A Landscape for Discovery

Learning and innovation have a common thread.  In simple terms, their mission is to expand what we know. We begin at familiar places, we move to areas of uncertainty, to explore .. then, with luck and a fair wind, we return a little better informed.

Let’s call this mission one of discovery.

Seeking knowledge is a core human aspiration, a measure of what makes our species unique. Unfortunately its a path from which many have drifted. The more rigorous aspects of critical thinking and complex problem solving are now often left to experts, those among the shrinking ranks of science and corporate R&D. As I’ve written about a knowledge renaissance in other posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that  more people need to be able to engage on harder problems. And we need better ways to frame the gaps.

Take a look at this picture:


In the lower left hand corner we start with ‘what we know’.  As we move out, we launch our journey of discovery. Do we have a direction? That depends on our situation and objectives. Perhaps we launch multiple journeys in succession. Or we explore in parallel. Or maybe we just wander around, afraid to venture far from familiar territory.

In every case, the journey back is when we extract value. We apply what we’ve learned. We adapt, adding to our knowledge base, giving each successive journey a head start.

This model was developed by Mary Nations of Nations Alliance here in Raleigh, with input from Holladay and Cheesebrow at HSDI. I find it particularly fascinating because of its potential for broad application. Think of how we might reframe education reform; paradigms for innovation and complex systems; a reinforced foundation for knowledge management (KM); a fresh look at the learning organization.

At a minimum, I think we’ve established some context .. a canvas on which to chart our journeys of discovery. Look across this landscape and into the future. What do you see?

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