Captain's Log Issue #87 - Silence
Julian Stodd, October 2019

This week I have been exploring some of the higher order challenges of the Social Age: overall shifts in how learning takes place, the context of Organisations, and shifts in how we work.

This is useful to set a context, but only if we also crash down into practical (and often pragmatic) approaches to actually do something about it. Which is often where we stumble and fall.

Existing ways of working are embedded not only in systems and process, but also in safety, power, and control. To change any of these things makes us unsafe, and less powerful.

I use the term deliberately: it’s easy to talk about empowering others, but we should recognise that this may leave us with less power. We may move ourselves more into a consensual, negotiated, or permissive, space of leadership. We may hear more voices, but dislike what we hear.

This is, I suspect, a core truth of the Social Age, and of the Socially Dynamic Organisations that we must build: they will exist in that space of Dynamic Tension, between formal and informal systems, between ambiguity and certainty, between dogma and curiosity.

Our challenge may be less about how we envisage this future state, but more in how we learn to live with it. And a central theme for that will be how willing we are to relinquish power and control.


In The News

Reality of Virtual Reality

This piece, about both Google and the BBC dropping Virtual Reality projects, is timely, as it reflects a real challenge for this emergent technology: can the real reality live up to the hype.

Beyond the beauty of immersive environments, which I will not deny, I have been generally underwhelmed by the rush to mediocrity in learning solutions that employ it, tending, as they do, towards simple 3d video replacing that on a flat screen.

There is little understanding of why we would use VR from a cognitive learning perspective, as opposed to simply an experiential one.

Vanity projects will abound, probably alongside some decent simulations in specialist (and high cost) contexts, such as military and engineering, where manipulation in 3d environments is significant.


My Writing

Trends in Learning

I started this week exploring the broad trends that we have seen across Organisational approaches to learning: the central theme is a move away from curators of knowledge, towards facilitators of learning.

Perspective Shift

From the first piece, exploring broad trends, I pulled together a view of individual engagement, and approaches to new ways of working.

In this piece, I go back to a notion that I've worked on before: the idea of the ‘Multi Dimensional’ Organisation, with both formal and social aspects. The core challenge for Organisations in this context is how they relinquish power and control, whilst staying safe (enough).

Silencing Voices

I wrote this piece exploring how some voices are silenced, and others are deliberately withheld: part of the opportunity (and challenge) for Social Leaders is to create the space, and Social Capital, to ensure that we listen to those voices we need to hear, even when they stand in disagreement to us.

Blast Off

This final piece of writing for the week is really just to share the back cover illustration for the Apollo book.


What I'm Reading

I’m behind on my reading this week, so still working on ‘Inside the Dream Palace’ (see my post from 11/10/2019), but I have started page one of this, a book about libraries, and our relationship with books.


#WorkingOutLoud on the Certifications

I have completed the first full draft of the Learning Science Guidebook, which forms the coursework for the first module of the Modern Learning Capability Programme. It’s twice as long as I had hoped for, but I will have three days next week to edit it down a little.

I am excited about the work on this over the next six months, as I will create at least three more Guidebooks in parallel with the course development (one on Social Learning Instructional Design, one on Choreography of Learning, and probably one on AI and Machine Learning). I look forward to offering these as a box set! After that, I will most likely work on a second edition of the Learning Methodology book.


What I'm Thinking About

Fear silences voices: I explored this in the writing earlier this week, but it has stayed on my mind. The fear held by good people doing useful work in kind systems, but systems that thrive on certainty.

Inherently the Social Age represents uncertainty, which is an idea both appealing and easy to grasp, but hard to actually adapt to. I spoke to the senior leaders in one Organisation this week to share a view that they are simply not yet experiencing enough pain to actually do anything about it.

They understand the context, they have set strategy, and are undertaking broad action, but disjointed and unconnected. Which forms the root of the challenge: the Social Age presents two dimensions of change. Change in ways we understand, within a known context (this is the type of change that Organisations can handle well), alongside unknown change in a new context (which is exactly what they are unable to handle). So, essentially, we can change an Organisation in known ways, yet still fail and fall.

The best guidance for this type of Organisation is to change in those known ways, but to hold open spaces for ambiguity and doubt. Spaces that will exist outside the known context, which can hold curiosity and doubt, but which must not be monocultural. These must be spaces of active difference and respectful dissent. If we do not know which way to turn, we should explore all options.

My conversations this week have included references to fear, busyness, and sanction, all of which kill the will to be curious, to explore.

If we wish to build a more Socially Dynamic Organisation, we must build the individual agency, at scale, which will allow us to learn how to do so.

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