The Future of Knowledge

The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks
by Verna Allee

"Why are you reading something called The Future of Knoweldge?" asked my wife. "You are supposed to be on vacation, remember?" I replied that I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and indeed I was.

Verna's concepts around knowledge and the way I think about learning are completely in sync, but Verna has pushed the envelope further than I have, expanding the arena to include sustaining the earth.

These are my notes. Most are direct quotes from the book although a few of my own thoughts are scrambled in, and sometimes I've shortened or rearranged the original. I encourage you to buy the book; at $20, it's cheap.

"There is really only one management question: What do we need to pay attention to in order to be successful?" Similarly, there is only one individual question: What do I need to pay attention to in order to be successful?

Awareness of how we create our shared social reality is the most important aspect of business life we will need to learn for a successful future. (So say Nonaka, Senge, Varela, de Geus, and others)

  • Businesses are evolving into the patterns of living systems. The meta-level learning that we are all engaged in is learning to work with network principles. Decision making and knowledge creation are not rational processes, but social processes.

  • Now it is as important for managers to work as deliberately to improve the quality of knowledge and learning as it is to improve the quality of products and services. Indeed, in this economy they are often one and the same.

  • Networks are the natural pattern of organization in living systems. They are the pattern of social systems and the natural pattern of business relationships as well.

  • Our present accounting methods were developed during the Renaissance, and most of our management practices come from bureaucratic and military models that have dominated management practice for decades. These vestiges of the old order are obsolete.

  • Decisions are moving from corporate headquarters out to individual business units. Business units in turn are distributing power and decision making to self-managed teams and profit centers. Workers who used to be tucked snug inside corporate walls are roaming the roads and working from home. The action is at the edges.

  Early industrial Industrial Age Knowledge Era
Management focus Plan, organize, control Vision, values, empowerment Emergence, integrity, relationships
Structured around Functions Processes Systems
Social structure Individual tasks Work & project teams Communities
Strategic resource Raw materials Financial capital Knowledge & intangibles
Worldview Descartes, Newton, mechanical Ford, Taylor, efficient, engineering Complexity, systems theory, living systems.

When something is truly complex, all the parts work together in such a way that the whole cannot be divided without losing its integrity--and the parts also lose their integrity when separated from the whole. When you cut a cow in half you don't get two cows. You get a mess.

Every conversation is an experiment in knowledge creation/testing ideas, trying out words and concepts, continuously creating and re-creating our experience of life itself. As people move beyond routine processes into more complex challenges, they rely heavily on their colleagues and friends as thinking partners.

Verna's value mapping process:

  • Intangibles: Human capital, external capital, structural capital; Values
  • Exchange analysis, impact analysis, value creation analysis
  • Holistic model puts people back in.

With too much structure organizations can't move. With too little, they disintegrate or fly apart. Companies that have learned to keep that edge--that fine balance between tight and loose?are at their most alive, creative, and adaptable. Systems adapt best if they are only partly connected.

A business school professor once instructed me, tongue in cheek, that "Everything comes in three's." Usually, this holds true. The first columns below are Verna's. I added Bloom and my shorthand for Bloom.

Org'n
focus
Learning tools Networks timeframe individual Bloom
Operational eLearning, newsfeeds, search technology Immediate Hands Psycho-motor
Tactical Community, stories, collaboration knowledge Soon Head Cognitive
Strategic Scenarios, system maps, dialog value Future Heart Affective

Check out Verna's site. And you thought "bookkeeping" was the only word with three double-letters in a row, didn't you? www.vern aa ll ee .com


Posted by Jay Cross at August 26, 2003 11:18 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Success people know the things they need to know to be successful. And when they need information, knowledge, or skills and talents that they don't possess, they find someone who does possess them.

Posted by: Frieda Zonnenfeld at October 17, 2003 05:02 AM

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