Martin’s Musings: Emergence

eccentric interests!


Knowledge Management is an Oxymoron

I am looking forward to some rousing discussions on culture, knowledge creation, systems thinking and change in organizations. Here are some thoughts to get the ball rolling.

You can manage databases, but you cannot manage knowledge.

Management suggests scarcity or control. This is the antithesis of knowledge creation or understanding. Management of something suggests that it is coming in pre-digested chunks. New ideas are often not fully understandable. One must create an environment where information that comes through is acceptable to what people think is useful in their own context. And should be understandable well enough that ideas can be saved until they are used or discarded.

Is it good knowledge (something that you can use) or bad knowledge (something that while it might be a good idea is not useful to you or your organization and may derail you)?

An idea, no matter how good it is, must further your goals or it is not useful. It will only get in the way. If you save every bit of knowledge, you just have more to sift through to find something useful. If you saved every piece of paper that came across your desk you would soon never be able to get out of your office. It is the same with knowledge. There are plenty of great ideas that are simply not useful to you.

There is a mindshift that must take place for people to make the most of the knowledge that they are creating in their organizations. Knowledge comes out of an abundance mentality, the more knowledge creation going on, the more knowledge is created. The more that is created, and the more useful it is, the more important that it is to you and your organization.

A better metaphor when discussing knowledge creation is the idea of harnessing or harvesting knowledge. When harnessing something, you are often trying to redirect the energy of something more powerful than yourself towards the achievement of a goal such as harnessing a horse for transportation or farm work. The harvesting metaphor can also work here. You can take an idea and refine it for use in the organization without killing the knowledge creation activity.

Some questions to ponder:
Is there such a thing as bad knowledge?
What are the essential components to a good environment?
Can you manage knowledge?
What are the tools needed to harnessing?


February 13, 2002 Posted by | Random Thoughts | Leave a comment


This is a place for me to write some thoughts.

February 11, 2002 Posted by | Random Thoughts | Leave a comment


Harnessing Chaos: Understanding Chaos and Complexity in Organizations Using Human Values

The idea of chaos in organizations is nothing new. Many people have expressed the idea of describing human and organizational interaction as chaotic and complex (Goldstein, 1994; Goerner, 1994). But a key feature to understanding this chaos and complexity is to see the patterns that emerge from these interactions. Humans tend to interact with each other through the choices and decisions that are made. If one can understand the pattern of decision making of the individuals and the organization, then the true goals of the organization can be made apparent. This is a very powerful concept for allowing organizations to understand themselves and become more effective. Values are the filter by which we make these decisions (M.L.W. Hall, 1997). Understanding values therefore is a key to unleashing the complexity and power of an organization.

In the way in which people look for patterns in chaotic situations to help understand them, values measurement helps people understand the dynamics of organizational behavior by identifying patterns of value-based decision making. Historically, the difficulty in introducing the human relations dimension is that there have been as many approaches to human relations as there are understandings of the human being (Jackson, 1991). This made human relations measurement difficult. If one does not have a consistent method for understanding behavior it can make the human relations aspect of organizational interventions a guessing game. This ambiguity has fueled organizational consulting for many years. But what is more important is that it has people viewing organizational behavior as mysterious. This point of view has created a desire to “control” the organization rather than “harness” the power of it.

Chaos and complexity theory is about recognizing patterns in the seemingly unexplainable [Gleick, 1987], and using these patterns to gain greater understanding. Values measurement is about understanding and recognizing patterns of human and organizational behavior. In other words, values (and values measurement) can help one to understand some of the seemingly chaotic behavior that goes on in organizations.

A proposition of this paper is that a “new unified science of values” be introduced. This will provide a consistent and measurable way of dealing with the human relations component of an organization [B. Hall, 1993]. B. Hall and Tonna propose a theory whereby all human values are selected from a universal set of 125. This theory is based on over 25 years of human and organizational research into why people make the judgments or decisions they do. If one uses a definitive set of values, dealing with the human relations aspect of organizations can become easier by allowing certain elements to be viewed in a scientific, logical manner. This allows the organizational behavior patterns to be much more obvious. This unified method for understanding values when used with other organizational methodologies creates a holistic approach to solving problems that might not always be self evident.

Decision making is based on a combination of scientific (or otherwise “factual”) data and values [Robertshaw, Mecca and Rerick, 1978]. Factual data are the core elements needed to make the decision. Values can be looked as a filter by which we make decisions (or judgments) based on the factual data. The study of values are also cross disciplinary, and similar to the study of systems science, pulling resources from many disciplines [Rokeach, 1979]. This perspective is necessary to identify the values patterns that would not otherwise be apparent in an organization.

Values measurement is a key to understanding how values are understood within an organizational context. It allows one to see how the pockets of decision making in an organization can be congruent as well as diverse. And how different parts of the organization can have different values to another part but overall the decision-making can be congruent. And when the decision making is not congruent a values clarification process can be very helpful. Core values are the center to understanding these patterns of congruent and non-congruent decision making.

Taming the chaos and understanding the complexity of the organization is what this is all about. Identifying organizational values can lead to understanding the issues that most critically face the organization.

Organizational management techniques when used in conjunction with values measurement can help focus the organization and more importantly “tame” or “harness” the power of the organization. One cannot easily control this power or sanitize the uniqueness. But it does give one insight and also suggests how one might focus resources and energy.

Values measurement of both the individual and the organization, allows for views of the organization to be made from different perspectives. Looking at organizational values on a human (individual) scale allows one to see patterns emerge depending on position of the observer. For example, the values can be looked at in terms of developmental, cyclical and dialectical orientations. These are simply different perspectives or levels of resolution for looking at organizational behavior. What once seemed eminently chaotic may actually have a sense of elegance and order.

Human beings when studied closely (by some) can seem to be some type of irrational decision-making machine. If not irrational, at least very complex. When you put a group of these people together it would seem that they would be unable to make coherent group decisions, let alone get decisions made inside large organizations. Yet people can and do make good and coherent decisions daily.

In fact, people often look at this (group decision making capacity) as a powerful intangible element of organizations. This intangible gets various names: corporate culture, soul of the organization, core values, etc. And it is considered a very strong element within these organizations. People (consultants) make their careers trying to divine this information for client organizations. Many people feel that if they can get a hold of this intangible that they can understand how their organization is going to act. But often times it is very difficult to get this information accurately and reliably.

This “intangible” piece is the human relational element or organizational values. All too often, organizational interventions or organizational consultants employ methods that have little or no focus on the values operating in organizations. It is this lack of understanding of the human relations context that makes organizations appear inherently complex. (Conversely, those that have come at it purely from the human relations perspective have not had the organizational or “big picture” view.) It is basically a psychological view versus a socio-organizational point of view. Most people view through the lens of one or the other, they need to look through both lenses to get the whole picture.

Part of this is because organizational values are non-linearly dynamic (there is not a A causes B dynamic). But it has been generally thought that values are not something that could be easily or properly utilized in an organization. More important, however, there has been no way to measure or compare accurately this values information. But if one introduces values measurement techniques such as suggested above then this issue can be addressed.

Chaos is basically the study of non-linear dynamics. To some people it may appear that individuals make irrational decisions when in fact they make decisions that use a different set of values. Why would this matter? Values are core to human decision making. A conflict in values orientation is going to make other decisions not seem logical. A common refrain that seems to bear this out is, “We always make decisions that way, this way makes no sense.” Differing values orientations create this conflict. Keeping the values orientation congruent is key. Congruent values orientation make the organization more effective and efficient because it is not fighting the conflict of decisions based on differing values orientations. Consequently, values are the key to understanding how an organization makes decisions and moreover how they maintain effectiveness.

People like to make decisions with others that are congruent to their way of thinking. This natural tendency towards congruent thinking and decision making is a form of self organization. In an organization, the complexity of how individuals make decisions is distilled down because people will tend to focus on decisions that are closer to or congruent with others in the organization. Core values develop and patterns of decision making become apparent. Values, specifically organizational values, are emergent properties that appear in and allow the organization to organize around certain issues or ideas. This focus is what many people would term, “core values”.

Organizational values are the patterns that emerge by measuring the values of the individuals in the organization. Determining core values is not a black or white proposition. The core values simply identifies a tendency towards a type of group decision making behavior. It has at its core: desired cultural behavior, consequences, communications, processes, norms and goals.
The values interaction in organizations is non-linear in that it does not provide the “answers” for what the organization will do, but allows a predictive power to be enabled to see how organizations tend to react given their organizational values orientation (or core values).

The patterns from chaos theory that values measurement allows us to take a peak at, only scratches the surface. In a sense, it only allows us to know, as Sally Goerner suggests, the “spirit” of the organization [Goerner, 1994]. Matching the values with goals and objectives goals and objectives makes for very powerful, effective and efficient organizations.

A unique element of organizational values seems to be the way in which it lives in individuals in the organization (values of the organization are contained within individuals). The organization can spontaneously reorganize while maintaining a piece of the values orientation. The organization always manages to maintain its identity. Again, it is this is this idea of maintaining the spirit or soul of the organization.

Chaos theory and values measurement can work together with organizational management techniques to act as an analytical tool for organizational development. As these techniques develop, I think that we will find that we will be able to harness the power of organizations. Maintaining their efficiency and effectiveness without removing any of the characteristics that make the organization unique.

February 11, 2002 Posted by | Random Thoughts | Leave a comment


Some thoughts on values — some quick answers to some regular questions:

Can Human Values be changed?

There are a couple of ways of to look at it. I will go into a little detail here. Please ask me where you would like a deeper answer.

Values are really about priorities. Valuing one thing over another. We also hold a number of values in high priority at one time. The framework that I use has 125 total human values, of which, 15-20 a person holds in high priority.

Our priorities can change over time. Or if there is a significant event such as a trauma may create sudden shifts. However, the more foundational the values are, the harder they are to change.

In an organization, you want some minimal number of values in common as a way of communicating. A person can shift the priorities a little especially if they see the positive possibilities of better communication and potential for success within the organization.

Can Factors causing changes in each individual’s values be inside each individual? or outside? or both?

I would say both. Some values are intensely personal and shift with the growth of the individual. But a person’s circumstances can also affect priorities.

Can individual’s values be changed as he/she practices new values in their works?

Yes, I see capability = values + skills — you need to have the value or desire for achieving a certain value but you must also have the skills. If you do not have the value you will not practice the skills — if you do not have the skills you will not be able to achieve the value.

capability is when the two of these things come together. An organization can help on both counts. They can support a value by making it clear that it is important for success and by also providing the training needed for practicing the skills.

What should we do to make human values in accordance with organization’s values or other individuals? and how to do so?

This is a recursive issue. It is the totality of the individuals in the organization that make up the organizations values. But it is up to the organization to configure these in a manner that can maximize success. Usually, it is a good idea for the organization to have some corporate values or principles which are defined by clusters of the human value held by the employees. That way the individuals can see how there personal values and strengths can lead to the success of the organization. It becomes a kind of recursive system.

Value measurement is a key to understanding how values are understood within an organizational context. Please explain to me how we can measure the values since human values mostly belong to the human perception and conciousness.

There are basically two ways that values are expressed. Language and behavior. With language we can express our desires and needs. Values are embedded in what we think, say and write. Behavior is similar — we act (behave) in a manner consistent with trying to achieve those things that we value.

If we presume that there are a finite number of possible human behaviors, then there is a finite number of possible descriptors of these behaviors. Values can be these descriptors. If you have all the possible descriptors (values) then you should be able to describe any human behavior by values clusters.

Questionnaires are one way that people can look at descriptions of behaviors and decide which ones they are most likely to engage in. If these are based on the definition of each individual value, then you get something that is measurable. As long as we use the same measuring stick then we have something that allows us to compare alike items.

February 11, 2002 Posted by | Random Thoughts | Leave a comment


Harnessing the Evolution of a Planetary Consciousness

The more that people organize in groups, the more that we have to find new ways to do things. The explosion of travel and world wide information access is creating a world where the bounds of nations are becoming increasingly murky. While the potential for human development is great, it also creates a tension as nations try to understand what is to survive in this future. While the gains for humanity could be incredible, turf wars are going to one of the dangerous components that we need to wrestle with.

We also need to realize that achieving a Planetary Consciousness is something that does not happen overnight. We need to think far into the future and try to put into place meaningful steps that can take us along this path. At best we can hope to be a guide. If we complete some baby steps, we might actually make a difference.

Creating Global Sustainability

A majority of the world’s population does not have the minimum amount of food to eat. One of the imperative steps is that a majority of the planet must have the basic needs for survival met. While this maybe quick, we need to do this with in 2 generations. This is a tall order but one that really needs to be done if we are to have any hope of seeing ourselves as one planet rather than several nation-states.

The development of human consciousness requires that the minimum elements of survival be met. If these are not met then engaging in even the most basic human interaction is difficult if not impossible. How can you be in a position to demand a minimum change for the better if you are constantly scrambling just to stay alive. Assuming for the moment that we have the capability and the capacity to deliver food, warmth and shelter to those that want and require all over the globe? What would it take to create an environment where this was not just desired by most but a moral requirement. What we are talking about is installing a world-wide meaning system. With subtle shifts in global cultural priorities, this can be achieved. Some places it may be easier than others.

For this, we need to look at the development of the human being, the group and the planet. The levels of consciousness of the human being are going to get mirrored in the way we organize from this to how we operate as a planet. In some ways, we need to imagine what does the basic sustainable human being look like, what is the meaning system that puts this person in the best place for accessing their potential for fulfillment.

From Survival to Self Worth to Being

Being is about arriving at a place where a person has the best understanding of how to actualize their own personal fulfillment. Developmentally, this not an easy place to get to. However, there are basic components that must be in place before we can even think about this. A totally evolved planetary consciousnes would have all the people in the world with the potential of getting access to their own being. But we are still talking about baby steps.

The cornerstones of this journey are Survival, Self Worth qnd (Self) Awareness. I cannot hope to progress as a human being if I am not getting my basic needs met. But I also cannot progess if I do not feel that I am worthy of this food, or of a better life. This is true of a starving child in Ethiopia as it is to the drug addict on the streets of New York. It is these two items (survival and self worth) that must be part of the foundation of this planetary consciousness. In human terms, the planet is not meeting its basic needs so there is arrested develpment.

Creation of a planetary consciousness requires that we build up the self worth of the individual. They must feel that they are worthy of the respect of being provided with basic human necessities. This is easier said than done. Self worth is often expressed culturally. Therefore, their needs to be a common framework for establishing self worth but it should take into account the issues in a given culture.

Awareness is also important. If I know what is going on around me, I can make informed decisions.If I know how friends and peers feel, I will likely not feel alone.

Leadership and Accountabilty

Awareness is important for the person. But awareness is also about being explicit. When things are no longer hidden, when they are explicit it is harder for those in power to ignore the needs of the many. Being explicit about the needs and desire of the populace is an important way for leaders to be held accountable. Their actions are measured against.the wishes of the people and culture. Leadership without accountability creates a misuse of power. The planetary consciousness needs to create good leadership.

This awareness also creates a framework of systemic ethics. When intervening to create new planetary consciousness, the development of this system needs to provide for the needs of the whole. Awareness is essential to this.

From Clan to Global-State

Throughout history, man has had a tendency to create relationships in order to get more and more complicated things done. You started with the family or the clan (or in more modern terms a team or group). Man had to learn how to best organize this to accomplish goals such as killing a mastadon. As these tribes grew, and people became more specialized, and citys and towns developed. Each time these occured, it took time for the man to adapt and work these relationships. These groups would also get a sesne of self. A sense of ownership of the group. You progressed to the city-state and then to the nation-state. The sense of self at the level of the nation-state is what we call patriotism. It is good for creating a sense of group-self but it can create differences with other such groups.

The evolution to the global-state is going to be key to the development of an evolutionary consciousness. We need to think of ourselves as one planet, and not a planet divided into groups. We must move from Us vs. Them to We.

The global state needs to see itself as entity worthy of existing. To do this we need to evolve human development to the evolution and development of the whole. To the planet as the reflection of the holographic image of all its occupants.

February 5, 2002 Posted by | Random Thoughts | Leave a comment