Dave Desforges began piloting "Work From Home" solutions over 3 years ago. His role required identifying additional candidate requirements and necessary remote work practices for both employees and managers at Sun Microsystems. His current work encompasses blending appropriate technology, organizational practices, and workplace environments to support mobile and distributed teams.
Jim McGee is currently a Director at Huron Consulting Group. He has spent much of the last 30 years working to understand, design, and apply information and technology innovations in organizations. Before Huron, Jim taught at the Kellogg School and was one of the founding partners of DiamondCluster International. With Larry Prusak, he was the co-author of Managing Information Strategically (Wiley, 1993). Jim has both an MBA and a doctorate in Information Technology, Organization, and Strategy from the Harvard Business School.
Regina Miller has more than 18 years of experience in Organization Development, Human Resources, Leadership Development and International Operations. Regina recently launched a global consultancy called The Seventh Suite which assists growing companies bolster their competitive edge via aligned strategy and progressive people practices. Her last corporate job was as the VP HR/OD for Oskar (Vodafone) which has been dubbed one of the fastest growing mobile operators in Eastern Europe. More info here.
Giovanni Rodriguez - Through a combination of luck and persistence, Giovanni has worked in the company of some of the most interesting and colorful leaders in several worlds: the law, theater, and technology. Today, he is a principal at Eastwick Communications, a Silicon Valley PR agency, where he advises both emerging companies and market leaders on executive leadership, public speaking, marketing strategy and media relations. He has worked for, consulted and advised numerous businesses and organizations including HP, Stanford University, Fujitsu Computer Systems, Cadence Design Systems, VMware, the American Arbitration Association, and the Unified Court System of New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University (Religion and Anthropology), and he has done graduate course work at the Columbia School of Journalism and N.Y.U.
Jim Ware is a cofounder of the Work Design Collaborative and the Future of Work program. He has over 30 years experience in research, executive education, consulting, and management, including five years on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. He was the lead author of The Search for Digital Excellence, (McGraw-Hill, 1998), and holds Ph.D., M.A., and B.Sc. degrees from Cornell University and an MBA (With Distinction) from the Harvard Business School.
The late Isaac Asimov once observed that "the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'that’s funny'." What piques your curiosity is an excellent indicator of where your learning energies ought to be focused. Curiosity is an edge phenomenon where new inputs have enough structure and content from your perspective to emerge as something more than background noise and chaos, yet are not so well-defined as to be immediately classifiable. Becoming more mindful of the terminology, issues, and phenomenon that are separating themselves from background noise helps identify topics you should consider investing learning time in. [IT Learning at the Boundaries of Your Ignorance]
I started thinking about "boundaries of ignorance" and "circles of knowledge" while putting together a presentation on learning and knowledge management. I began with the simple notion of learning as expanding your circle of knowledge and quickly hit on the notion that expanding my circle of knowledge was simultaneously expanding the boundaries of my ignorance. The more things I learned, the more things I became aware of that I didn't know.
In my teens, that manifested itself as reading everything I could lay my hands on in the quest for the "one right answer." I wasn't as smart as Alan Kay to realize early on that books had limits or could be wrong. I was so engrossed in the world that books opened up for me that it took quite a while to grasp their limits. My dad used to say that he could always tell when I had finished a book by my fervent belief in some new world view. In retrospect, I suspect my ignorance was growing faster than my knowledge. But I was more focused on the inside of the circle than on its contact with the rest of knowledge.
My first cut at visualizing this image was along the following lines:
In this version, learning can be viewed as either expanding your circle of knowledge or as increasing your boundary of ignorance. So, the more you learn the more you know, but also the more you know that you don't know. Depending on your temperament, this can be either encouraging or discouraging to your efforts to continue learning.
Formal schooling focuses attention on the inside of the circle and keeps you carefully inside the boundaries. The credentialing system of education looks backward at what you are supposed to have learned. On the plus side, a good school environment helps keep you from falling off the edge into material you are unable to understand or appreciate. I can remember trying to read various books on philosophy in my wildly eclectic romps through the public library during my high school days. All fields have their professional vocabulary and one purpose of schools is to introduce you to that vocabulary in a coherent order. While we are hard-wired to learn spoken languages simply by being immersed in them, I don't think the same strategy would work as well for learning calculus or modern European history.
The danger of formal schooling (even when well done) is too much focus on what you already know. If you don't push yourself out to the boundaries, you seriously limit your opportunities for significant new learning. Formal schooling tends to overly protect you from failure and, therefore, from opportunities for deeper learning. Granted, I've come to appreciate the importance of failure in real learning courtesy of my work with Roger Schank. The more important learning becomes as an ongoing career development activity, the more you have to deal with not knowing. This can become a real challenge as you advance in your career and as you become recognized for your expertise.
Over time and as you get farther away from your school days, your circle of knowledge starts to get spiky:
You become more expert and informed on certain topics at the expense of others. The nice, well-rounded, circle that might have characterized the end of a classical liberal arts education has been replaced with the distinctive profile of an expert in some particular domain.
If you assume that you do, in fact, need to continue to learn, regardless of your current level of expertise, is there some way to use this notion of the "boundary of ignorance" to guide ongoing learning? For an individual topic,
Monitoring your curiosity consists of becoming aware of terms, tools, topics, and techniques that you are encountering in your environment, yet are not part of your current knowledge and skills. As these become visible to you, the next step is to cluster and chunk that material into a learning agenda; a sequence of topics ranging from the nearly familiar to the barely recognized. [IT Learning at the Boundaries of Your Ignorance]
In addition to tuning into the language of a topic, you can also start to identify the experts and authorities who are working in the domain.
In general, your learning agenda is not likely to be a single topic. Instead, you will be pushing out along multiple dimensions. It might be helpful to visualize that process in terms of progress along several learning vectors. For example, I might group my learning activities along the following dimensions:
This larger picture of learning would help assess what kind of balance I was striking across topics and whether that balance was suitable.
What you are left with at this point is a map for what you want to learn based on the edges of what you know now coupled with what captures your curiosity. What comes next is the effort to learn topic by topic and to fit that learning into the demands of performing.
In one of my columns at Enterprise Systems Journal, I started to explore a nagging concern about why organizations have realized less of the potential of technology to support knowledge work than they could. In a nutshell, my hypothesis is that most organizations have not thought through what organizational roles need to be created to best leverage the technology. In my column I made the argument that we need the knowledge economy equivalent of tool-and-die makers. You can find the full column at ESJ:
The full potential of tools to support knowledge work remains unrealized
Given the near total independence that most knowledge workers have in organizations, they have been largely left to their own devices in figuring out how to take best advantage of the technology tools we have made available. That leads to a great deal of wasted potential. Here's the way I described it in the column:
Applying the tool-and-die maker strategy, knowledge organizations should identify individuals particularly adept at applying tool and technology features to simplifying their own work and give them a new goal of improving the productivity and effectiveness of their knowledge-work colleagues. The knowledge work of these “toolsmiths” would be to understand the knowledge work of others and apply Taylor’s principles of scientific management; to observe how knowledge workers currently worked and to identify, design, and deploy new tools and techniques to make it possible to perform the same work with less effort or produce better-quality deliverables on demand
Essentially, we are missing an opportunity for knowledge work productivity by not taking full advantage of designing organizational roles to take full advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of individual knowledge workers.
Over the course of one year, we will be conducting a survey of organizations that are supporting emergent behavior in the enterprise using social-media tools. The organizations do not need to use wikis per se, but they must be supportive of emergent behavior at the management level. To nominate an organization for this series, please comment here.
No surprise here. Of all the major Internet giants, Yahoo! has always appeared to be the most socially minded, and their new corporate blog, Yodel Anecdotal, is a real treat -- nicely designed, easy to navigate, integrating text, photos, audio, video. Most of all, it's consistent with Yahoo's brand, which to some extent, has always been about emergence.
Says the site's editor, Nick Dugan:
"We want to share insights into our company, our people, our culture, and the things that occupy our cluttered minds. We'll cover emerging trends, provide some behind-the-scenes commentary, profile interesting Yahoos, spotlight our beloved users, reveal some of our quirks, tap into guest bloggers, sprinkle in some videos and photo essays, and generally think out loud (lucky you ... you get to listen). You'll hear from interns to executives. Some days we'll be light and airy, others we'll get serious."
The not to "anecdotal" information, by the way, strikes the right note. Often, I am asked what a blog can do that a corporate Web site cannot. It's more then function than the tool that matters here. By providing visitors a more candid peek into the inner workings at Yahoo!, Yodel Anecdotal is promoting and supporting a more spontaneous, authentic way for staff to interact internally and externally.