creativity needs to thrive.

Tiago Forte, How To Take Smart Notes

How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Revolutionize Your Note-Taking and Writing provides us with insights into how The Future of Work will work from an individual perspective rather than than an organizational one. Yet by understanding how individuals will radically reframe how they work, we can also get a glimpse of how organizations (as a “body of people”) will radically reframe themselves collectively in turn to align with these principles as well.

We all hunger for a feeling of connection – to each other, to a community, and to a cause that is greater than ourselves. But that feeling – and it really is a feeling in the body – starts with being connected to ourselves. To every part of ourselves, not just the parts we approve of. Once we have that feeling like a treasure deep in our gut, it can grow and spread to every other part of our lives.

Tiago Forte, Groundbreakers

Groundbreakers: My Journey Healing Trauma, Unleashing Anger, and Awakening the Vagus Nerve provides us with insights as to why we need to radically shift how we’re currently working. To put it simply, our current culture and our current way of working (based off of this culture) is literally killing us from the inside out. The future isn’t about shutting down, deadening, and marginalizing inner aspects of ourselves to maximize our efficiency (becoming mindless, robotic “zombies” in the process) but rather an awakening and expression of our whole selves by connecting up and bridging all that we uniquely are to our work to maximize our humanity.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.

E.E. Cummings

When we put these two posts together, we begin to realize that The Future of Work is something much more playful than we previously envisioned it was. It’s a quest, an adventurous exploration of who we truly are. This is why I’ve mentioned before that The Future of Work is about playing, learning, and working on simply being nobody-but-yourself. In effect, getting out of our own way and letting ourselves naturally unfold and emerge in the process.

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Helping People to Authentically Adapt

Last night, my wife and I had some company over. Getting to know each other better, the usual question of “What do you do?” was asked of me.

I replied that I wasn’t so sure you could conventionally encapsulate what I did in a couple of words that would make sense to most people. I then proceeded to say that I researched Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work but that the interesting twist was that it all arose out of playing games online and building communities around these games.

I then told a simple story of how I got here. I meandered from being on top of the world as a Senior Web Developer building community hubs for notable video game publishers, sinking to the lows being unemployed due to the ways companies caused the Dot-Com Bubble and its crash, to realizing that my previous experience building communities online mirrored how The Future of Work will effectively work as well (as IBM correlates in their 2007 Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders report).

Our guests connected with what I was saying and even chimed in with their own experiences. For example, the husband indicated that the place he was working at didn’t value the warehouse staff who helped keep the company operational on a daily basis but rather saw them as disposable. Yet he indicated, that he was emerging as a leader, trying to become a bridge between management and the staff, listening to co-workers frustrations and issues on a daily basis but management not listening and not caring. I felt deeply for him because his experience mirrored one I’ve had in the past as well, almost exactly.

Two Words That Encapsulate My Work

This morning, while going over some past research and discovering some newer avenues, I kind of kept stepped back, more and more, to try to get this bigger picture and perspective of what my life’s work was about and how it related to me. Suddenly something clicked and I discovered a word that resonated not only with me but would probably resonate with others as well, encapsulating what I was trying to help individuals and organizations with.

Adapt.

That’s it. I was trying to help people adapt. In the business world, many people may use many other words like transition or transform a business but really what they’re simply saying is they’re trying to help a company and its people adapt to the times.

Even when I talk about Creativity, Social Innovation, The Future of Work, and Play in a larger context, the whole purpose of these things are to help people adapt. Even the focus of Be Real Creative, as a creative company of mine, is to help people adapt.

But just saying that makes me realize a second word is need to clarify how we need to adapt.

Authentically.

In effect, I’m not just trying to help people adapt to the times we’re in. I’m trying to help them adapt authentically. In other words, I help them adapt by moving them closer to who they truly are, deep down inside, rather than moving them farther away from their true selves. This mirrors with what Margaret Wheatley said about species paradoxically “changing so that they can stay the same.”

Learning to Adapt Softly First

Now if you look at most conventional organizations today, they aren’t adapting to the times at all. They’re completely stuck in the past and, even worse, aren’t even aware of it. These companies are like dinosaurs that will die out because they’d rather stick to old, outdated beliefs and methods that are weighing them down.

But even if you look at post-conventional companies today, who do realize the importance of adapting to the times we’re in, they’re not understanding that the way you adapt is just as essential as adapting itself. Right now, most of these companies are singing a narrative of job and skill retraining. This is important but the why and how of it is also essential.

Why? Because we’re entering a period of exponential change. By the time a person comes out of job retraining, their new job may be obsolete as well. That would be pretty brutal for someone to experience again, just after losing their previous job. This is why it’s not about helping people to adapt to a new job but instead helping people to adapt as a life skill. And to do that, you really need to go way down the rabbit hole and understand a person on a really deep level, understanding the roots and intrinsic motivations of their life that they are probably not even aware of yet.

This is why most companies, even post-conventional ones, are missing the boat to the bigger picture here. They keep focusing on the skills gap but primarily just hard (technical) skills. In fact, if you think about it, most of the hard skills that are in demand right now are programming, robotic, or AI skills which are helping to alleviate the need for hard skills in more physical or mundane rote work. The irony of this is hilarious, yet sad at the same time for many people losing their jobs because of this.

But this is why this skills gap is the right focus but it’s focusing on the wrong types of skills to teach people first. We should be teaching people soft (social) skills first, sometimes called transferable skills, which some are now calling “power skills” because they’re so essential to the times, when everything is so rapidly changing.

To put this simply, until you can help a person truly understand themselves and their abilities and talents at a much deeper level that goes beyond a conventional job and a conventional career, they will never be able to flexibly adapt repeatedly, which is what they need to be able to do to survive in this future emerging presently all around us. As John Seely Brown describes it, we need to go beyond being just sailors, tacking and “pivoting” occasionally, and instead become kayakers in a “white water world” of ongoing change on a daily level.

Discovering a Sense of Stability Within Ourselves

What happens when a person learns these power skills first is that they find their center of gravity, as John Seely Brown describes it. This creates a sense of stability within their life that comes from within intrinsically rather than coming from outside extrinsically. In this way, people learn to chart their own course and path, that truly is their own, rather than what society expects them to be.

In addition, in truly knowing themselves, they’ll begin to see that the future is most definitely about increasing specialization but the specialization of their power skills rather than the specialization of their hard skills. And in doing so, they will begin to understand that these two types of skills are actually connected together, in that we will be power skill specialists and hard skill generalists, learning hard skills only as needed as noted below.

The rate of change in the workplace is increasing, and yesterday’s technical skills have quickly become devalued. That’s why soft skills like flexibility and adaptability to learn what is new and upcoming is mandatory in order to stay relevant. Meanwhile, a range of soft skills like persistence and motivation can drive a team forward – persevering and learning new technical skills on the fly as needed to meet specific project demands.

Ross Sedgwick, Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: What’s Better to Enable Tomorrow’s Team Success?

This pretty much encapsulates the evolution of my life. I never learnt hard skills because I saw them as a means to a job. I saw them as a means of expressing myself in a larger way. Once we make this shift societally, the passion, productivity, and creativity of people will explode, releasing their untapped potential on a massive scale.

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Defining Play in a Larger Context

I’ve been spending the morning reading a variety of work, interviews, and talks by John Seely Brown and I’m more convinced than ever now that his life’s work encapsulates my own life’s work more so than anyone else. If I could try to articulate this, it would be as follows.

We are a world undergoing radical change. Things are no longer working and breaking down because much of our social constructs have become social artifacts, as they are outdated, constructed hundreds of years ago. We need a vision for a new world but most people aren’t optimized for this because they’re so used to trying to “fit into” the existing world rather than “stepping out of it” and envisioning something new.

The main reason for this is that the social constructs of our older world were built for more stabler times. As a kid, you played, then you went to school to learn, and finally as an adult you got to work, being told to forget about play as “childish ways”. So our current world is so focused on “work, work, work” that there’s very little true learning going on (ie learning how to learn), and almost no playing go on at all.

And the reason for this is that we misunderstand what play is, the larger context of it. We see it as the opposite of work and thus something frivolous. But it’s not the opposite of work. In fact, it is play that helps us curiously imagine, envision, and build an entirely new world of work. Play is the embodiment of curiosity and imagination, stepping beyond the known and exploring the unknown.

This aligns with my own research on Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work, and more importantly why Play is the next logical big step for me. It’s because if you just focus on creativity and social innovation, you don’t go deep enough and realize how play is the single most critical building block for creativity. In effect, without play (aka curiosity & imagination), the process of creativity and social innovation are impossible to initiate.

So while creativity helps us transition and transform our selves and our worldview via social innovation, allowing us to effectively be world builders, it is play that makes this possible. Play allows us to effectively step outside of the existing social sandbox we’ve societally constructed in the past and step into a new space of possibilities where we can imagine and envision a whole new world and way of being.

Stepping back a bit though, I think it’s helpful to understand the power of play that most of us do agree with. Most people realize that play is critically instrumental in the development of children. Most people will agree with that statement. But as we get older, this value of play seems to be lost and no longer needed. What I’m trying to say here is that because our world is becoming much less stable and radically changing, we need to remember this power of play and reapply it to the greater context of our lives again because we need to learn how to further develop ourselves, if we want to evolve and adapt to the newer world emerging around us.

Again this is why we need to let go of these myths of play and start seeing it in a much larger context, applied continually and cyclically to our daily lives. I think John’s clarification of how he perceives of play will help in understanding this.

Yesterday, I did a talk and I learned how the term play might get misinterpreted, especially in the Singaporean context, if not all contexts. The kind of play that I think about is in terms of the disposition to push the boundaries of a system. It is to understand what the edge is like, and to understand how I might transform a constraint into a resource. Therefore, it is not about “serious” play or “frivolous” play. It is actually about trying to understand the pushback of a system.

John Seely Brown, Learning In and For The 21st Century

But John goes further and states the following.

I also have been very influenced by the idea that it is not cognition, but a nuanced form of play that advances culture. I am arguing that culture evolves when people challenge the system by exploring its edges, seeing how the system responds and thereby understanding it better.

This “exploring the edges” is a common expression used to describe 21 century leadership. But I would say it goes beyond leadership in the conventional sense, embodied by just a few but instead collectively embodied by everyone. In fact, just as communities and organizations must continually explore their edges, so too must individuals continually explore their own edges. By doing so, they provide and hold a space for what they are becoming to playfully emerge from them, rather than being blocked and held within by limited, outdated patterns of beliefs, behaviours, and values (aka culture).

In this same way, we can learn how aspects of ourselves that we previously saw as marginalized constraints can be leveraged as a resource, empowering us in the process. Another expression for this is “Own your story.” This embodies my own life’s journey, where play was instrumental to my own growth and development but then I reached a point where I believed it was a constraint because people saw my gaming background as frivolous and believed it not relatable to the current work world and even The Future of Work.

Yet John Seely Brown’s own life’s work is proving this to be false. Just as I saw similar patterns between The Future of Work and the online video game communities I helped cultivate and build, so too is he seeing this same thing. In effect, the people playing these games are building social spaces around them that are playful testing and role playing new ways of working, learning, and even playing. Put another way, their role playing a new way of living (as an integration of playing, learning, and working) that is radically different from what we believe it should be today.

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What is a Culture of Play?

I’m realizing today that many years back, when I started this version of my site in 2005, I wasn’t going far enough in asking the right questions (even though my questions were probably ahead of others at the time).

At the time, I asked “How would a business operate differently if its culture matched that of the Web?”

What I probably really wanted to ask, but didn’t have the courage to openly do so, was “How would a business operate if it’s culture matched that of a high-end World of Warcraft guild?”

In other words, what I’m asking here is “What is a culture that goes beyond just working, beyond even learning, and cultivates playing at its core?”

Of course the initial knee jerk reaction will be “What? You mean a culture of playing games?” No, I obviously don’t mean that (although you could say that it does relate to going beyond playing finite games and focusing on playing the infinite game instead). What I’m talking about here is cultivating an environment of imagination and curiosity whereby everyone feels safe enough to have the courage to step outside of the existing conventional “sandbox” of their work and start exploring a whole new, larger sandbox of possibilities.

What’s remarkable is that at the time I started this site, I also actually came up with a series of words that described this type of culture and this type of company that mirrored the Web (which I entitled “I Work For The Web”). And reflecting back upon it, it most definitely does have a strong resemblance to relating to a culture of play as well.

I work for a daring, imaginative, adventurous, sharing, caring, diverse, open, trusting, honest, flexible, responsible, and connected company.

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Playing MMO Games? You’re Ready for The Future of Work

John Seely Brown discusses the knowledge economy within the MMO game the World of Warcraft in a 2010 presentation. While many people in the conventional “World of Work” see these community spaces around video games as “just a game”, John helps us see that what’s actually occurring here is people are experimenting with a whole new way of working (and even being). In effect, if you’re an active participant in similar video game communities and contributing to their knowledge sharing and building, you’re probably already ready for The Future of Work compared to most other people.

The Edge is Where It’s At

What’s going on here? Well, if you look at the game itself, you don’t see what’s so exciting about the game. I want to say don’t pay much attention to the center of the game. Look at the edge of the game. Look at the knowledge economy on the edge of this game and you’re going to find ideas of how to get back to increasing returns in this term of the collaboration curve.

This is something I realized about these games back near the same time. What awoke me to this realization was reading Hugh MacLeod’s posts on Social Objects back in 2007 and realizing that these games were just the social objects that people were creating communities around which is something I had been doing myself since 1996.

In effect, the game “at the center” is just a social object. In this case, it’s a completely imaginary online world that’s not real. You hear people saying this all the time. “Chill out. It’s just a game. It’s not real.” What is very real though is the social relationships and communities that are cultivated and built up “around the edge” of these games.

And what’s happening within these innovative social spaces is very, very exciting indeed, as John puts it. Why? Because these large social communities are effectively the same thing as a T-group within organization development, whereby people come together and “use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups.” To put it another way, these spaces of play are giving people the autonomy, that most conventional organizations can’t, to explore new ways of being on an individual and collective level.

Communities of Inquiry

And one of the reasons why these guilds are so important is there’s so much knowledge being produced every single day that without the guild structure to help you process this kind of knowledge, you would simply be overwhelmed.

If you’re going to do successful, high-end raiding, you got to figure out how to take your guild and get your guild to know— something that the scientific community quite hasn’t yet figured out—how to process tens of thousands of new ideas every week and then try to figure out how to distil them down to new ways to move.

This is why I’ve said before that these guilds go beyond just being communities of belonging and even go beyond just being communities of practice to being communities of inquiry. In effect, you’re not just learning something that’s known (i.e. best practices), you’re playing in a larger context beyond the existing (existential) game itself and learning a new way of being (i.e. emergent practices).

Now take the quotes above and replace the word “guild” with “organization” and replace “raiding” with “projects”. You’ve just described what an organization should be focusing on within The Future of Work. Again though, realize that most conventional organizations could never achieve this because they don’t give their people the autonomy to truly step out and play beyond the boundaries of themselves and the organization. In a conventional organization, knowledge is controlled by gate keepers and thus isn’t shared with everyone openly.

Always Learning Reflectively

By the way, in terms of extreme performance, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. World of Warcraft for the high-end guilds do after-action reviews on every high-end raid.

This is something I noticed myself when I used to play World of Warcraft back around 2006. Our guild always did after-action reviews after every boss attempt in both regular and raid dungeons, thus asking and learning from the question of “what just happened?” In comparison, whenever we played a regular dungeon and needed an extra “pickup” player from outside our guild, we were always shocked at how easily these people gave up on challenging bosses, wanting to just go around them instead. In comparison, we loved the challenge and constantly walked around the problem (sometimes literally), looking at it from different perspectives, to try to figure it out.

Clarification: Upon reflection of this post at a later time, it has become apparent to me that I’m implying a specific meaning to a Community of Practice that isn’t correct. Specifically, I’m implying that a Community of Practice focuses on just best practices which isn’t always the case. A Community of Practice can focus on emergent practices and thus be just as innovative as a Community of Inquiry. See Margaret Wheatley’s and Deborah Frieze’s Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale to understand how Communities of Practice utilize emergent practices.

No Place To Hide

Totally meritocracies that basically in a high-end raid, everyone is measured, everyone is critique by everyone else in the high-end raid because it’s obviously computer mediated. We can capture everything that’s going on. We have extensive dashboards to actually measure your own performances of how well you’re doing.

This is the amazing thing about these environments and why the autonomy within them isn’t given freely because there is a corresponding responsibility to yourself and the collective group in turn. Since everyone can see everyone else’s performance in real time, there really is no place to hide. It’s not like a conventional organization where you only have to worry about how your work looks from a select few people’s perspective. Your performance is seen and measured by everyone.

This relates to what I said some years back after a Global Peter Drucker Forum, where I said the future is one in which “Everyone is a leader. Everyone is a manager. Everyone is a customer.” You can’t hide anymore, sit on your butt, and be a peon, waiting for someone to tell you what to do. You have to decide for yourself what you want to do—learning to know thyself in the process—and go out and do it heroically.

Creating a Sense-Making Dashboard

And so, a very interesting sense is in this game, in this kind of world, you have after-action reviews and you have a form of play that says you need to craft your own dashboards to measure your own performance. In fact, right now, in Washington, the Obama Administration were actually trying to lift ideas from the World of Warcraft in terms of how do you help people craft their own dashboards.

And these dashboards are, by and large, are not pre-made. They’re mashups. You do it as you want. Therefore, you as individuals, what would it mean for you to craft your own dashboards that actually give you a good sense of how you’re spending every moment of the day, what you could do better, and so on and so forth.

When I heard these words, I immediately thought of a blog but one which is structured and functions in a certain, specific way. So one in which your whole life is being funnelled through it, yet the different streams of it have their own access permissions based upon the relationship the viewer has to you. So if you’re working on a project with someone, your work on it is in one stream which only that person can see. Other streams of yours life though may be completely open and viewable to everyone.

In fact, another way of looking at this would be envisioning everyone building a Second Brain for themselves but with you being able to give different access permissions to different areas of it for those you’re working with. Again this mirrors my idea of Connected Communities in the past, whereby multiple knowledge flows, starting at the individual level (with a person’s different idea streams), come together to not just aggregate knowledge better but to also better distill it into its essence as well.

Just a side thought on this though. As I indicated in my original Connected Communities post, the openness of your work is really what makes it possible for others to cooperatively work off of your work and ideas. If you’re only really sharing your work with people you’re just collaborating with though, this really limits the potentiality and synchronicity that can occur with your work.

A Bigger Context of Play

But I will show you innovation networks in China that are using very much the same ideas and that have figured out how to generate exponential learning within and across their networks.

And finally John describes how in the same way that guild communities are generating exponential learning both within themselves and with others guilds, this same process of exponential learning is already occurring within the real world as well. This isn’t just fun and games. This is a new way of being within a new world, whereby playing, learning, and working are occurring on a constant, creative, daily basis (thus happening cyclically in our lives versus just sequentially, as is the conventional norm).

Categories
General

Learning How to Play Outside the Lines

No longer are we in an era that’s just about deepening our individual expertise within our silos. That game no longer works.

John Seely Brown

I just finished watching the above 2017 speech by John Seely Brown (discovering it indirectly when searching for “work not being transdisciplinary”) and I’m completely blown away. That’s because over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been moving closer and closer to the edge of something at the core of my being that is going to give me a vista of my life that I’ve been struggling to put into words for the past couple of decades. Unbelievably enough, this video of John opens up this vista and helps me understand what I’m looking at.

If I could put this feebly into words right now, it would be this. Our lack of innovation, our inability to change and adapt to the times, is inherently found within our lack of imagination, our ability to play outside the lines, borders, and boundaries of our existing mindsets. This is what is limiting most individuals and organizations to adapt to these times because their very structural sense of identity prohibits them from doing so. In effect, we are standing in our own way (A. Montuori) because we are fearful and lack the courage to step into the uncertainty of the unknown.

To get around this (and ourselves), we need to stop thinking within the lines, borders, and boundaries of our mind. Yet every single one of our relationships, especially within the world of work, are based upon putting you within a box and keeping you there. This is for the most part why I know I wouldn’t fit into the context of most conventional companies today because I’m no longer specializing myself to fit into a single siloed discipline like others but rather enjoy exploring the in-between liminal spaces between them.

For example, if someone looks at me on paper, I look like I’m all over the place, lost jumping around aimlessly, because I’ve added domains of knowledge to my life that I’m not only still exploring but, more importantly, I’m trying to weave together in a single integrative way, combining my knowledge of games, computers, the Web, communities, culture, organizational development, personal development, social innovation, creativity, and play to do so. So I’m not lost so much, as I’m following and exploring a definitive purpose to my life that is pulling me along.

I do this because when I look at all of these things, I see an emerging bridge to The Future of Work that is being woven right now. For example, I imagine the possibilities of creating a web platform that, when combined with AI, could allow individuals to discover their untapped potentialities just by simply using it like a social network. And once they discover these unseen potentialities, this platform would allow them to be seen and to see other individuals, connecting up and working with them in the same way that the individual’s own ideas are connected up and woven together in new ways.

I see these things because I’ve been talking about these things for the past couple of decades of my life. But I’ve been talking about them within a specific context (i.e Connected Communities). Yet when you let go of the context or blur the lines of it, you suddenly see how these patterns of life can be applied within a larger context, a bigger picture. This is Miyamoto Musashi’s famous quote of “From one thing, know ten thousand things” personified.

This is why for the past decade of my life, I feel like I’ve had exponential personal growth in understanding myself and learning new knowledge but at the same time feel more and more restricted and limited because I can’t find a company locally that operates in this same curious and open way as I do. A company of people that accepts me as I am unconventionally am because they themselves are unconventional as well.

For example, you hear that lifelong learning is critical for The Future of Work, yet most companies that agree with this don’t actually practice this belief internally. Why? Because if you believe that lifelong learning is critical, it means accepting people who don’t have formal degrees or titles, thus being open to anyone that can just prove themselves and their knowledge. Yet most of the companies that I’ve researched that promote Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work, often seem to function and work very conventionally within, wanting the person to have a prestigious conventional degree or work background, so that they “fit in” to that perceived mold.

Because of this, I feel like life is showing me a sign and making me realize that if I truly believe that future organizations should work openly and curiously then I need to embody it in my own work, creating my own company in the process. In effect, I need to stop looking for the leadership that I want to find out there and instead take the leadership in following my own beliefs. I mean why put your life on hold waiting for someone else to come along to “discover you”, when they may never appear at all. Discover yourself by just being yourself.

You have to understand your own center of gravity. You have to understand who the hell you are. You have to understand your forces that you can do.

John Seely Brown
Categories
General

The Ongoing Evolution of Our Identity

Personal growth is not normally thought of as a “skill.” But the world is now changing so fast and so unpredictably that it needs to become one. Our grandparents had one job for life; our parents had multiple jobs over their careers; our generation will have multiple careers. This demands that we learn how to grow not as a one-time event, but as an ongoing evolution of our identity.

Tiago Forte