Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vigilantly Curious and Relentlessly Bold: Position Yourself forTomorrow

Prior to this course I viewed technology as a tactic - something that could help us get our work done more efficiently.  I now look at it far differently.  Yes technology is very tactical.  It is also the driver of overall strategy.  It is changing how we think, relate to one another, and know our world.  It is changing what we value, power structures, our concepts of privacy and individual rights and simply how we get work done.  The lovely A Day Made of Glass makes this new world look so seamless.  But humans are not seamless and although the video was soothing on one level, it was also disturbing in that it so startlingly highlighted the chasm between the world technology makes possible for those with and without money a concern echoed by Stephen Hawking as well.  I am concerned as I consider the degree to which technology will contribute to social and economic justice and the degree it will magnify the gap.

And given the continuing acceleration of people’s access to the internet, more and more people will be aware of existing disparities.  This may cause some to show concern, others to become angry, and others to simply ignore.  So in terms of thinking about networked knowledge making us smarter or stupider … I think it can magnify either one.  It will make those who choose to operate in echo chambers, fail to connect or not take the time to discern the accuracy of information stupider.  It can help those who connect widely, stay curious and continue to maintain their compassion and sense of the humanential become smarter – even wise.  Weinberger suggests that knowledge has become a,  "web of connections to us depending on our starting point, viewpoint and inescapably human sense of what matters to us. We had hoped that knowledge is independent of us. Now we know for sure it is not." (p.180)

Kevin Kelley enthusiastically believes we are getting smarter, but points out that we are not necessarily getting smarter in the traditional view of intelligence. Instead of seeing intelligence as linear and disconnected, he views intelligence as multi-faceted, along the lines of Howard Gardner’s long held position of multiple intelligences.  However, Kelley adds AI to the mix and emphasizes that our partnership with AI will be critical.  AI will be smarter in some aspects of intelligence and we will be smarter in others. The world will become cognified, meaning everything around us will be smart.   And although it doesn’t sound very complimentary, Kelley sees the primary human contribution to this cognified world as being inefficient. He says innovation and exploration is inefficient; that you have to prototype and fail in order to learn.     

Leading through this landscape is really tricky.  I see two streams of focus: tech and human.  We need to stay on top of the rapid change in technology highlighted annually in the Gartner Hype Cycle.    The cycle points out that more and more items are heading for the peak of inflated expectations (in which we will likely invest a great deal of time and money).  Shortly thereafter many of them will fall rapidly into the trough of disillusionment (where we realize we may have wasted time and money).  I feel we leaders really can’t do much in the early phases of the cycle.  Hype happens with or without our intervention. We need to be ready to do the hard work of selecting and managing those items which will help our business back up the slope of enlightenment to the plateau of productivity.  We also need to stay aware of the impact of the internet on business and social trends as outlined in the Kleiner Perkins internet trends report.  Tomorrow’s economic and political powerhouses are not today’s.  Even 5 years ago China was not considered innovative.  Just last week FastCompany listed Chinese companies Tencent, Alibaba, Xiomi and others in their Most Innovative Companies Issue.   And with all our emphasis on millennials, the Kleiner Perkins report pointed out how different Gen Z, which is just about to enter the workplace, will be: omni channel, visual, and hyper-connected. In order to begin to stay on top of this we need to remain vigilantly curious and relentlessly bold.  Curious to keep wondering and asking about “what’s next?” and “how does that work?” and bold enough to be comfortable admitting we don’t have all the answers or knowledge but that we are simply wiring into the web and sharing with those around us.   

Weinberger offers 5 guidelines to help us navigate the human aspects.

1)  Maintain an open stance to research so everyone can learn from the process that scholars and researchers take to test their ideas.  This will help everyone learn to filter forward more effectively and become better at testing their own ideas.
 Provide the hooks for intelligence by creating more meta-data that helps people link, filter, and evaluate information.  This ensures data become more usable.
3) Constantly link information so people can understand the knowledge in context and learn more based on their own interests.
4) Encourage everyone to contribute to the body of metadata; novices to subject matter experts.
  In the past only credentialed people shared knowledge. But this method isolates thought and becomes an echo chamber. With both traditional institutional contributors sharing along with those who are simply curious, some novel alternatives can emerge and motivation to learn and question can remain high.
 We need to teach everyone how to use the net, how to evaluate knowledge (the new "literacy”), be more open to new ideas, and to love difference (reject homophily).

Overall in the discipline of leadership development, technology has presented us with many opportunities in terms of delivering content.  Learning about and testing new methods of delivery is very solvable.  More difficult is knowing what to teach.  As we have seen in this course, the landscape is very unpredictable and our past knowledge can even prevent us from fully comprehending the depth of change.   Potentially wicked challenges are: continuing to be relevant, helping learners apply their learning immediately and being able to fit time for leadership development into our learner’s lives/work.


Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.


  1. I love that you have shifted your perspective on technology from tactical to strategic.

    My work is done!

    I was reviewing FASTCOMPANY's latest issue today...and the focus on China captured my attention as well. FASTCOMPANY has been one of my go-to sources for keeping up with the changing world...and this issue continues to push my thinking. The coming generation of leaders will have grown in a world where tech and human co-exist ... and where the gap between haves and have nots continues to grow. Building walls and pushing America First may ultimately prove a dangerous it simply delays the coming leadership (and humanity) issues. Our next generation of leaders will lead in a world unlike that in which we became successful...and the things that made us successful may not be key to the future!

  2. Dr. Watwood - I am completely aligned with you. Steps backwards will leave us exactly there - backward. I see political and business decisions being made which are so mechanistic and analog but the world has gone digital ... and not just twitter digital ... but as we have been discussing foundationally digital. I am hopeful that those who are just graduating may have an understanding of how to lead in this space and really help guide - hello reverse mentoring.

  3. Tricia,

    Great post! You always bring us back to what is most important in all of these discussions—the people! Your concern about the degree to which technology will contribute to social and economic justice and the degree it will magnify the gap is something we all need to be concerned about, so we can address the challenges. In the article “Internet and Development: A Reality-Check”, Horejsova suggests that three things are needed to create a more inclusive Internet: an expanded infrastructure, development of technical and entrepreneurial skills, and supportive governments. ( The idea of global entrepreneurship makes sense, and these steps could help make it happen. I have been impressed with, an Internet company that helps artisans sell their products all over the world.

    I was intrigued by the connection you made between Kevin Kelly’s and Howard Gardner’s concepts of intelligences. As usual, I think you are on to something. In the article “The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and AI” author John N alludes that the creators of general purpose artificial intelligence should consider training with Gardner's multiple intelligences. (

    Great connections, and I keep thinking about what Tiffany Shlain said—people are the creators!


    1. Thanks for your ever-enthusiastic interaction and consistently adding to the content. So cool that you shared John N's thoughts on training in Gardner's work. Over the years I have gotten into more than one heated discussion with psychology professors and practitioners who are not fans of Gardner's use of the term intelligence paired with "multiple". And I think that view is really too narrow. Considering Gardner's work has always been extremely helpful for me in designing classes and various learning solutions. It really helps to vary the perspective. Thus it's exciting to think about how the concept could add such depth of dimension to AI. Also really glad you have found inspiration with Tiffany Shlain. She is a calming force in the technological winds. ~Tricia

  4. Tricia,
    I think that leaders, and all of us, should think about how technology will widen the social justice gaps that we have always experienced. We should be vigilant in our critical thinking about such issues. But there is also the scenario where, although girls in Somalia cannot change the color of Daddy’s dashboard, they can have access to remote healthcare diagnosis using similar technology. In other words, we may get benefit simply from the rising tide. So we can might find ourselves pushing forward to raise the tide, rather than slowing down to keep a few ships from being taller than the rest.
    Thanks for an always insightful post.

    1. Shawn - Thanks for nudging me to consider the situation from multiple viewpoints. Continuing your analogy - if the tide rises too fast I fear some people and villages being washed away or drowned. And to your point, if enough of us are vigilant and watching for that possibility (and not distracted by another new/shiny) then we will be able to provide life boats, jackets or at least escape routes to those in danger. So full speed ahead - with a full understanding that vigilance is needed if we are to ensure social justice. Regards ~Tricia

    2. Yes, technology tsunami needs to be monitored vigilantly!

  5. Another great post, Tricia! You're so thoughtful and detail-oriented - a great combination!

    I heard an interesting story on NPR the other day (and now, for the life of me, I can't find it) about how quickly all of this is moving, and the ramifications it has on education. The quote that lingered in my brain was something to the effect of, "We're attempting to prepare kids for jobs that don't exist yet."

    I think this is a fascinating paradox, and something that we absolutely not wash our hands of. I think that there's a temptation to simply give up trying to keep up when all of these innovations are bombarding us each day. In education, particularly, we can't just leave the students out to dry because we don't know what to do... we have to keep working little by little to teach what we can with the tools we have.

    Yes, jobs will be different but critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, and curiosity will still be necessary. As you said, giving learners the ability to apply new knowledge immediately will help it stick. In this way, I think we keep building a foundation for success, regardless of what comes next.

    A personal aside: when I was little, I wanted to be a paleontologist but ended up as a web designer! Who would have thought! I remember in my college days, I was among a handful of students that took the first "web design" class. The teacher (young and hip though she was) was learning right along side us. None of us had a clue what the web design industry looked like, let alone how to prepare for a career in the field. The prof did her best to leverage her knowledge of existing principles along with a lot of collaborative problem solving. I think it was that spirit of curiosity and the trial and error approach that allowed me to tackle a career in an emerging industry.

    I know you're an avid proponent of fostering creative thinking and curious problem solving - and I can see why it's such a valuable practice!

    1. James - Love your example - it's such a testament to the learner's adventurous mindset. Your professor did a great job modeling that and reinforcing a trial and error - learn from your mistakes culture. What a gift. When I was in kindergarten and my dad in grad school my mom was assigned to teach algebra II in the junior high. Her degree was in English Literature for good reason. She felt lost in math. However, she did what your professor did. She taught herself each lesson the night before and because the "step by step new learner" mindset was so fresh in her mind - students who had never been able to follow before caught on. Hmm - this supports taking a very healthy and optimistic approach to the paradox you outline. Certainly we can work to be as knowledgeable as possible. However, we may not need to worry so much when we don't know. Just jump in, stay curious and learn together. Having lots of questions just may be more valuable than having the answers :-) ~Thanks - Tricia