I was chatting with David Tebbutt on Skype today on a range of subjects from knowledge management to some named individuals that we both know. We also talked more broadly around Cognitive Edge current projects which are creating a form of distributed ethnography or networked intelligence. Now David was one of the first people outside of my workgroup to see the value in the theory and practice I was starting to put together in my early IBM period, some fifteen years ago now and its always interesting talking with him. During the process of the conversation I managed to articulate something I think have known intuitively for some time. It's the distinction between networked intelligence and the expert and it's a major shift in the way we need to think about consultancy (which is not necessarily a dirty word).
Now I should make something clear here. I am not talking about knowledge being determined by majority vote. In politics I think delegative (and at multiple levels) authority has a higher morality than referenda and populism. In specific fields such as Engineering, Philosophy etc. where there is an established body of knowledge it would be a nonsense to go with the majority opinion of the uninformed masses. Yes we need to be careful about the exclusion of mavericks, the entrained patterns of traditional thinking that inhibit the emergence of novelty. However that very inhibition serves as a evolutionary control or refinement process on novelty and is infinitely preferable to the tyranny of the mob. To refer back a couple of entries and anticipate a post I plan for tomorrow: Ayn Rand may be popular within a specific culture, but popularity should not define importance.
I am talking here about an understanding within an organisation or community of what is possible, of how to effect change. Here we are dealing with emergent possibilities based on the realities of the present rather than idealistic models of the future.
We have two models in play at the moment.
Now the process of transition between these approaches is not going to be easy, but it is going to happen. In the mean time the old expert model seems to be split into two extremes. At one end we have the recipe welding process manager, the sick stigma turqioise belt , the high priests of orthodoxy. At the other end the new age fluffy bunnies with idealistic models of enlightened managers supported by highly motivated and participation staff; a brave new world which is so far away from what is possible that it excuses disengagement with the present for its gurus.
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