Horizon scanning, KM, a Complexity “happening” & Meditation

March 14, 2007

Over the next month I am taking part in a fascinating set of three events on three continents, all of which are highly recommended. Next week is Singapore for the IRAHS Symposium which represents the culmination of several years work, all to be presented in 20 minutes! Other meetings are set up for the week and for people in the area Gary Klein and I are running a session for a session on How can Knowledge Management Contribute to Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning in Organizations? for IKMS on Thursday 22nd March. Working with Gary is always a pleasure and this will give us a chance to report on the sense-making experiments we ran in Singapore last year. We will also be together at the NDM Conference in Monterey this June. To confess a stupidity here, I turned up last year to discover that I had the wrong date in my diary! Mind you, there are worse areas in the world to be stranded with no planned events than Monterey so I can’t complain.

A few weeks after Singapore I will be at the IBM Institute meeting in Almaden, CA to join a stella cast of speakers on complexity. This looks like it is going to be one of those events that people are still taking about a decade later. It may not be Woodstock, but it will be a happening I will also be running a pre-event seminar on the subject. Its good to be back working with old friends in IBM, and to see that complexity is on the agenda. The Almaden people championed our work when I was in IBM and are now proved to have shown foresight in sensing its importance and for their commitment in making an event like this happen.

In between these events, and a few hours after landing for Singapore, I will be at one of the more challenging events I have attended for some years. Its in Bath, one of the most beautiful cities in the UK if not in the world as a whole. The subject is Symmetry – harmony – creativity and I am one of three speakers looking as aspects of the mind. I am looking at archetypes and reflecting on our narrative work. We also have Margaret Boden, Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex and Mike Wheeler a philosopher of science and author of Reconstructing the Cognitive World: the Next Step.. Good long sessions allowing a lot of dialogue and an inter mingling of science and art which is fascinating. On the Sunday life gets really interesting when Anja and I attempt a synthesis.

On (I think) the first occasion I met Viv Read she rushed around to my hotel to give me a copy of Anja Pahl’s Gondwana Dreaming. This is a book of Indigenous Australian stories adapted for modern management and is regrettably out of print. It is a serious piece of work on narrative in a field increasingly occupied by the trivial. Karl Eric Sveibyhas recently picked up on some of the themes in his atypical but inspired book Treading Lightly. I subsequently met Anja at Bath University where she is located in the Engineering Department. The following abstract from a paper will tell you something about her work:

This paper explores how the Engineering Design process might balance conflicting constraints of technical product design and the social demands of users. Building on a generic 2D map for innovation in design from the author’s previous work, a prototype 3D Diamond model is presented to help structure conversations between Designers and Users – or indeed any other group with apparently opposing aims. In theory, the model draws on the structure of Buddhism [in particular the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families] and managerial cybernetics [in particular Beer’s Viable System Model and his Team Syntegrity protocol], to establish how one’s worldview might evolve and how to determine a common worldview for two teams. In practise, a Facilitator or Researcher helps Designers and Users achieve their respective aims, and develop a common one. When a common worldview is achieved, conversations and activities can become mutually informing, co-evolving and emotionally satisfactory at both the individual and team levels.

As you may have gathered Anja combines a deep understanding of Buddhism and meditation with an academic background and an ability to apply that learning in engineering environments. Not a common set of skills. On the Sunday we plan to attempt a synthesis of our two bodies of knowledge in a workshop. Now this is going to be a serious challenge for me, but hopefully learning will emerge.

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