Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Facts don't change minds - what we think we know is not what we know

Think you know how a toilet works? This article in New Yorker shows that we really know a lot less than we think. This is noteworthy when considering how knowledge is transferred between 'experts'. It is also shows the importance of communities of practice or networks in validating knowledge. "People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins. One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group".


Wednesday, 8 February 2017


KIN has long stressed the importance and power of learning from failure. In this short, funny and revealing post, David D'Souza publicly shares his experience of what not to do in a TV interview.
His post uses humour, it's punchy (note the bullet points) and is in the first-person. I doubt I'll ever be on TV, but everyone could immediately relate to and learn from this.
Now that's real learning from failure - the antithesis of a dry 'lessons learned' report.

David was a speaker at the KIN Winter workshop on 'Organisational knowledge in the era of Machine Intelligence'. You can see the video of David's inspiring talk here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Innovation; Eureka or Bernard?

Alexander Fleming was by all accounts a brilliant scientist, but poor communicator. His 1935 discovery of penicillin would have gone unnoticed but for Florey and Chain later industrialising its manufacture. The three shared the 1945 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Great innovations abound where an individual's discovery or invention is capitalised upon by others. 'If I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants*' is often (mis)attributed to Newton.

This trope goes some way to dispelling the 'Eureka!' myth of the lone individual conjoring-up an instant solution in his/her bathtub. In reality, neither the brilliant individual, nor serial or incremental innovators reflect contemporary innovation models. Co-development or collaborative problem-solving, particularly involving diverse sectors, is much more effective.

Last year I hosted a fascinating site-visit to Bletchley Park, the site, now museum, where Britain's secret WW2 code breakers worked. We saw first-hand the importance and effectiveness of diversity in collaboration. Diversity of skills, social backgrounds and crafts all played a part in successfully developing innovations of remarkable importance.

Innovation is Combination is the title of a recent article about by Greg Satell on modern innovation models that transcend organisations or existing networks. As Greg says:

"The 21st century, however, will give rise to a new era of innovation in which we combine not just fundamental elements, but entire fields of endeavor. As Dr. Angel Diaz, IBM’s VP of Cloud Technology & Architecture told me, “We need computer scientists working with cancer scientists, with climate scientists and with experts in many other fields to tackle grand challenges and make large impacts on the world.”
Today, it takes more than just a big idea to innovate. Increasingly, collaboration is becoming a key competitive advantage because you need to combine ideas from widely disparate fields". 

*This phrase is more correctly attributed to a chap prosaically called Bernard of Chartres.