Pathways for change in the K12 Ecosystem

It’s easy to toss aside the notion of meaningful social change. For starters, you’d have lots of company. But let’s take a look at an area with mounting problems and the highest of stakes:

Un-packing the Challenges of K12 Education

By any measure, our western culture and economy – and within that universe, our education systems – have grown so large and intertwined that we quickly scoff at the notion of doing something to improve them. Countless well-intended efforts have failed. Or they succeed for a bit locally, but then can’t scale. Frustrations mount. Those inside the hardened silos of our aging institutions are just as trapped by their realities as those on the outside.

It’s not a lack of passion or desire. It’s just that, as a society, we’ve become overwhelmed by ‘the system’. It’s been going on for a long time – by most accounts, over 100 years. Quite simply, it feels like we’ve lost control, and in some important ways, we have.

What if we changed the rules?

The problem with social, cultural and economic forces – the complex result of human interaction – is that the outcomes don’t align with our intentions. Most of us were reared in a simple (linear, Newtonian) world of ’cause and effect’, and we expect a simple answer to every problem.

Why can’t we just fix schools? Or healthcare? Or the economy?

What we’re learning is that complex systems – especially the human variety – work and behave very differently. We must focus on actors, motivators, outcomes and patterns.

We must attack these problems in a different way.

EcoSys is a social innovation group that started in August 2009. The goal of the group has been to apply a new science – the study of complexity in social ecosystems – to the hardened problems we face as a society.

Intriguing? Ambitious? Yes, on both counts. But open your mind for a moment.

Can you imagine the potential of global thought leaders discovering a focused problem-solving dialog, adding to it, and ultimately building a shared knowledge base of solutions?

Can you imagine an objective exchange of ideas and concerns, shared publicly in the spirit of collaboration, subordinating agendas and special interests in favor of meaningful, scalable innovations?

Can you see social media – Twitter, in fact – as an engine for change, with the connections of each contributor serving as pathways to deeper insight and focused action?

That work is underway, and we’ve posted some K12 progress here.

We’ve still got some work to do on it, as we continue to refine our issue framing.

Are you ready to Engage?  Join us each MONDAY at 9pET using hashtag #ecosys. You can use TweetChat  (try this link), TweetDeck, TweetGrid or HootSuite to join us. Just be sure the #ecosys hashtag is in each tweet, and search on that tag.  Bring your insights and an open mind. It’s free, unaffiliated, and destined to make a difference.

How do we know?

Because 3 years in and some +40,000 tweets later, our topics are gaining traction and spontaneous conversations are starting to break out. We call that momentum. And we’re working to take a step to the next level.

Stay tuned. And welcome to the K12 ecosys.

Original framing blog
Full process
EcoDNA (our first emergent innovation)
EcoSYS founders

The DNA of Collaboration: Unlocking the Potential of 21st Century Teams (where Ecosys is a case study)

Featured

Web 2.0′s “Broadcast” problem: The case for Meaningful Engagement

For the commercial web’s first decade, people communicated the old fashioned way: broadcasting their messages to anyone who would listen. It was a simple, easy extension of traditional advertising, public relations, politics and academic publishing. E-mail, also cutting edge at the time, modeled the same broadcast mentality. It was yet another easy way to lob messages to large audiences.

Prevalence of the “broadcast model” has limited people’s view of how the internet can be used to deliver messages. Many still don’t realize that the new internet (Web 2.0) offers a radically different proposition: collaborating with others via an open, multi-party exchange.

Engagement is communication at a different level

If communicating via email was passive and routine, the connections possible with engagement are active and dynamic. True engagement is more work. It requires time, energy and active listening. But the resulting flow of information brings rich rewards. Insights begin to accumulate and multiply. Ideas get validated and enhanced in several directions at once. And as the value of the idea exchange increases, personal relationships begin to form around them.

Meaningful, high-value connections like these are at the core of the Twitter chat phenomenon that’s spawned successful, ongoing communities like #smchat and #blogchat and social innovation teams like #ecosys.

And yet engagement rates among the masses remain critically low. Try to talk about social media with the average person, and you can see the resistance in their eyes, as if to say, “I know better, I’ve heard that one before, you can’t fool me.”

That makes building social teams and virtual communities much harder than it needs to be.

Why so much resistance?

I find the Web 1.0 mindset serves as a filter to the possibilities, reinforced by a culture that has grown cynical and distrusting. Unfortunately, those old habits and opinions die hard.

Thought leadership in this space goes back 50 years. Concepts like Thomas Kuhn’s “paradigm” (1962), Charles Handy’s “organizational culture” (1976), and Peter Senge’s “mental models” (1990) all build on the theme of the filters we use when we perceive the world around us. It seems we’ve advanced our understanding, but have moved too little to act on what we’ve learned.

The idea of “getting outside the box” was clearly spawned from this line of thinking. Far too many remain safely inside those boxes.

Here’s a key takeaway, unvarnished:

Mental filters (influenced by culture, formal education and our past life experiences) shape how we perceive the world around us, blinding us to new perspectives and blocking us from making deep connections with others.

Can we take this problem on, unlocking engagement in the virtual space? I say yes. Getting past our mental filters may be the first hurdle, but there are more. I’ve posted thoughts on the specifics of meaningful engagement over at Talent Culture.

There’s a world full of complex problems out there. Embracing broad, meaningful collaborative engagement on a much larger scale is critical if we hope to solve them.

Solving for ‘Social Media’? Why Context Matters

It’s common these days to see conversations or workshops with the premise: “here’s how you achieve success in social media.”

To be fair, in our weekly SMCHAT discussions, we’ve been exploring some similar questions .. though we’d claim it’s been with rigor, applying energy to frame specifics, and to vet our takeaways. But let’s face it. Lots of people are trying to get their hands around the new technology. The answers are needed.

No harm, no foul.

What we’ve learned, however, is that ‘solving for SM’ can’t be reduced to a simple formula.

Sure, it’s fundamental to engage, and to be authentic. Those are universal basics. But there’s also a variety of usage scenarios that cross a range of organizational contexts. The dynamics of using social technologies can vary quite a bit .. all the way down to selecting the best tools and metaphors .. depending on these scenarios. To illustrate the point, here’s a quick snapshot of the results from our brainstorming over the last several weeks.

For more viewable detail, check out the SM Usage Scenarios in pdf format.

Like everything we do at SMCHAT, we’re going to attack the problem head on, to try and wrestle it down. But this one may be our nemesis. With a quick glance, it’s clear: there are many contexts to consider, a range of content types, and (as shown in the PDF) a diverse set of audiences. The many to many to many mapping can get a bit crazy. Welcome to social media. Or in some quarters, its now ‘new media’ .. more proof of the variability of requirements across venues.

The semantics of “2.0” can be a daunting exercise, no?

We’re going to use charts like these to get our bearings, as we plan the scope and scale for SMCHAT in 2010, already in progress. But if there’s one thing we CAN take away from this analysis already, it’s this.

The correct answer to “How should you handle ‘social media’ .. ?”

It depends.

Starting 2010 with a Bias for Action

It’s the New Year, and there’s no time like the present to embrace all the things we spent 2009 talking about. Trouble is, there was lots of talk in 2009. Talk full of buzz words. Some claim that we’ve begun talking in circles. Maybe so. But in the process, we’ve laid an important foundation.

Look at it like this:

Meaningful, sustainable change starts with an informed conversation. Together, it’s easier to frame the future, to find the best path forward.

In 2009, via blogs and chats, we began to frame that future.

In many ways, 2009 had to happen. It’s not entirely clear how, but we survived it. We realigned our cost structures, built our networks, and learned how to interact using social media.

Now, with scarcely time for a breath, the hard work begins anew. Let’s start 2010 with a clear mindset. Here are four key themes, resolutions to guide our collaboration efforts:

  1. Bias for action. The key step in breaking the talk cycle.
  2. Bias for engagement. Moving away from the Web 1.0 broadcast model of communicating, toward a more valuable 1:1 exchange that builds relationships.
  3. Bias for learning and discovery. I’ve posted on the need for a learning culture, not only increased higher priority for education, but renewed focus on critical thinking and semantic clarity. If we succeed, the prize is a knowledge renaissance.
  4. Bias for change. None of the above will matter if we continue to cling to the past. Our risk-averse cultures are often biased to resist change. To move forward, we need to embrace it.

What does action-oriented collaboration look like? Here are some case studies in virtual community that seek to use engagement and discovery to drive new solutions:

  1. Look for some immediate changes at #smchat. Building on insights from 2009, we’re brainstorming how we can drive even more value for members. Thought leadership and emergent insight have been the core of our value stream. How can we leverage that?
  2. We’re at an inflection point for exciting things w/ #ecosys, our pilot project on public engagement to drive social innovation.
  3. Take a look at what’s happening at govloop. Over 20,000 voices from across government are self-organizing. Ideas are everywhere.

Let me know if you know of others.

2010 will be a time of culture change and new paradigms. We don’t have much choice. So strap in and hold on. We’ve got some work to do.

ECOSYS on Social Reform: the Road Ahead

As you’ll see in this thread, a group of self-organizing innovators has put quality thought on how public collaboration can help get at the core of complex social issues.

So far, we’ve been  focused on framing challenges in Public Education.

The hurdles are formidable, so we’re focusing on a few specific areas, to build awareness and momentum (note: in the chat format, we number discussion topics sequentially):

  • T1 Participation. We need diverse stakeholder input (teachers, parents, administrators, businesses, legislators, students, suppliers); all have a role in the future state; are they engaged? how can we engage them?
  • T2 Ecosystem Dynamics. We must understand how the current system works and where it breaks down, using the basics of systems thinking and mental models framed as operating paradigms;
  • T3 Priorities. We must factor in the national agenda with Race to the Top (competitive stimulus model) and how it effects state and local initiatives; what are the gaps that will remain? are the stakeholders aligned?
  • T4 Culture Change. We need to explore a critical but overlooked topic: does our culture place necessary emphasis on learning?

Clayton Christensen reminds us that the ‘factory model’ of public education is over 100 years old, making it deeply entrenched. Regarding the public, Tim O’Reilly uses the interesting metaphor of a vending machine, where taxpayers (especially, in the case of education, parents)  insert money and expect services to come out the other end.

Top CEO’s talk about 21st century workforce demands in an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal. Read this. It will help get you thinking on what we’re up against.

We have seen significant power in discussion among concerned stakeholders. Be a part of the solution. Join the LIVE conversation, Mondays at 9pET. To participate we recommend tweetchat (click here at the appointed hour).

The next meeting is Jan 4. We hope you can join us.

Insights from 10/15 NC Inmagic Session

Recently, I had the chance to speak with a group of NC-based Inmagic customers. The crowd was packed with experienced KM practitioners, many with library science backgrounds. While framing a “knowledge renaissance” might have sounded ambitious in other venues, with this audience, it was time to swing for the fences.

AMG112799c-Inmagic-NC-1015

I’d laid out the core themes in a prior post, but as with any productive collaboration, new ideas can emerge when people come together with different perspectives, applying alternative contexts to old problems, or approaching issues in unexpected ways. This Inmagic session was no exception.

Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. People produce knowledge, not process or technology; as ‘knowledge workers’, they do this by applying context to raw information; metadata (via tagging) continues to be a primary means
  2. Due to the flood of electronic content, the workload of knowledge workers is ever increasing
  3. Finding and keeping track of authoritative SME’s (subject matter experts) has become increasingly difficult
  4. Meaningful relationships are essential elements of collaboration and community
  5. Engagement (rather than passive participation) is required
  6. Understanding complexity is a key building block in the evolution of learning organizations
  7. Social media is unlocking many doors to knowledge worker collaboration, but proliferation of niche SM tools remains a challenge; vendors are making headway as they work toward the needed integration, a key factor in Enterprise 2.0 enablement
  8. Learning and innovation share common threads (discovery, visualization, vetting of alternative solutions), prompting the question: are ‘learning’ and ‘innovation’ really the same thing? or perhaps driven from the same cognitive skill base?
  9. There is a new imperative to foster “cultures of learning”.

If you’ve followed my last few posts in this thread, you may note the evolution on the ‘cultures of learning’ concept. I now see it as a required baseline. Culture has always been an important factor. But for me, the ‘learning’ imperative emerged during the preparation of the deck and the discussions that followed.

So our session proved the point: we can always learn .. if we dare to listen, and to keep an open mind.

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Here’s a look at the slides.

Thanks again to my hosts at Inmagic and the KM practitioners they assembled. Together, we shed some new light on the path to Enterprise 2.0, the future of KM, and the steps to achieve a Knowledge Renaissance.

Mind Maps 101

Everybody makes lists. It’s how we organize things. In fact, lately, I’ve had so many balls in the air that I’ve been making lists of lists. I guess its multi-tasking at its best.

What if we could create a list of lists visually, and put them online?

That’s pretty much what a Mind Map does, and the technology is taking off. I am by no means an expert, but I see the ability to visually organize our insights and our subject matter as powerful. If carefully constructed, important relationships are intuitive.

Here’s an example. If you’re like me, it’s getting harder to keep track of which topics and people are associated with the expanding universe of Twitter chats. So I used mind mapping to create a sample PDF; a thumbnail is shown here:

MindMap

MindMap Sample - SM Innovation

My map shows two primary chat groups #SMCHAT and #INNOCHAT, which, collectively, focus on how we can tap social media to drive innovation. It all seems to center around collaboration, so that’s in the middle. My personal depth in this space is on the social media aspect, so I focused there. I thought through the various aspects of SM, and devised related branches. As moderator of #SMCHAT, I’ve watched topics “emerge” over the last 5 months, so those relationships became apparent fairly quickly. In the 2-page PDF (version 1.2b), I fleshed out the space a bit more, showing related chats and hashtags. I added references to group leads and TweepML stakeholder lists (there’s that word again!), then saved it as a PDF.

A mind map like this one can help you navigate subjects and, if cross-referenced with resources, perhaps even help you to identify subject matter experts (or “SME’s”).

To address some potential questions:

Why the blank lines coming out of #INNOCHAT? That chat is redrafting its charter; watch for updates. No details on some branches? Those are areas I know less about, or in the case of Enterprise 2.0, I’m showing them to create some context and to spark more discussion. Do you disagree with some of my lines? No problem. Let’s collaborate, and we’ll fix them.

See how easy?

On Wednesday, 10/28 at 1pET, #SMCHAT will be all about Mind Maps. We’ll use this time to discuss what you can do with these exciting new visualization tools. I’ve invited a couple of experts, including @chuckfrey, @litemind and our own @jkloren to share what they can.

If you’d like to experiment with an open source (free) tool, take a look at XMind.

And this just in: a great interview w/ Mind Map expert Chuck Frey, super insight for the mind map chat.

I’ve roughed out an agenda and will share it shortly. That is, if I can remember what list I wrote it on. Hope you can join us.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

On Cultures of Learning

Since August, I’ve been on a journey. My posts have ranged from social innovation and ecosystem reform to Enterprise 2.0, the pitfalls of traditional Knowledge Management (KM), and the first inklings of a knowledge renaissance.

Do you see common elements? What if we made an effort to foster cultures of learning throughout our social and commercial ecosystems?  If we assumed there were shared threads, what kind of tapestry could we weave?

..

A Knowledge Renaissance

..

At the core of such a model would be teams of people, working to understand and improve the many problems and challenges in front of them. Let’s call that process collaboration. Social media is making this a virtual experience, removing traditional geographic and political barriers. Now anyone can collaborate with virtually anyone, at little or no cost. All it takes is a commitment of time, and a sense of purpose. What would they be working towards? The stuff of paradigm shifts, really: emergent insight, knowledge, or simply a better “way of doing things”. So we’ll call the outcome by its rightful name: innovation.

Now let’s look at examples in two distinct areas:

Social context. In areas like public education and healthcare, a focus on stakeholder outcomes is gaining increasing priority. Many have grown frustrated by a current state that is broken and dysfunctional. Even now, social innovators are forming ranks to attack issues in our ecosystems.

Commercial context. Still other teams begin to work in cross-functional ways to drive new organizational models. Focus on individual contribution increases. Silos are seen as the problem. Under banners like “Enterprise 2.0” and “Social Business Design” corporate innovators are building new models for networked interaction and collaboration.

Today, social and corporate cultures rule the status quo, and are routinely identified as the most critical barrier to change. The alternative? We need to build cultures that embrace learning as a fundamental requirement, bringing open minds and critical thinking to the table.

Behind the scenes, learning and innovation are woven tightly together.

Here’s the bottom line: if it sounds ambitious, it is. But the foundational work is underway and social media has unlocked many new doors. Its work that needs our energy and our focus. Are you on board? I’d love to get your thoughts.

What’s Next at ECOSYS?

[Overview. Since August, the ECOSYS public collaboration team has been developing an approach to frame problems and solutions in social ecosystems like Education (#EDU) and Healthcare (#HCR). Prior posts in this thread introduced the ECOSYS framework describing the building blocks of our process model.]

On MON 11/2 we started framing our EDU Issues. Progress to date:

Areas we have touched on are in yellow. Most recent updates are in orange. Considerable work remains, but we’ve begun to attack the core challenge of rigorous framing.

On MON 11/16 we reviewed the ARRA Federal Stimulus model for Race to the Top to understand ECOSYS impacts. From our master list, we developed a cross reference showing problems that appear to have less RTTT priority:

  • P1 Learning Culture
  • P2 Incentives
  • P5 Workforce/Jobs
  • P6 IEP/Custom Curriculum

One line of thinking: we can add the most value by addressing these areas. To help further frame these issues and potential solutions, we think it’s critical to provide strong ecosystem definitions, so we’ll continue to maintain high priority for:

  • P7 EDU Ecosystem

What do you think? Do you have ideas on these topics, or our conclusions? We’d love to have you post them here as blog comments. You can also pose new ideas, questions and inputs on priorities to our #ECOSYS tweet stream. Just be sure to use the #ECOSYS hashtag, and we’ll see it.

We connect and engage via LIVE CHAT. This let’s us vet and brainstorm progress and develop solution language in real-time. You are more than welcome to join. Just bring your insights and an open mind. You can access the chat LIVE at the appointed time in a variety of ways, but we recommend TweetChat.

The next ECOSYS LIVE session will be MON 12/7. Time for future meetings is TBD, but meetings to date have been at 8pET. ECOSYS needs diverse stakeholder input, which means we are likely to need your engagement. Meet the team. As always, your ECOSYS contributions are appreciated.

ECOSYS Homework: How to frame our Problem Inventory?

On Monday 10/12 we had a great chat to finalize our Ground Rules. We’ve agreed work on our “process manual” is not completely closed, but we’ve also determined the basic rules are framed well enough for us to the move forward. The next stage? Framing the problems in our social ecosystems.

The team asked what should be done to prep for our next session. Great question! So here we go:

10/19 Assignment 1. What would an Inventory of Ecosystem Problems look like? Obviously, there is more than one problem in each ecosystem, so they’ll need to form a list. But what would each entry on such a list look like? To help you get started, there are some requirements to keep in mind. We need to minimize confusion and ambiguity; a reasonably informed citizen (as opposed to an expert) must be able to recognize the elements, the context of the problem, and the various possible outcomes. And everyone will need to agree on the way it is framed. It’s a lot harder than it may have seemed. If this task was easy, someone would have done it by now.

If you have thoughts, we’d love to have you post them here as blog comments. You can also pose directional ideas or questions in our tweet stream #ecosys or you can post quick clarifying questions on NING.

We will vet and brainstorm answers in our weekly chats until we have a workable approach for constructing a issues inventory. As always, you’re ECOSYS contributions are appreciated.

If you have a heart for social innovation, you’ve come to the right place.