From: Henry van Eyken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Myself, I can't say anything yet about lessons from Session 8 because I am
not there yet. But from life's experience, contacts, and reading, I have an
affinity for what Eric is writing here. I must say, first off, that I am
always a little scared of taking a lofty bird's eye view of worldly and
business affairs and generalizing them in neat principles. (I understand
that in his later years, Dr. Spock, once the guru of child raising, had come
to the conclusion he had been quite wet. And, without ever having paid that
much attention, I understand that many a business and stock market guru has
gone down a similar path.) Nevertheless, there appears to be a lot here that
one can attest to. Allow me to just intersperse a comment here and there.
Eric Armstrong wrote:
> From: Eric Armstrong <email@example.com>
> In this post, I'm going to strongly take issue with one of Doug's
> basic operating assumptions. The investigation, I think, explains
> why Doug's vitally important ideas have been languishing for so
> long. It also suggests why that situation is about to change
> drastically, although not for the reasons that Doug thinks.
> To anticipate the conclusion, the reason is the Internet. But
> understanding how and why the paradigm shift will actually
> occur is pivotal to knowing how to proceed -- to proceed in any
> other way is, in essence, to throw yourself at a brick wall and
> hope that it falls down. If we want to bring that wall down, and
> we must, then we must use the appropriate tools and target
> them in the right way...
> [This is another "can't help myself" post. I'm too busy to
> write it, but it's too important to put off.]
> Doug's Hypothesis
> In session 8, Doug made two points that are central to his
> 1) We need to improve an organization's capability for
> improving their capabilities
> 2) This can happen with good show-screen technology,
> so that others can "look over your shoulder" and see
> how you do things.
> I'm going to pick up on an argument I started a while back,
> and argue even more strenuously that this approach is simply
> not going to work. Before proceeding to a counter proposal,
> let's see "what's wrong with this picture".
> There are several reasons that prevent this approach from
> being viable. Chief among them are:
> 1) Organizations simply do not work that way.
> While some seriously desire to improve their productive
> capacities, virtually none want to "improve their
> capability to improve".
Comment: I understand that people deep down in their guts want concrete
models, not abstract ones. The "B" step touches on the concrete, you are
changing something concrete. The "C" step tends to be abstract -- it is
about changing change -- and it seems to me that the means by wich the
concept is trying to make headway in this Colloquium -- up to where I am and
moderating my comment by some uncertainty as to how well I have digested
things -- is by concretizing with interludes that approach case studies.
Notice how every survey comes with questions whether a certain "case study"
helped the participant to better understand bootstrapping. The process of
abstraction comes from generalizing a bunch of concrete cases. A leading
thinker, who has looked at a lot of concrete stuff, may see a pattern. The
pattern doesn't sell easily; the potential buyer must either be made to
perceive the pattern himself or he must trust the seller implicitly; and
also trust that he himself is salesman enough to sell the pattern to others.
(A pre-arranged golden parachute may also make the pattern go down -- like a
little sugar ....)
> 2) If that is the case, then only by completely reinventing
> the organizational concept can any headway be achieved.
> That paradigm shift cannot gradually evolve. It requires
> an abrupt transition such as only occurs in the wake of
> a catastrophe.
First sentence is too fast for me, but aren't paradigms very much patterns
in the unconscious, like breathing. Too bad that I can't remember that
little poem about the centipede who was asked to give an account of how he
did his walking. He has been tripping over himself ever since. Moral of the
story: don't be too easily tempted to cast away comfy paradigms. But if you
HAVE to, ...
> 3) Even if it were a viable approach for an existing
> organization, it would require a "top down" commitment
> from management. As I'll argue later on, paradigm shifts
> simply do not occur that way. Rather, they come from the
> other direction.
I think that people who have reached their level of competence prefer to sit
pretty. But the surrounding forces may not let them sit pretty if they admit
> 4) To understand why such a project is anathema to management,
> it must be understood that the risks are huge. First, the
> cost of failure is high.
Isn't that where golden parachutes come in. To get top-executive thinking
over the hump.
> And, to succeed, it will likely
> require change to the organizational model. Such change is
> always risky, and usually resisted by lower echelons who
> perceive it as "interference". That makes the rewards highly
> uncertain. And even if the rewards accrue, the payback
> period is so long, and the results so far removed from the
> source, that there is a serious danger that the
> contributions will not even be recognized.
> In other words, any manager interested in his career, from the
> CEO down, is going to have to think 20 or 30 times before even
> attempting to work on setting up an infrastructure that aims to
> improve the organizations ability to improve.
> There is another way, however. I suspect it is the *only* way
> for the desired result to be achieved -- not because that is the
> way I wish things to be, but because that is how, observation
> suggests to me, they are.
Like investing. A prudent investor increasingly moves into blue chips when
nearing retirement age. (Wonder how much longer the concept of blue chips
will persist in this rapidly changig world.)
> A Counter Proposal
> The bottom line in organizational penetration is that no one is
> going to care *how* I do what I do until they see spectacular
> results. Even then, management is likely to be unconcerned about
> the process -- it is only the results that count. And coworkers,
> who can be expected to be interested in the process, will only
> typically be motivated only to the extent that proven success
> derives from it.
Anecdotal confirmation of first sentence. During the "industrial part" of my
life, I was hired by two organizations. In neither I was told what my job
was. And as an immigrant, glad to get an offer, I never asked. Just broght
home the bacon ...
One should think this must have changed a bit ever since organizations got
leaner and meaner. Or not?
> The point then, is that DKR penetration will occur not by
> showing the process, but by showing results. How can those
> results be achieved?
> Those results will be achieved first by *individuals* in an
> organization who are connected to a DKR that makes them more
> productive. The internet will make that scenario possible,
> because it will allow multiple professionals in a given
> discipline to share the knowledge they need to succeed.
Luncheon in the club ... golf links ... watering holes ... cafetarias with
white blackboards ... Internet (a line of progression that makes sharing
info cheaper, faster; but kinds of information shared seem qualitatively
different with lower "policy" content when going down the line).
And now come the paragraphs I really like...
> Imagine for a moment that you are participating in the design
> of an information system, and you have a DKR at your disposal
> that combines the expertise of professionals all over the
> world. Imagine in addition that the authoring environment
> is so superb that you can construct designs in minutes, cite
> references to the underlying papers, and be educated in new
> design patterns, all in real time.
> How big a role do think you would play in that project? What
> is the likelihood that you would be credited with much of its
> The odds are good that you would be perceived as one of the
> leading designers. Promotion to project lead status would
> follow rapidly.
> Now, you are in charge of your own project. By now one or two
> others have inquired as to how you do what you do, and you
> have shown them. Word is spreading.
> More importantly, though, you are now in a position to move
> your whole team onto the DKR. Where before you used the DKR
> for general design information, now you begin using it for
> collaborating on the project at hand.
> Use of the DKR for a company project requires a "firewall"
> of sorts -- the information on your project must not leak out
> to competitors until the project has borne fruit. But on the
> day you are free to publish the design concepts, it should only
> require pushing a button to do so.]
> Let's say your project succeeds wildly. Odds are good that it
> will. More promotions follow. As you and your team members
> disperse throughout this and other organizations, success and
> interest in the technology follows. At this point, widespread
> penetration of the DKR concept is being achieved, not from the
> top down, but from the bottom up.
> It is worth noting here that we are talking about something
> beyond an Open HyperDocument System. We are talking about
> a truly dynamic knowledge repository -- something that
> records principles and case studies, which provides
> "education on demand" to its users. In short, we are talking
> about something which produces "collective IQ" by making
> available to all what is known to each.
> As Jim Spohrer pointed out in his Education Object Economy,
> it is attribution that motivates individual contributions to
> the DKR. Attribution is the "coin of the realm" here, as it
> is in academic societies. With a DKR that preserves attributions,
> therefore, one can expect the volume of contributions to be
> Interestingly, even businesses have information they like to
> share. Although there is also information they don't can't afford
> to share. For example, they may need to safeguard the knowledge
> of the blind alleys they investigated, because the cost of
> discovering that information may have a been a significant cost
> of development. Sharing that information gives their competitors
> big advantages that they themselves did not have.
> Even so, there is much information that an organization feels
> compelled to share. To win customers, they frequently want to
> publish "how it works" design articles. They also tend to be
> proud of their practices. Often, they will willing publish
> information about the technologies or methodologies they used,
> even if they are loathe to share the details of what they
> discovered using those processes.
> But even if we discount *all* the late-breaking information
> discovered by business, there is the matter of the huge volume
> of information published in books, magazines, journals, papers,
> and Web articles. If the DKR *only* improved the ability to
> organize, evaluate, access, and understand that information, it
> would *still* promote the kind of success that will lead to
> its eventual supremacy in a "survival of the fittest" business
> The foregoing has been a picture of what, I suggest, is likely
> to happen. As Rob Swigart so aptly pointed out in his wonderful
> presentation on "Future Scenarios" at the beginning of session 8,
> the scenario above results from "assessing the implications". In
> this case, we're looking at the implication of DKR availability,
> and the implications of the technology, given the world as we
> know it to operate.
> The section that follows deals with the subject in a more
> abstract way, making the case for why that is the way it has
> to happen.
> Why It's Going to Work that Way
> It has been accepted that new ideas don't win out over old ones,
> but rather they ascend to prominence as the old guard dies off.
> That was true once, at least in the halls of academia.
Yes, for stodgy academia. But not so in marketplace. And didn't someone
point out that ther marketplace is spreading into academia. (No value
> But now there is another way. Today, perpetuators of old ideas
> are frequently blindsided by crowds of young anarchists who
> muscle them aside and shove them into obsolescence.
> The difference is the Internet.
"The" difference? "A" difference???
I am not obstructing the argument; just scared of oversatement.
> It is the Internet that has given me my voice. It has enabled me
> to reach out to a large number of people, with many ideas on a
> variety of topics.
Yes, one can reach many people. Also there are many people trying to reach
many people. And one can still only listen to one voice at a time. But the
next paragraph is germane, provided the browsers possess the judgment to
assess what are, in fact, good ideas. Again, I am not obstructing the
argument, just thinking along with the bouncing ball ...
> In this medium, no asks "What are your
> credentials?" There are no reviewers to please, no peers to
> appease. The only questions anyone asks are "How good are
> the ideas?", "Do they make sense?", "Can they work?".
> The Internet represents a powerful, far reaching change in our
> evolutionary environment.
Now it gets interesting ...
> Guilds were slow to evolve. Changes in technology only occurred
> when those in charge approved, which often required the literal
> dying off of the old guard. Academia, in many ways, functions as
> a "guild" system. For all the invaluable, incalculable benefit it
> has brought to humanity, it can still be remarkably slow to embrace
> new truths. The cause is the same: The months and years it takes to
> put together a concept presentation that is sure to satisfy every
> reviewer, the need to appease those who head the guild, and the
> natural resistance to new ideas that results from having neither
> time nor energy to fully understand and embrace them.
Yes, yes, after all, it isn't the new ideas that count, it is the
> Granted, that system has performed the laudable goal of preventing
> trickery from masquerading as science. Snake oil salesmen have
> by and large been kept out of the club. And obviously inaccurate
> thinking has been kept at bay -- not always, but much of the time.
> That has all been to the good.
> But in a time of radically accelerating change, that system really
> has no hope of keeping up. Fortunately, the Internet is providing
> a "marketplace" of ideas and educational opportunities that may
> well provide the solution.
> Just as the emergence of free markets spelled the end of
> technology guilds -- not all at once, but in time, the emergence of
> the idea-exchange Internet may signal the end of the academic guild
Strikes me that information management in academia is more disciplined than
on the Net.
And info overload beclouds [rudent assessment. Especially for mental
slowpokes like myself and in the absence of the co-evolving of ideas more
rapidly brought into contact with one another in single minds. (My gawd,
what a lousy sentence.)
> In a free market, those who produce more, better, faster, or cheaper
> became the winners. Newer technologies proved their worth, and
> older technologies were obsoleted. The process began a century
> or two ago, and has been accelerating every day up to the crazy
> pace we see today.
> Meanwhile, individual organizations have been largely "guild systems"
> in nature. That was especially true early in the 20th century, when
> lifetime employment was the rule.
> However, "lifetime employment" was put to an end by the simultaneous
> growth of a communications medium which presented job offers and a
> transportation medium that made it possible to take advantage of them.
I thought that lifetime employment (and its close relative, paternalistic
employment) came to an en because of (a) the sudden rush of everybody
wanting to be lean and mean and (b) automation. But that the growth of the
communications medium has simply provided an opportunity for those who were
ejected from the system. Geez, one has got to know when hell of a lot of
facts for sure, for sure before one can arrive at overarching conclusions.
My mind is reeling.
One effect, as far as I observed, has been the baby boom and the need to go
to younger managers. In my younger years, I saw smokestack industries under
engineering-type management and engineers adding an MBA to better qualify.
Emphasis was on product. With baby boom and MBA-type management, emphasis
shifted to bottom-line. "Our product is steel" became "our product is
money." Still is. But on the societal level that shouldn't be because
product and profit are just points in a cycle or spiral. To concretize:
Rags make paper
Paper makes money
Money makes banks
Banks make debts
Debts make beggars
Beggars make rags
Engineering management and MBA management focus on different points in the
cycle. But I am digressing ... or cycling
> The result has been more free-flowing changing of old ideas for new
> ones in companies, as "new blood" was piped in.
> Still, even though the pace of change has improved, organizations still
> function very much as individual "guilds". Norman McEachron pointed out
> the organizational mantra, spoken or unspoken, that is repeated in
> every organization across the globe: "We do it that way because we
> have always done it that way."
> The Internet is starting to change that, and we can be instrumental in
> accelerating that process.
> In point of fact, EVERY PARADIGM SHIFT IS A GUERILLA WAR. That's
> a tautology, in fact. It's true by definition. The words "paradigm
> shift" imply a widely-held model of things are or should be, that is
> being held in place by large, collective forces. How does one overthrow
> such a monster? Well, it doesn't happen "from the top down".
Yes, but, may I temper this a bit. Maybe that MOST paradigm shifts ... hell,
no. I don't like the phrase "paradigm shift." Paradigms are modified to
lesser or greater extent.
> Most organizations that try to change their corporate culture fail
> It is not an impossible task, but it is a daunting one that takes
> perseverance, creativity, and time to carry out. And that process only
> starts when the people "at the top" are persuaded it's a good idea. In
> words, when they have seen it in operation elsewhere, know that it is
> and are motivated to put it into practice themselves.
> In other words, the "top down" approach, even when it succeeds, is only
> good for copying successful paradigms -- not for introducing new ones.
Looks like a fair statement.
> As a result, the introduction of a new paradigm is, of necessity, a
> operation. It starts small, winning little victories. It gathers
> achieves supporters, and proves it worth. Eventually it obsoletes the
> _having successfully out-competed all other candidates for the honor_.
> The Internet provides a massive opportunity to accelerate that process.
> If you, as a member of a professional NIC, can be remarkably successful
> at your job, then you will receive the promotions that put you in charge
> projects. If you then introduce that technology to your team, and your
> team proves to be remarkably successful, then further promotions follow.
> As you and your team members disperse throughout the organization, and
> migrate to other organizations, the knowledge of "how to do things
> moves with you. When you take that knowledge to startups, or move into
> high-level positions in an established organization, the technology
> moves to
> an organization-wide standing. When those organizations are remarkably
> successful, the "paradigm copying" begins to take place, completing the
> paradigm shift.
> That is how paradigm shifts happen. That is how this shift will occur.
> this shift is a change in the "meta-paradigm" -- the model for how
> are transmitted and perpetuated. By using the Internet wisely, we will
> accelerate the process forever -- or at least until the lights run out.
> One counter argument might be the telephone. Initially a very expensive
> tool, it was used only be executives. It "worked its way down" through
> the organization by virtue of a) The status value of having one,
> b) lowered costs, and c) the real gain in productivity it provided. This
> "status symbol" approach might be a model for top-down penetration of a
> new technology into an organization. However, in the case of the
> telephone it seems reasonable to argue that it did not represent a
> paradigm shift so much as a faster way to do existing work. Where a
> paradigm shift like the computer is concerned, penetration into
> executive ranks has been remarkably slow, presumably due to the amount
> of training required.]
> I think it's worth focusing on business, because that is where guerilla
> operations can happen. Government and education are, by and large, guild
> systems. That means paradigm changes happen from the top down, and only
> when they are "proven" by experience.]
In conclusion. I think we have an important contribution here, primarily
because it tackles the important issue of DKR penetration. I still have to
check out that business of Doug's "basic assumption." Either I have missed
it or not retained it or still have to meet it.
I also realize how hard it is to keep up with things. Took me much time to
insert my notes. Still did so too hastely. And wonder if anybody has the
patience to consider them.
In short, in the age of argument overload, we need machines to analyze
arguments efficiently, just putting those aside for human consideration that
involve right-brain interventions. And, no, I am not trying to be funny.
Note. One more word about paradigm (ahem) shifts. It strikes me that many if
not most so-called leaders are followers. Remember the time that everybody
went for diversification (creating a aero-space divisions of baby-booty
companies) and then, a couple of years later suddenly all follower-leaders
are focusing on their "core business." Etc.
> Eric Armstrong
> Mountain View CA
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Tue Aug 21 2001 - 18:56:52 PDT