Captain's Log Issue #85 - Synthesis
Julian Stodd, October 2019

I delivered a session with the British Army last week, sharing some of the new work around Learning Science: within that work, I shared the new image around qualitative vs quantitative data, and the dialogue around that. One of the insights of my postgraduate years was the conversation with my tutor that stuck with me: ‘you can measure anything’ he said, before daring me to find something that you couldn’t.



He was right, in a way, but only by applying the ‘qualitative to quantitative’ trick: you can measure love if you ask people to quantify it, or share an opinion that you code to a hard number. But whether you are really measuring love is an open question.

Probably the most useful thing I carried forward from that work was the element of doubt: you can measure anything, but are you measuring anything worthwhile?

This week sees the first prototyping of the full Community Diagnostic Tool, more about this later, but it’s work in which I am doubtful. I do not doubt my ability to build the tool, or for the tool to measure something: I am even confident that I can make comparative measurements between different communities. But I'm unsure if I have missed something vital: we measure the things we think of, or can see, but sometimes strength lies in unquantified areas, or invisible domains.

In the case of Communities, these may not be visible because they are small, like an atom, but because they are hidden, like a secret.

It’s clear that as we move ever further into the realm of the Social Age, we drift further away from fully formal and visible spaces, and into areas that are held within different types of structure.

My only defence is to remain agile: to rapidly iterate the tool, to be clear on the research methods, and to be willing to fail. Hopefully as a foundation to success!


My Writing

Prototyping the Community Diagnostic

I’ve shared a couple of pieces of writing around the new Community Diagnostic, and I’m pleased to say that it will move into prototype next week.



In my mind, 60% of the format is likely to be wrong, but if all I take out of it is a solid foundation to build upon, then I will be happy.

https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/workingoutloud-on-the-community-diagnostic/

https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/workingoutloud-on-the-prototype-community-diagnostic/

Learning Science: Frames and Context

Despite being caught up in heavy travel, and with the Community Diagnostic research, I have managed to spend a day completing a chapter of the Learning Science work (which is fortunate, as this, too, moves into prototype this month...).

This piece is on Frames and Context, and forms the fourth, and final, part of the Learning Map that I shared last month.



https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2019/09/30/learning-science-frames-and-context/

This work actually derives from the earlier work on disruption and failure, which I've been developing since around 2013.

https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/workingoutloud-black-swans-and-the-limits-of-hierarchy/


What I’m Reading

I am reading the first proper book to River, now that he is five months old: we read his little picture books quite often, but I have started to read a proper book to him as I try to get him to sleep each night.

When I delivered the eulogy for my father at his funeral last month, I shared a story that my brother reminded me of, that he used to read Swallows and Amazons to us on long summer nights. So that is the first book that I am reading for River. I bought a lovely new illustrated copy, and we sit together to read it. Of course, he does not understand anything, but that is not the point: it’s a way for me to find continuity in my own story, and my own journey to becoming a father.

 

What I'm Thinking About

I find that my work goes in waves: sometimes I step out from those areas that I am sure about, into new spaces, spaces that I am curious about, but where I do not yet have a map. These times are uncertain. But at other times, I find that there is a synthesis of ideas: divergent threads start to knot together, and there is a pleasant, emergent, coherence to things. It’s that second space that I feel I am in right now, in my writing.

The work on Communities is entering a new phase, as I consolidate a range of prototype work into a full Community Diagnostic. The work on Trust supports this, and has added a new dimension. My ongoing work to sketch out a Socially Dynamic Organisation feels stronger for it.

Of course, much of this is illusory: ‘understanding’ is often a process of writing a narrative over one's own ignorance. I do not claim to have mastery, but rather to have found the first traces of a coherent narrative which, in my world, counts as learning something.

Other aspects are still adrift: the Learning Science work is enjoyably complex, but not yet coherent with much of my wider work. It sits on the side as a happy distraction, as does the work on Apollo, which I would like to draw into the body of work on Innovation and Complexity.

But if there is one thing I’ve learnt from the Learning Science writing, it’s this: reducing complexity to ordered simplicity is pleasing, but rarely useful, unless we are able to build it back up into a coherent body of meaning and understanding. Which is a continuous process. So perhaps it would be best to say that I am one step further on the journey, but the journey will be ever onwards.
 

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Copyright © 2019 Julian Stodd, All rights reserved.


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