Timing is Everything

Your perspective on time is vital to the way you make decisions and lead your life. Right now your mind is looking to the past for viable solutions or monitoring present resources or scanning the future for new opportunities. You’re shaped by your focus on what’s gone by, what’s here now, or what’s coming next.

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The MindTime Project has devoted two decades to studying these three time perspectives. They’ve derived a simple diagnostic tool that can pinpoint your time perspective in less than a minute.

Try it. Are you a past thinker, a present thinker, or a future thinker?

Past thinkers gather as much data as possible and are concerned with accuracy and truth. They refuse to take anything at face value. Refusing to trust that “everything will work out,” they attempt to reduce the risk of negative outcomes. They are reflective.

Present thinkers take action and seek control over unfolding events. They abhor chaos and confusion and are driven to establish balance and order, create structure, and get things done. They are practical.

Future thinkers are open to possibilities. They seek out new opportunities and intuit what the future will bring. They are visionaries who promote their visions with enthusiasm and energy. They push the limits of what is known and understood. They are imaginative.

Understanding where you stand on the time horizon is enlightening, but the big payoff comes when you interact with others. For example, I’m a future thinker. That explains why I get upset with Past thinkers who slam me for not providing footnotes and with Present thinkers who want to hold up the show for something I consider inconsequential. The MindTime Framework helps me understand where the others are coming from and appreciate how to work with them.

mindtime(image Copyright 2009 MIndTime)

MindTime can create maps of your organization that reveal the invisible thinking forces that are moving you forward or holding you back. You saw such a map of Chief Learning Officer readers who took the time Profile earlier. How well do you get along with this group? Think about it at the next CLO Symposium.

A landmark study by ASTD and IBM interviewed CLOs and CxOs at 26 leading companies across 11 industries (see The C-level and the Value of Learning, T+D magazine, October 2005). Reading between the lines, the CXOs appear to be Future thinkers; the CLOs are Past and Present thinkers.

C-level officers want their CLO to build the foundation for transforming the company not just to get people up to speed on today’s needs.

The researchers asked how the learning function contributed value to three strategically important business needs: accelerating growth, enabling transformation, and increasing productivity.

The CLOs reported that most learning was technical and focused on skills; training enables the organization to operate. The CxOs said they expected CLOs to lead, not respond. CxOs saw learning as the major investment in driving their businesses forward. Quotations from the study highlight the gap between the two groups’ expectations.

CxOs said,

“The learning function has to become more strategic, otherwise it is an unaffordable luxury.”

“Learning has to bring customers and along the change journey. It has to build the platform to enable us to change the business.”

“CLOs need to build capabilities to address future challenges of the enterprise.”

CLOs said,

“The strategic value of learning is to reduce the cost of turnover and increased employee engagement.”

“The business plan for learning ties directly to business unit goals. Also incorporate our roll-up of individuals’ development plans.”

“CLOs are focused on performance and talent issues related to the current needs of business units.”

Now that you know your time perspective, MindTime suggests you think about your role in your organization. How can you make your particular way of thinking an asset to the group and a contribution to the greater purpose? By being aware of your creative role.

Your thinking style tells you where to look for your most important gift — and what you have to offer others. Vision truth, and productivity: these are the universal values that make a company effective.

For a management team to be successful, each value must be present and respected:

If you are a Future thinker, your role is to carry the vision and ensure that your group embraces innovation, creativity, and receptivity to change.

If you are a Past thinker, your role is to gather true and accurate information and make sure the group considers it carefully.

If your a Present thinker, your role is to help things get moving, and your focus is on planning, low, and harmony.

 

cloAn edited version of this article appears in the December 2013 issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

Doug Engelbart, we salute you!

Doug Engelbart
This evening in Palo Alto a group of us in mourning for Doug Engelbart took part in an X-game to celebrate his values and, we hope, carry them far, far, far into the future. A tiny fraction of the time capsule:

When Doug was a young man, he staked out his mission and despite all odds, he never wavered. His vision was audaciously grand, so the cards aren’t played out yet, but his unwavering dedication is beyond awesome.

Moore’s Law should really be known as Engelbart’s Law. (Moore once said so himself.) Doug made us appreciate scaling.

For Doug, connecting hearts and minds was the obvious way to augment human intellect. Bill Gates (“A pc on every desk”) and Steve Jobs (closed Mac) didn’t get it. Neither did most of us until the internet spewed it in our faces. Doug’s office was one of the original two nodes.

Doug, we’re working to keep your flame alive.

Doug Engelbart
Photo by Bill Daul

Future of Talent

A few notes from the Future of Talent Institute‘s 2013 retreat at Marconi Center.

Serendipity powers pull.

The culture question: recruit people to preserve it or to change it?

Bring coyotes (disrupters) to meetings.

“Just let me do good work,” says the new generation.

Meet without a goal. Just listen.

Robotics is not about replacing humans; it’s about picking the right apps to augment humans.

Innovation is the Holy Grail.

Google criteria for hiring: 1. passion for the work, 2. demonstrated ability to do things, 3. eager to learn and able to unlearn

Big data: where the Google criteria came from.

Crumbling hierarchies.

Concept of employee is in question.

New org structures: pods, holocracy, agile, teams à la Hollywood.

The net is your resume. Your network is your references.

Read: Race Against the Machine (McAfee)

Demographics don’t matter at the edges of the extended enterprise. Why should they matter in the core?

Future of Talent is one of my top professional development activities year after year. If you’re into big picture HR, consider joining us next year.

Time and MindTime (2)

My previous post addressed time in general. Now I am am going to write about time and you: how you deal with time, how it helps you make progress and where it holds you back, and how it help or hurts your relationship with other people.

I’ll be drawing on nearly two decades of investigation by John Furey and his company, MindTime, that is summarized on the web and in this book:

itsabouttime

Your time perspective influences your every thought. How important is the past, which you can be certain of but may not be replicated going forward? How important is the now, which is the only point in time where you are going to actually take action? And how important are the uncertain opportunities of the future? The different weights we assign to past, present and future define who we are.

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This morning I answered a few questions online to determine my TimeStyle Profile, a “GPS for the Mind™, that measures the degree to which I utilize future, past, and present thinking perspectives. I tend to be a future thinker:

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MindTime can tell a lot about my thinking from my Profile. If you know me, you’ll probably agree that this description fits:

THINKING TEMPO

Quick and energetic.

THINKING GENERATES

Innovative ideas in high quantities, ingenuity, intuition, spontaneity and impulsiveness, an embrace of opportunities, exploration, and a drive toward change.
Dominant Future thinking manifests as – Vision, innovation, ingenuity, idea generation, spontaneity and impulsivity, an embrace of opportunities, exploration, and a drive toward change.

Method:

You are a visionary and are always on the lookout for new opportunities. Your fast-paced thinking tempo allows you to generate ideas easily, although your thoughts may be all over the place. You are known for innovation and ingenuity and you love to brainstorm. Your dynamic thinking tempo also makes you someone who is driven to explore: you are spontaneous and impulsive, a person who makes decisions quickly and who likes to keep your options open. You are generally outgoing and persuasive, cheerful and high spirited, energetic and active. You tend to start more than you can finish and are good at multi-tasking; however, you tend to wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. You are a natural and dynamic leader who manages others through inspiration.

Possible Challenges:

  • Completing what you’ve started is difficult, since you tend to start so much.
  • Living with the status quo is sometimes uncomfortable, as you are stimulated by change and inspired to participate in it.
  • Taking time to reflect on what you’ve heard and gathering your thoughts before speaking and taking action.
  • Sticking with a plan, since doing so means ignoring opportunities along the way.

Your Values
As someone who relies primarily on your Future thinking perspective, you tend to value change, innovation, opportunity, flexibility, spontaneity, and ideas. All of these are values that by their very nature embrace that which is to come and the possibilities that will unfold in the future. These values are idealistic and do not have the more concrete specific qualities of Past and Present. They are values that lift us individually, communally, and socially towards what we perceive to be a more hopeful and better tomorrow. They are the values that energize us to change the status quo.

Your View of the World

As someone who relies primarily on the Future perspective, your view of the world is an optimistic one. That’s because Future thinking is visionary thinking. It is about change, exploration, creativity, and the ability to see how the future can be (its potential), not how it should be (grounded in truth), or ought to be (its framework and structure). Future thinking means that you look at the world with eyes that are constantly seeking new opportunities, possibilities, and ideas.

Useful feedback

My Profile contains more information and advice than I am reporting here. In the past, I have taken the Myers-Briggs half a dozen times, the Birkman Instrument (twice), the Campbell Interest Survey (three times), the Strong, the Rorschach, Zimbardo’s instrument, and others. None of them gave me as useful information as the MindTime Profile.

One big problem with other personality tests and assessment frameworks is that they tell you about you as if you were in isolation. In organizations, it’s how you get along with other people that matters. Here’s how I compare to the 1,345 other people who have recently completed a profile:

group map

 

Next Steps

John Furey is going to present MindTime concepts to thirty of us at NextNow’s August 29th evening meeting in Berkeley. We plan to assess our time Profiles — and then identify our Profiles on our name badges. We’ll look at a composite for the group and talk about how that impacts our roles.

If you are interested in joining us, please email me to be put on the waiting list.

 

 

The Tale of Two Cultures

clo_articleThis column appears in the current issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

In 1959, British scientist/novelist C.P. Snow wrote an essay describing the “two cultures,  whose thesis was that ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society’ was split into two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Snow contended that scientists did not understand the humanities and humanists did not understand science. As the world grew more complex, the two groups grew further apart.” (Wikipedia)

Half a century later, the world grows more complex everyday and the two cultures have grow further apart. It’s worth a revisit because the growing divide will shake the training industry to its roots. I am going to use the concept to describe two different sorts of knowledge and the different way we learn them. #1 is intuitive knowledge and #2 is logical knowledge. They are different as night and day.

Intuitive knowledge 

Intuitive knowledge is what Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow as System 1. It’s the province of the emotional brain. Intuitive knowledge works with patterns; it knows no words. In other words, it is tacit. Since the emotional brain is much older and works faster than the logical brain, intuitive knowledge is the first to come to mind; the rational brain uses logic to weigh whether or not an intuitive response is valid or must be tempered. Intuitive knowledge is also known as muscle memory.

Intuitive knowledge is complex and hence unpredictable, inductive, volatile, and emergent. It’s the realm of imagination. It deals with people’s interpretations. It lives in the minds of the people who pull it together.

Examples of intuitive knowledge: how to dance and to sell. Training departments can’t do much with the increasingly important Intuitive skills. Intuitive things are learned by doing: experientially. People “get” the skills of dealing with complexity: critical thinking, prioritizing, working with people, design thinking, and so forth — by doing them.

“I do things I do not know how to do in order to learn how to do them.” Picasso

Experience can be supplemented with stories (someone else’s experience), simulations (fake experience), trial and error (the school of hard knocks), and mimicry (copied experience).

Rational knowledge

Rational knowledge is the opposite of Intuitive knowledge. It’s the province of the rational brain. It works with logic. It is explicit and can be explained with words.

Rational knowledge is straightforward (or complicated, which is several simples mushed together.) It’s Newtonian clockwork, an equal and opposite reaction for every action. It is formulaic, yes or no, and reductionist. It deals with facts. It’s true no matter who is looking. Training departments help people learn the Rational. Workshops, programmed instruction, and Kahn Academy can teach Rational Knowledge. Example of rational knowledge: programming PERL, the states and their capitals, multiplication.

The Explicit and the Tacit

As the world becomes more complex, people need to rely more on the interpretive power of Intuitive knowledge. So what does this have to do with a CLO? (The editor here gets on my case if I don’t relate topics to the needs of chief learning officers.) Well, here’s the punch line: people learn Rational knowledge and absorb Intuitive knowledge by different means.

The basic difference is that you get to know Rational Knowledge. Intuitive Knowledge, on the other hand, transforms your identity. For example, I can know a lot about plumbing but until I have Intuitive Knowledge, I can’t call myself a plumber. It’s learning to know vs. learning to be.

While different parts of the brain deal with Intuitive and Rational knowledge, these are not the old (and discredited) left/right brain theories. This is more about the conscious and subconscious minds.

Dave Snowden, a oracular figure in interpreting complexity for business ends, says the greatest danger is confusing a complex situation for a merely complicated one.

If you are concerned only with helping people learn rational knowledge, you’re abandoning a vital facet of learning. Facts are impotent until coupled with feelings. Feelings without facts are mute. A successful learning organization is bi-cultural; it melds the intuitive with the rational

Bi-culturalism melds two originally distinct cultures into a holistic co-existence.

Ask yourself: is your learning  bi-cultural?

Mobile is inevitable

You don’t have to be a futurist to see the way some things are headed. Take the Volkswagen as an example. As anyone who has driven an early Volkswagen can attest, the rear windows were very difficult to see out of.

 

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Volkswagen printed one of their wonderful, sarcastic ads when they bowed to the inevitable and enlarged the back window in 1958: “The famous Italian designer suggested one change.”

vw

 

 

We Volkswagen drivers saw the change coming before the Italian designer. We also foresaw a functional defroster and headlights that lit the road.

Now turn to mobile. mLearncom is just around the corner, so mobile learning is on the mind, but this applies to smartphones replacing laptops in all forms.

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Some people believe laptops will live forever. With mobile, they say, the screen is too small to read, the keys too tiny to type on, and photos too small to see. That may be true of today’s smartphones, but it won’t be the case tomorrow.

Just as Volkswagons were destined to have rear windows a driver could see through, smartphones will soon incorporate:

  • direct-to-retina, immersive displays a la Google Glass
  • projection capabilities for displaying images
  • reliable voice input (or virtual air keyboards for vestigial typists)

Add in the benefits of geo-location and miniaturization.

Mobile is inevitable. Make your plans accordingly.

 

 

 

IT Doesn’t Matter. Business processes do

itdoesntmatterTen years ago this May a journalist named Nick Carr stirred up a ruckus with an article in Harvard Business Review claiming that IT Doesn’t Matter. Using the telephone and shipping by rail were great sources of competitive advantage – until every business could afford them. Then they no longer differentiated those who used them. Carr argued that IT is a mature industry, its presence is assumed, and such things as standards will make it even more of a commodity in the future.

Consultants Howard Smith and Peter Fingar shot back a month later with a paperback retort entitled IT Doesn’t Matter – Business Processes Do. I ordered a copy the day I met Peter last week, and I read the booklet yesterday evening. In 120 pages, Smith and Fingar skewer Carr, show why IT will matter more than ever, and explain how business process management creates riches.

peter

Peter Fingar

The big argument is that “Business process management (BPM) systems can, for the first time in the history of business automation, let companies deal directly with business processes: their discovery, design, deployment, change, and optimization.” As long as there’s innovation, there’s room for making processes better. BPM promises to obliterate the “Business-IT Divide.

To optimize a process, the right hand must know what the left is doing. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), the melding of ERP, SCM, CRM, PLM, and what-not into one all-encompassing application, is a major step forward, but it doesn’t link the organization with those outside the firewall such as partners and suppliers. Web Services integrate the enterprise with the outside world, connecting business to business, just as the Web connected consumers to businesses in the last decade.

Does this mean all business is going to be carried out using common processes that embed best practices? Not on your life. “BPM will be used both to differentiate (best-in-class) and to standardize (best-practice).” Count on Amazon, for example, to use best-practice standards for email and credit-checking, and FedEx will deliver your order. Don’t expect Amazon to let you peak into proprietary systems such as One-Click Ordering, for that’s where their competitive advantage lies.

Nick Carr’s screed in HBR attacked data processing as we’ve known it. Indeed, that’s not where to look for big value in the future. Business organizations are moving up the ladder a notch to MetaIT. Instead of one-time automation to save labor, they are establishing structures to continuously improve the way they do things.

Authors Smith and Fingar tell us it’s time for the IT tail to stop wagging the Business dog. In their vision of the future, business people will define and own business processes. Instead of doing what-if analyses with numbers on spreadsheets, decision-makers will do what-if analyses of how their business operates or might operate.

As I recently wrote here, it’s as if builders could move walls by shifting them on blueprints displayed on their laptops. With a comprehensive business blueprint, an executive can hand off an entire bundle of processes, say payroll, with minimal fuss (and with knowledge of precisely what savings will result.) A manager can experiment with different ways of getting a job done and chose the one with the most profit potential. A worker can fix a glitch in the system that has been irritating customers for once and for all. In the BPM world, business runs the show.

The authors propose a daunting laundry list of other functions the new paradigm can help accomplish, among them “accountability, activity-based costing, business process outsourcing, competitive intelligence, concurrent engineering, crisis management, inter-organizational systems, just-in-time (JIT), key performance indicators, lifetime customer value, pay-for-performance, resource-based strategy, security audit, scenario planning, and supply chain optimization.” (Whew.)

My interest in all this is how it improves learning and human performance. Process-oriented environments will impact traditional training just as word processing and social change eliminated most of the nation’s secretaries. Process innovation empowers us to create jobs that provide more throughput and greater worker satisfaction, although not through traditional training departments. Imagine the potential of:

  • Workflow learning
  • Transparent human development
  • Grid learning
  • Accountable training
  • Activity-based certification
  • Training value analysis
  • Learning performance management
  • Concurrent knowledge capture
  • Customer learning alignment
  • Personal flow monitoring
  • Psychological stress alerts
  • Individual performance indicators
  • Team competency management
  • Lifetime worker contribution
  • Individualized learning paths
  • Tailored management development
  • On the fly simulations

For training directors and CLOs, the future holds good news or bad news. It depends on where you’re coming from. Training administrators who fail to understand the new dynamics of business as likely to find themselves stripped bare, evaluated by metrics they do not understand, and looking for another line of work. Those who adopt the process mindset take on significant new responsibilities, for everyone knows that the people in the organization are more important than the technology.

After fifty years of waiting for instructions in its corporate cocoon, training is ready to unfold its wings and be recognized as a full-fledged business process.

I wrote this post nearly ten years ago. The wheels of innovation turn slowly.

Technical Knowledge and Practical Knowledge

In a New York Times Op-Ed, David Brooks poses the ultimate higher-ed question: What is a university for?

Brooks separates knowledge into technical knowledge and practical knowledge.

Technical Knowledge enables us to understand a field. These are basics like statistics or fundamentals of biology. You can find it in books. The faculty teaches it. In many cases, a MOOC or a robot could teach it. It’s the mainstay on campus.

Practical Knowledge is about being rather than knowing. It can’t be taught in the classrooms or books. You learn it through experience. You absorb it from your environment. You can pick it up from your communities of practice.

Examples of Practice Knowledge abound in Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, “Lean In.” Says Brooks,

… tasks she describes as being important for anybody who wants to rise in this economy: the ability to be assertive in a meeting; to disagree pleasantly; to know when to interrupt and when not to; to understand the flow of discussion and how to change people’s minds; to attract mentors; to understand situations; to discern what can change and what can’t.

 

Brooks would have students master Practical Knowledge by leading the band or joining the debate club, something on campus. I think he’s off. Back to his “What is a university?” For most of us, the answer is “Not the best place to master Practical Knowledge for the workplace.”

What if we think of Technical Knowledge as explicit and Practical Knowledge as tacit?

  • Technical Knowledge lays bare the intricacies of complicated concepts. It’s the facts. It’s clockwork models and the results they gin out time after time. Technical Knowledge deals with certainties and absolutes. In other words, it’s often theoretical and “not found in nature.”
  • Practical Knowledge deals with complex, unpredictable, unruly patterns that emerge in real life. It is nature.

Caveat emptor. This next part is speculation on my part. I’m looking for corroboration.

The world is growing more complex. Outsourcing and automation have eliminated work that is merely complicated. The more interconnections in network, the greater the complexity, and the tendrils of networks everywhere are intertwining at a surreal pace. 

informal learning research.374

Things kicked into high gear in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Between 1980 and 2000, the value of the publicly traded companies flip-flopped from 80% tangible assets to 80% intangible assets. 

This is an astounding change. Think about it. Most of a company’s worth had been in hard assets: plant, equipment, and cash. Two decades later, most of a company’s worth was in relationships, know-how, and secret sauce — things you can’t even see.

Many managers haven’t seen the light yet. Look at their allegiance to accounting measures that have less and less meaning in the real world. They righteously demand “hard numbers.” Those are the numbers that don’t mean to much any more.

informal learning research3.374

As the world becomes more complex, are we not in the midst of another phase change? Might it be that the university heyday when explicit knowledge was king, is giving way to a new world where skills for navigating complexity rule?

If you can’t increase your social intelligence at college, isn’t it time to go somewhere else to get it?

The Times also reported that Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break. Seems that elite MOOC consortium EdX is experimenting with automated essay grading. Skeptics of course came out of the woodwork. Anant Agarwal, the EdX chief, points out that the grading software begins by learning how professors would grade; then it gives students instant grades and an opportunity to improve.

That latter bit — instant feedback and opportunity to resubmit a stronger essay — has lots of promise.

The skeptics are fighting a pitched battle. Traditional grades, having to do only with Technical Knowledge, are not correlated to any measure of success outside of schools. A system can’t do much worse than that.

There’s also the myth of the learnèd professor working away into the wee hours marking papers. I’m sure this happens some places but it wasn’t the way things worked at Harvard Business School when I went there. I have reason to know.

Several of my papers were rejected. These were WACs, Written Assessment of Cases. When I explained my logic to my professors, they said my arguments were brilliant and original. In fact, my ideas were so original that they didn’t appear on the grading checklists given to the Radcliffe students who actually graded the papers. I’m not saying every prof did this nor do I know how it works today, but an automated system might be an improvement. #justsayin

The Churchill Club

The Churchill Club is the real deal. Movers and shakers and enterpreneurs. A nexus. I’m always blown away.

cclubSome of my notes from tonight’s session, mainly Alan Kay’s observations.

“The revolution is old but it feels like it’s just taking off.”

Kay and a bunch of his pals back in ARPA and PARC days remembered Licklider, who wanted ARPA to develop and intellectual amplifier. In those cold war days, money was not a problem. The influential were out to change the world, not to amass fortunes. Licklider called for developing an intergalactic network. Missing the mark created the internet.

Unfortunately, business people are rewarded for making money, not for improving the world. Imagine how business would look at marketing bicycles if starting from scratch. These things have one hell of a steep learning curve. And they are dangerous. Kids are going to ride them in traffic. Our lawyers will be in fits. Forget it.

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Appropriately, Kay shared a Churchill anecdote with a great message: The future is cooperation, not competition.

The hostess at the manor party tells Sir Winston she’s just seen a senior peer pocket a solid silver salt cellar. Should she confront him?

Winston walked over to the earl, pocketing a salt shaker along the way. As he pulled the shaker from his pocket, he told the earl, “it looks like we’ve been discovered. Better put them back.”

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Kay set a hurdle for software. It should be like the human body, which replaces every molecule in the course of seven years; it doesn’t have to die for maintenance and then reboot. Software should accommodate improvement without shutting down.

The typical Silicon Valley has a little angel on her shoulder, saying “Change the world.” On the other should sits a little devil saying “Get rich quick.”

Why is the movie industry in Hollywood? It’s not just the light. It was as far as they could get away from New York. Similarly, Xerox put PARC in Palo Alto, far from the executive offices in Stamford, CT.

Kay hasn’t seen much true innovation beyond mere scaling.

Business people seem to feel as if God had given them this verdant valley, and they figure it’s their right to strip it bare.

MOOCs? The amazing thing is their popularity. The underbelly is Backlash.

Maxwell (or maybe it was Faraday) gave Disraeli a demo of two small motors. “What are they good for?” The reply: “What are human babies good for?”

Most managers are more concerned about maintaining control than with doing the job well.

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