Simple is the New Black

Each day I encounter an article or vendor selling simplicity. Just today I crossed paths with titles like “elearning simplified” and “Simple Marketing Strategies”, and “simplifying your life” to name a few.  It appears the market is crying for less complexity or people are selling the notion that all has become so very difficult today.

Hey, I’m no stranger to this verbiage. The last company I worked for had the very inviting name of Systems Made Simple and even this blog is TheSimpleShift.com. Who am I then to criticize buzziness, eh?  Well, to be honest my aim here is to present and discuss the ideas of moving mindsets first; one can’t simplify until they first believe in an easier way, right? Getting there however is much more difficult but you can’t go that way until you first buy-in. I’ve written about this before that Simple ≠ Easy.

Take for example the vary simple principle in the Cluetrain Manifesto; Markets are Conversations.  Wow. Penned in the 1990’s, foreseeing the social web, and we still aren’t there. Breaking free of the old ways is obviously difficult enough but then new ideas, tools, technology and processes continue to pile on making such simplicity difficult to achieve and maybe too, few bought-in in the first place.

Complexity can be loosely defined as something having many parts. So there it is, we get to complexity when we just keep bolting things on our lives and they all become entangled; pull on one and all move a little – you’ve been warned. Same for organizations; human systems, computer systems, hierarchical systems, communication systems all intertwined. By themselves they are not the least bit complex but they tend to get all mashed together and any effort to address one of them, impacts the others.

Reducing complexity is not easy then, heck it’s complex! So, let the buyer beware. Go ahead and purchase that elearning simplified solution but don’t expect that it means your job will get easier.

The Promise of Social (The ESN edition)

Let’s take a moment and look at the idealistic, hopeful “promises” (the promise so many still speak of and fight for at least those who haven’t gone “corporate” so to speak) we saw emerge from around 2007 and compare them against the “common reality” we see in many organizations today.

 

Promise: Organization-wide transparency & openness
Common Reality: Organization-wide monitoring, measuring, judging and manipulating

Promise: B2B and B2C networks
Common Reality: Another sales channel

Promise: Social platforms to make work easier
Common Reality: Social platforms are another layer of work

Promise: Social Leadership
Common Reality: Executive broadcasting

Promise: Online customer communities
Common Reality: Customer service system

Promise: Platform owned by the workforce
Common Reality: Platform owned by IT

Promise: Increased connection for employee community building
Common Reality: Increased connection for expected employee work collaboration

Promise: Make work more human
Common Reality: Make humans work more (always connected is expected)

 

Of course this is not the truth for all organizations, some are meeting many of the promises but I don’t think that is the norm by a long shot. And this post isn’t meant to be a cry of surrender but rather a call to action. If you see it this way too, we need to be asking – Can we ever reach the true promise of (enterprise) social technology and if so, how?

 

Love the Problems Not the Solutions

I’ve always loved history. I studied it in school and the prospect of a career in history led me to be a Social Studies teacher for 8 years. In my first 3 years I was a miserable failure. I lectured way too much, drew up regurgitate the facts assignments, used a textbook exclusively, and watched the kids lights go out. They didn’t share my joy, I made it joyless and met their expectation that history was a bore, something to suffer through. Simply, I had put my love of history before their problem; a lack of respect and control.

In my 4th year I discovered the writings of Sam Wineburg and the theory of Constructivism (no, this wasn’t taught at university). I shifted my curriculum to one where the students became the historians, I lectured little, they explored more. My love of the past turned to a love of guidance as my students passing history tests wasn’t the goal, them doing history was. I had shifted from loving my knowledge to loving their need and success followed.

The bigger lesson here is for many professionals and businesses alike. You’re a training expert? An ReL tool guru? A video genius? So what? Don’t lose sight of who you work for, don’t choose your dream over their reality. Your knowledge and skills are of little interest to your clients, learners or supervisor. Your real value is in helping people see their problems more clearly, understanding their wants and needs and exploring paths of least resistance to gain the solution. What they want, what they need, is THEIR problem solved. Your work is to help them keep working.

Welcome Robot Overlords

If AI will grow to dwarf our intelligence capability, the general (maybe irrational) fear is that AI will not tolerate the inconsistent, illogical, highly emotive humans and prefer to stomp us out like a pesky insect.

Maybe I’m naive but I just don’t buy into this narrative. I feel that so many cultural references have filled us with fear and awakened the Luddite ghosts. So, I choose to disagree with the ideas perpetuated in film and books such as The Matrix, The Terminator, Ex Machina, etc; those that try to convince that we will be eliminated. Here are my 3 basic slightly philosophical counter-arguments.

1. To machines, humans will be poetry in motion; unattainable and unique. We will be preserved but not for AI’s amusement but rather for appreciation. AI will see us as living art.

2. Purpose. Every intelligent being functions beyond instinct. Intelligence seeks purpose and if we are the only other intelligent life form in the universe, I expect a more intelligent race of beings (AI) to not follow in our footsteps by indiscriminately eradicating life. The world ecosystems are perfect machines and this will be respected more than humans ever did.

3. If AI succeeds humans and becomes the greater in all ways, then it will be the first to do so and as a level up, it will become in essence a God. All Gods in history have ultimately been benevolent to their “children”. I expect that more or less we’d be in some type of Greek mythology mother-children relationship; an unbreakable bond of silicon and carbon.

The future is undefined of course but the path we are on seems pretty clear, AI is growing quickly and it’s pace won’t slow down. Yet my hopeful outlook is only tempered by the fact that the creators of this new intelligence is the same that created gun powder, TNT, atom splitting, genocide, and global warming and well… this does gives me pause.

A Little Magic Can Take You a Long Way

Do we live in a magical age or do we merely live among many magicians?

 

working out loud requires guidance

“micro-learning” is a new approach for a new age

the year you were born determines your values and needs

community is any group of people using social tools

we learn differently in the last 10 years than we did in the previous 10,000

the experience API (xAPI) tracks what you’ve learned

social learning requires a platform

 

Now, you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because, of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.- The Prestige (Film, 2005)