Tag Archives: knowledge

Three books, three formats, three sources

I’m currently reading three books. As I was thinking about which one I wanted to read last night I realized that I am reading each of the books in different formats. And not just in different formats, but from different sources. 

When I was younger, finding and reading books was a pretty straightforward thing: I’d ride the bus to the library on a Saturday morning, pick out some books, take them home and read them. Usually I would just make a stack and read from the top down. As I got older, the number of libraries I could visit increased, and eventually I expanded into bookstores. Buildings with books in them are still among my favorite places to “waste” time. 

It’s not nearly as straightforward today.

Three books, three formats, three sources

The first of the three books I’m reading is The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Ben Zander.  I picked up this fantastic book based on a recommendation from Alicia Dudek during a tour of her Empathy Systems Co-Lab (a lab in the School of the Possible). Based on Alicia’s description of the book and the influence it had on her, as well as the obvious connection to the School of the Possible, I decided that I’d like to get the book and start reading immediately, so I did. You may have guessed, I’m reading this book on my Kindle after purchasing it from amazon.com.

The next book on my list is Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal. I wasn’t looking for this book specifically, but rather was looking for something related to experience design and user research. I’m fortunate to have access to Safari Books Online through the day job and do my best to take advantage. Just like browsing in a physical bookstore, I browsed the Safari “shelves”, picking up a volume here and there to flip through it, read the blurbs, check out the author. I ended up with Interviewing Users in part because it looked to be straightforward and well written, and in part because I’m familiar with Steve Portigal through his Twitter account and other online writings. So this one I’m reading in the Safari Books Online app on my iPad Pro. 

The last book is Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy from Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake. The “intangible economy” has long been on my mind, as has been the future of capitalism, and plays quite a central role in the work of tib(na) labs. The book was mentioned by Bill Gates on his book review site, which I learned from Tamarah Usher when she shared it on LinkedIn. I knew that this was a book I needed to read, but not necessarily something I needed to start immediately and not necessarily something I needed to own a copy of. Which, of course, means library. I checked the local library collection (on line, of course) and saw that it was available in a print edition. For this particular book I think I would have preferred an ebook, primarily so I could save highlights and add notes and bookmarks. (Things which are, for understandable reasons, frowned upon by the library in their physical books.) 

Three books, three sources, three formats. And this really just scratches the surface of the options available today. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The more ways that books can be made available, the better my chance of being able to read them all. Well, maybe not all of them. But any of them that I want to read. Which is all of them.

GM Var Akobian in simul match

Knowing a solution is at hand is a huge advantage… Uncertainty is far more challenging

Knowing a solution is at hand is a huge advantage; it’s like not having a “none of the above” option. Anyone with reasonable competence and adequate resources can solve a puzzle when it is presented as something to be solved. We can skip the subtle evaluations and move directly to plugging in possible solutions until we hit upon a promising one. Uncertainty is far more challenging. Instead of immediately looking for solutions to the crisis, we have to maintain a constant state of asking, “Is there a crisis* forming?”

Garry Kasparov – How Life Imitates Chess

On knowledge and (organizations as) knowers

Been giving some thought to the concept of knowledge and knowing in the context of organizations and knowledge management. These two paragraphs come from separate trains of thought, but are related so I decided to post them here together. Definitely needs a bit more reflection and development. What do you think?


The terms “tacit” and “explicit” are typically used when referring to different types of knowledge (in the context of knowledge management efforts). It seems to me that “unconscious” and “conscious” might be more appropriate / accurate? In that explicit knowledge is that of which you are consciously aware of while tacit knowledge is that which lies “below the surface” and which you use without having to be aware you are using it. Need to cross reference this with what I’ve been learning about Liminal Thinking….

On the subject of “knowers”, could the organization itself be considered a “knower”? Not the sum total of the knowledge that resides in its members or files, but a knowing that emerges from the connections and interactions of that knowledge. If so, how would that change how we approach KM?

Children and the curse of knowledge

One of our goals as a society is to educate our children, to pass along the knowledge of what has gone before so that the children understand where they’ve come from and how we got to where we are. At the same time, we are dependent on our children to create the new knowledge that we need in order to continue and to grow.

To accomplish this we must avoid the danger of infecting our kids with a “curse of knowledge”, of teaching our kids not only how to think but what to think. The best of ideas in almost any field of endeavor quite often come from those with the least preconceived notion of what that field of endeavor should be.

One of the home page quotes on the FIRST website is the following:

"Overnight, they were asking and trying things that none of our testers ever dreamed of after six months of development. We know we are all in for a treat as these kids move up through society."

In case you’re not familiar FLL is the FIRST Lego League, a robotics competition program for kids age 9-14 (in the U.S., this equates to 4th through 8th grade). As the quote hints at, a team of technical and game experts spend a lot of time designing a game, coming up with the rules and putting everything together.

But it only takes a day for a bunch of kids, many not even teenagers, to think of questions and try to do things that never even occurred to these experts. The experts are learning from the “novices”.

What have you learned recently from the novices – children, new employees, etc – in your life?

Lessons learned and learned lessons

Dave Snowden, with whom I share a general dislike (maybe distrust is a better word) for lessons learned / best practices, has a post from about a year ago on the difference between lessons learned and learning lessons. I’m revisiting these ideas after sharing my thoughts about knowledge work as craft and the growth and development of young knowledge workers as craftsmen with the Work Literacy group.

Before someone can start working in a craft, they must first learn the basics of the craft. Part of this learning is traditional learning of the facts, procedures, and techniques that have been learned and passed along by those who have gone before. While not “lessons learned” in the usual sense, this type of lessons learned (or best practice) can be of value.

In fact, I think that assimilation of this knowledge, obtained from lessons learned by others, is a key early step in helping people become able to learn their own lessons later on in their career. Without a solid foundation of what has already been learned, the apprentice is destined to “reinvent the wheel” more than is necessary. (Note the “more than necessary” caveat: I believe that it is important for the novice to attempt some reinvention of their own; this gives them an understanding of the importance of those early lessons.)

The journey of an apprentice to the realm of the master is, in many ways, a journey from knowledge consumption to knowledge creation. As an apprentice, the reliance on existing knowledge is very high. The journeyman learns to understand the knowledge in use and apply it in creative, new ways. The master, while grounded in the existing knowledge of the craft, is not constrained by that knowledge as he creates new knowledge for use by the next wave of apprentices.

The same progression can be seen in many aspects of knowledge work. Most will start off in college, accumulating that basic information they need for their chosen field, then move on to a “journeyman” stage in a company (or their own company) where they will learn how to apply that accumulated knowledge. For most, this is the stage they will remain at for most of their career.

If they are lucky, and of course diligent in continuing to develop their own work literacy, they will progress to the “master” stage where they can re-write what is taught to students in college.