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RE: [cp] Self Organisation & leadership (formerly A blog post on CoP volunteer motivation)

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  • eisai@comcast.net
    I ve very much appreciated the points of view of Miguel and Dave and the very good comments of John, Bronwyn, Beverly, Andy, and Nancy. An important issue has
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 11, 2007
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      I've very much appreciated the points of view of Miguel and Dave and the very
      good comments of John, Bronwyn, Beverly, Andy, and Nancy. An important issue has been
      raised and many aspects of the issue have been highlighted in previous comments.
      My interest here starts with the notion that all CoPs are not alike and that
      from a KM point of view we may want to create and maintain a type of CoP called
      a Commmunity of Inquiry, rather than CoPs of other types.

      A Community of Inquiry (COI) is distinguished by its:

      1. Objective of producing knowledge that is closer to the truth
      2. Emphasis on continuous criticism, testing, and evaluation in attempting
      to eliminate falsehoods
      3. Refusal to accept that community agreement on the survival of an idea,
      theory, or model "establishes" or "justifies" it
      4. Members engaging in distributed problem solving which requires::
      a. Equal and open access to the community's previously produced
      knowledge
      b. Equal opportunity to produce new knowledge, and
      c. Equal access to the means to communicate new knowledge produced
      within the community

      I think the idea of the COI relates to the issues raised in the following way.
      First, the emphasis on 2. and 4. requires continuing self-organization, and in agreement with Dave I think self-organizing behavior is essential and shouldn't be undermined by leadership, management, or moderation, and also that leadership in COIs should be emergent, rather than formal and imposed.

      Second, however, I also think we need to recognize that human communities and human systems, in general, are special kinds of complex adaptive systems. In another place (http://www.dkms.com/papers/openenterpriseexcerptnumb1final.pdf pp.32-33), I've pointed out that
      In social systems concentrations of influence, power, and authority relations, and of the resources that are at the basis of them, are a natural occurrence, an emergent reality affecting CAS interaction, and also that the development and existence of such relations, is an important factor distinguishing social CASs from other types of CASs, and also carries with it a tendency to undermine the forces of self-organization and emergence..

      Specifically, social CASs are subject to attempts by human individuals to change the patterns of interaction and outcomes that a social CAS is predisposed to produce. In fact, leadership and management are, unfortunately, all too frequently about attempting to treat communities as though they were mechanical systems, subject to determinate cause-and-effect relations, rather than as CASs whose global behavior results from self-organization and distributed knowledge processing. Such attempts at control produce continual conflict and oscillations between system predispositions produced by interacting agents within self-organizing processes, and other predispositions produced by the efforts of the powerful and influential to realize their own visions of the future through command-and-control interventions. Thus, social CASs constitute a type that Mark McElroy and I call Promethean CASs or PCASs, because, in a manner of` speaking, their normal predispositions toward behavior and distrib
      uted knowledge processing patterns are subject to the �god-like� intervention of the powerful and the influential.

      In stating the above, I'm not trying to make the point that human efforts to purposefully change communities and social systems through management and/or leadership are always and everywhere negative in their implications. Instead, I'm simply pointing to the issue of analyzing, understanding, and predicting the impact of interventions by the powerful on existing self-organizing behavior and knowledge structures. Because communities are PCASs, they cannot be understood solely in terms of CAS theory and models developed to account for biological phenomena at the cellular level or in animal behavior. Instead, we need new models that will account for the impact of the interaction of predispositions toward self-organization arising out of distributed behavior and knowledge processing, and predispositions to new goal states introduced by hierarchically organized agents with disproportionate power and influence in commanding or otherwise influencing the behavior of others.

      The task of any CAS system is to maintain itself at �the edge of chaos.� This task is difficult enough in the face of environmental influences that tend to transition CASs either to chaotic dynamics, or to closed systems inexorably driven toward a sterile mechanical equilibrium. It is even more difficult in the context of continuing interventions by the powerful that frequently may amplify the strength of tendencies toward one extreme or another by changing the internal environment affecting self-organization. Management in the context of the COI is about implementing policies that will support self-organization in distributed knowledge processing and problem-solving by maintaining openness in problem recognition, developing alternative solutions, and error elimination, as well as openness in communicating and diffusing new solutions across the community.

      And here is where I may agree with Miguel, though I'm not sure because I'm not entirely clear on the details of the case he is describing. However, his description of his CoP pictures it as one in which a clique had emerged as the de facto power structure and had proceeded to inhibit and perhaps even prevent further self-organization in his community. By breaking this structure, he believes, he restored a much more free-wheeling pattern of interaction and a much more open flow of conversation. In my terms he intervened and may have successfully removed the constraints on self-organization which had developed. If that is, indeed what he did, then his actions had the effect of moving the community toward the COI type and away from the closed community that had emerged from the first phase of COI organization. I may have been the right thing to do.

      In applying CAS theory to human social systems, and specifically to CoPs in a KM context, I think it is too easy to assume that the best Government is that which governs least, and therefore that the moderator in CoPs should intervene in exchanges only in extreme circumstances. I think this is indeed true when it comes to the substance of what people have to say, and I also think that it would be true across the board if human CASs were more like CASs found in other biological systems. However, since human PCASs, may become unstable with respect to self-organization at any time due to the effects of influence, power, and authority relations (remember such examples as the French and Russian Revolutions and Golding's Lord of the Flies), such systems can't be trusted to maintain self-organization, if moderators or managers follow a policy of non-intervention.

      So, when it comes to civil communication, or to other conditions in communities that undermine openness, distributed problem-solving, and continuous criticism and exchange, I think the moderator needs to formulate and implement policies that will maintain or support openness and the pattern of the Community of Inquiry, because it is that type of community, and only that type, that fulfills the primary Knowledge Management objective of enhancing knowledge processing.

      Best,


      Joe
      -------------- Original message ----------------------
      From: David Snowden <snowded@...>
      > Its nice to see the substantial issue being taken up here, so thanks to Andy
      for
      > starting it and others for contributing. I also put in a provisional title
      > change.
      >
      > I would agree with Bronwyn and Beverley that most groups end up with some form
      > of leadership, however an emergent leadership is very different from one which
      > is formal and imposed. I think John is wrong to say that it is an issue of
      > scale (to which I will return at the end of this post)
      >
      > Such emergent leadership seems to me (I have no firm data on this so this is
      an
      > anecdotal reflection) to vary over time and to be held by more than one
      > participation. One sees this in discussion groups where the number of any
      > active discussants is normally a small number. Such leadership is based on
      (i)
      > a willingness to put in the energy and time to participate and (ii) the
      > willingness of the group overall to accept the nature and frequency of
      > participation. The best way to handle a Troll is to deny them a response for
      > example.
      >
      > Now I have seen facilitation work well where the facilitator takes the role of
      a
      > servant, seeking to trigger/enable a discussion or manage a process.
      > Ritualisation of on line discussion (formal debates, virtual story sticks etc)
      > work well over short periods of time for specific purposes, but tend to break
      > down when the facilitator lapses into moral or formal paternalism. Moral
      > paternalism is where the facilitator seeks to admonish the participants for
      > unruly behaviour, formal where comments or indeed participation is censored.
      > There is an interesting side bar here related to time. Crews (by not means
      the
      > same thing as teams) work well for limited time spans with formal and
      ritualised
      > roles (think of an aircraft crew or similar). I think we may need some of the
      > same structure (and time restriction)in task focused on line groups, but
      again
      > this is a qualification on entry.
      >
      > Overall I think the type of censorship and direction to which I objected both
      in
      > the discussion thread, and in the Knowledge Board quote, is probably a hang
      over
      > for CoP technology over the last decade, pre Web 2.0 (although I am not wild
      > about that term). There is also a cultural hang over from process
      > re-engineering which preceded knowledge management. Organisations setting up
      > CoPs made a considerable investment and also took across much of their
      existing
      > management philosophy. The voluntary and government sector has, to my great
      > regret, tended to follow reported (but not actual) industrial practice in this
      > respect.
      >
      > What has been fascinating is to see the way in which the informal has thrived
      in
      > contrast with the formal. I documented some of this within IBM in an article
      > "Complex Acts of Knowing" in which we discovered that the release of
      technology
      > without control had created a far richer source of collaboration, community
      and
      > knowledge than the formal CoP programmes. We can see the same thing now with
      > the blogosphere both within and without companies along with other social
      > computing tools. I have said on many occasions over the last couple of years
      > that we needed today's technologies a decade ago when KM became active, we
      could
      > have avoided a lot of cost, frustration and failure.
      >
      > What is evident is that large scale interactions (which include informal
      > networks) are true complex adaptive systems, they exhibit self-organising
      > capabilities. I would therefore argue against (I think) John that this is an
      > issue of scale. If anything where there is a need for formalism it is in
      short
      > term directed groups not wider collaboration and knowledge sharing. In an
      > organisational environment I think the days of structure are ending.
      >
      > The Sylvia Plath poem quoted is interesting as two words are take in isolation
      > from the final verse and from the poem as a whole. The poem was written (I
      > think but this is a recall from thirty years ago) after she had heard of
      Hughes
      > infidelity. Taken in that interpretation I think it appropriate.
      >
      > Words dry and riderless,
      > The indefatigable hoof-taps.
      > While
      > From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
      > Govern a life.
    • Cornejo Castro, Miguel
      Hi Joe, that was a very interesting angle, and one to consider. Indeed a large part of the intervention issue could be described in that frame, as a very
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 13, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Joe,

        that was a very interesting angle, and one to consider. Indeed a large
        part of the intervention issue could be described in that frame, as a
        very serious part of the forum that was "intervened upon" was its
        character of inquiry into the subject, a "COI" by your description,
        indeed. That was not, however, the full story, as it also had a
        practice-oriented "show and comment work" part.

        As you can see in my last ("looong message" :-)) post, near the end, the
        intervention:

        - Split the forums so as to separate the "COI-type" technical inquiry
        side, from the more "social-practical" side.

        - Broke the stranglehold of the clique (social-practical) on the
        conversations and initiatives of the rest.

        Please refer to that post for much more detail :-).

        Best regards,

        Miguel

        -----Mensaje original-----
        De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com [mailto:com-prac@yahoogroups.com] En nombre
        de eisai@...
        Enviado el: domingo, 12 de agosto de 2007 4:49
        Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
        Asunto: RE: [cp] Self Organisation & leadership (formerly A blog post on
        CoP volunteer motivation)

        I've very much appreciated the points of view of Miguel and Dave and the
        very good comments of John, Bronwyn, Beverly, Andy, and Nancy. An
        important issue has been raised and many aspects of the issue have been
        highlighted in previous comments.
        My interest here starts with the notion that all CoPs are not alike and
        that from a KM point of view we may want to create and maintain a type
        of CoP called
        a Commmunity of Inquiry, rather than CoPs of other types.

        A Community of Inquiry (COI) is distinguished by its:

        1. Objective of producing knowledge that is closer to the truth
        2. Emphasis on continuous criticism, testing, and evaluation in
        attempting to eliminate falsehoods
        3. Refusal to accept that community agreement on the survival of an
        idea, theory, or model "establishes" or "justifies" it
        4. Members engaging in distributed problem solving which requires::
        a. Equal and open access to the community's previously
        produced knowledge
        b. Equal opportunity to produce new knowledge, and
        c. Equal access to the means to communicate new knowledge
        produced within the community

        I think the idea of the COI relates to the issues raised in the
        following way.
        First, the emphasis on 2. and 4. requires continuing self-organization,
        and in agreement with Dave I think self-organizing behavior is essential
        and shouldn't be undermined by leadership, management, or moderation,
        and also that leadership in COIs should be emergent, rather than formal
        and imposed.

        Second, however, I also think we need to recognize that human
        communities and human systems, in general, are special kinds of complex
        adaptive systems. In another place
        (http://www.dkms.com/papers/openenterpriseexcerptnumb1final.pdf
        pp.32-33), I've pointed out that In social systems concentrations of
        influence, power, and authority relations, and of the resources that are
        at the basis of them, are a natural occurrence, an emergent reality
        affecting CAS interaction, and also that the development and existence
        of such relations, is an important factor distinguishing social CASs
        from other types of CASs, and also carries with it a tendency to
        undermine the forces of self-organization and emergence..

        Specifically, social CASs are subject to attempts by human individuals
        to change the patterns of interaction and outcomes that a social CAS is
        predisposed to produce. In fact, leadership and management are,
        unfortunately, all too frequently about attempting to treat communities
        as though they were mechanical systems, subject to determinate
        cause-and-effect relations, rather than as CASs whose global behavior
        results from self-organization and distributed knowledge processing.
        Such attempts at control produce continual conflict and oscillations
        between system predispositions produced by interacting agents within
        self-organizing processes, and other predispositions produced by the
        efforts of the powerful and influential to realize their own visions of
        the future through command-and-control interventions. Thus, social CASs
        constitute a type that Mark McElroy and I call Promethean CASs or PCASs,
        because, in a manner of` speaking, their normal predispositions toward
        behavior and distrib uted knowledge processing patterns are subject to
        the "god-like" intervention of the powerful and the influential.

        In stating the above, I'm not trying to make the point that human
        efforts to purposefully change communities and social systems through
        management and/or leadership are always and everywhere negative in their
        implications. Instead, I'm simply pointing to the issue of analyzing,
        understanding, and predicting the impact of interventions by the
        powerful on existing self-organizing behavior and knowledge structures.
        Because communities are PCASs, they cannot be understood solely in terms
        of CAS theory and models developed to account for biological phenomena
        at the cellular level or in animal behavior. Instead, we need new models
        that will account for the impact of the interaction of predispositions
        toward self-organization arising out of distributed behavior and
        knowledge processing, and predispositions to new goal states introduced
        by hierarchically organized agents with disproportionate power and
        influence in commanding or otherwise influencing the behavior of others.


        The task of any CAS system is to maintain itself at "the edge of chaos."
        This task is difficult enough in the face of environmental influences
        that tend to transition CASs either to chaotic dynamics, or to closed
        systems inexorably driven toward a sterile mechanical equilibrium. It is
        even more difficult in the context of continuing interventions by the
        powerful that frequently may amplify the strength of tendencies toward
        one extreme or another by changing the internal environment affecting
        self-organization. Management in the context of the COI is about
        implementing policies that will support self-organization in distributed
        knowledge processing and problem-solving by maintaining openness in
        problem recognition, developing alternative solutions, and error
        elimination, as well as openness in communicating and diffusing new
        solutions across the community.

        And here is where I may agree with Miguel, though I'm not sure because
        I'm not entirely clear on the details of the case he is describing.
        However, his description of his CoP pictures it as one in which a clique
        had emerged as the de facto power structure and had proceeded to inhibit
        and perhaps even prevent further self-organization in his community. By
        breaking this structure, he believes, he restored a much more
        free-wheeling pattern of interaction and a much more open flow of
        conversation. In my terms he intervened and may have successfully
        removed the constraints on self-organization which had developed. If
        that is, indeed what he did, then his actions had the effect of moving
        the community toward the COI type and away from the closed community
        that had emerged from the first phase of COI organization. I may have
        been the right thing to do.

        In applying CAS theory to human social systems, and specifically to CoPs
        in a KM context, I think it is too easy to assume that the best
        Government is that which governs least, and therefore that the moderator
        in CoPs should intervene in exchanges only in extreme circumstances. I
        think this is indeed true when it comes to the substance of what people
        have to say, and I also think that it would be true across the board if
        human CASs were more like CASs found in other biological systems.
        However, since human PCASs, may become unstable with respect to
        self-organization at any time due to the effects of influence, power,
        and authority relations (remember such examples as the French and
        Russian Revolutions and Golding's Lord of the Flies), such systems can't
        be trusted to maintain self-organization, if moderators or managers
        follow a policy of non-intervention.

        So, when it comes to civil communication, or to other conditions in
        communities that undermine openness, distributed problem-solving, and
        continuous criticism and exchange, I think the moderator needs to
        formulate and implement policies that will maintain or support openness
        and the pattern of the Community of Inquiry, because it is that type of
        community, and only that type, that fulfills the primary Knowledge
        Management objective of enhancing knowledge processing.

        Best,


        Joe
        -------------- Original message ----------------------
        From: David Snowden <snowded@...>
        > Its nice to see the substantial issue being taken up here, so thanks
        > to Andy
        for
        > starting it and others for contributing. I also put in a provisional
        > title change.
        >
        > I would agree with Bronwyn and Beverley that most groups end up with
        > some form of leadership, however an emergent leadership is very
        > different from one which is formal and imposed. I think John is wrong

        > to say that it is an issue of scale (to which I will return at the end

        > of this post)
        >
        > Such emergent leadership seems to me (I have no firm data on this so
        > this is
        an
        > anecdotal reflection) to vary over time and to be held by more than
        > one participation. One sees this in discussion groups where the
        > number of any active discussants is normally a small number. Such
        > leadership is based on
        (i)
        > a willingness to put in the energy and time to participate and (ii)
        > the willingness of the group overall to accept the nature and
        > frequency of participation. The best way to handle a Troll is to deny

        > them a response for example.
        >
        > Now I have seen facilitation work well where the facilitator takes the

        > role of
        a
        > servant, seeking to trigger/enable a discussion or manage a process.
        > Ritualisation of on line discussion (formal debates, virtual story
        > sticks etc) work well over short periods of time for specific
        > purposes, but tend to break down when the facilitator lapses into
        > moral or formal paternalism. Moral paternalism is where the
        > facilitator seeks to admonish the participants for unruly behaviour,
        formal where comments or indeed participation is censored.
        > There is an interesting side bar here related to time. Crews (by not
        means
        the
        > same thing as teams) work well for limited time spans with formal and
        ritualised
        > roles (think of an aircraft crew or similar). I think we may need
        > some of the same structure (and time restriction)in task focused on
        > line groups, but
        again
        > this is a qualification on entry.
        >
        > Overall I think the type of censorship and direction to which I
        > objected both
        in
        > the discussion thread, and in the Knowledge Board quote, is probably a

        > hang
        over
        > for CoP technology over the last decade, pre Web 2.0 (although I am
        > not wild about that term). There is also a cultural hang over from
        > process re-engineering which preceded knowledge management.
        > Organisations setting up CoPs made a considerable investment and also
        > took across much of their
        existing
        > management philosophy. The voluntary and government sector has, to my

        > great regret, tended to follow reported (but not actual) industrial
        > practice in this respect.
        >
        > What has been fascinating is to see the way in which the informal has
        > thrived
        in
        > contrast with the formal. I documented some of this within IBM in an
        > article "Complex Acts of Knowing" in which we discovered that the
        > release of
        technology
        > without control had created a far richer source of collaboration,
        > community
        and
        > knowledge than the formal CoP programmes. We can see the same thing
        > now with the blogosphere both within and without companies along with
        > other social computing tools. I have said on many occasions over the
        > last couple of years that we needed today's technologies a decade ago
        > when KM became active, we
        could
        > have avoided a lot of cost, frustration and failure.
        >
        > What is evident is that large scale interactions (which include
        > informal
        > networks) are true complex adaptive systems, they exhibit
        > self-organising capabilities. I would therefore argue against (I
        > think) John that this is an issue of scale. If anything where there
        > is a need for formalism it is in
        short
        > term directed groups not wider collaboration and knowledge sharing.
        > In an organisational environment I think the days of structure are
        ending.
        >
        > The Sylvia Plath poem quoted is interesting as two words are take in
        > isolation from the final verse and from the poem as a whole. The poem

        > was written (I think but this is a recall from thirty years ago) after

        > she had heard of
        Hughes
        > infidelity. Taken in that interpretation I think it appropriate.
        >
        > Words dry and riderless,
        > The indefatigable hoof-taps.
        > While
        > From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars Govern a life.


        *-- The email forum on communities of practice --* Yahoo! Groups Links
      • eisai@comcast.net
        Miguel, I m glad the CoP/CoI frame resonated with you. I ll reply to your much more detailed post where you ve made many distinct and interesting points. Best,
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 14, 2007
        • 0 Attachment
          Miguel,

          I'm glad the CoP/CoI frame resonated with you.

          I'll reply to your much more detailed post where you've made many distinct and interesting points.

          Best,


          Joe
          -------------- Original message ----------------------
          From: "Cornejo Castro, Miguel" <miguel.cornejo@...>
          > Hi Joe,
          >
          > that was a very interesting angle, and one to consider. Indeed a large
          > part of the intervention issue could be described in that frame, as a
          > very serious part of the forum that was "intervened upon" was its
          > character of inquiry into the subject, a "COI" by your description,
          > indeed. That was not, however, the full story, as it also had a
          > practice-oriented "show and comment work" part.
          >
          > As you can see in my last ("looong message" :-)) post, near the end, the
          > intervention:
          >
          > - Split the forums so as to separate the "COI-type" technical inquiry
          > side, from the more "social-practical" side.
          >
          > - Broke the stranglehold of the clique (social-practical) on the
          > conversations and initiatives of the rest.
          >
          > Please refer to that post for much more detail :-).
          >
          > Best regards,
          >
          > Miguel
        • Cornejo Castro, Miguel
          Thanks :-). Looking forward to it. ... De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com en nombre de eisai@comcast.net Enviado el: mar 14/08/2007 18:44 Para:
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 14, 2007
          • 0 Attachment
            Thanks :-). Looking forward to it.



            -----Mensaje original-----
            De: com-prac@yahoogroups.com en nombre de eisai@...
            Enviado el: mar 14/08/2007 18:44
            Para: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
            Asunto: RE: [cp] Self Organisation & leadership (formerly A blog post on CoP volunteer motivation)

            Miguel,

            I'm glad the CoP/CoI frame resonated with you.

            I'll reply to your much more detailed post where you've made many distinct and interesting points.

            Best,


            Joe
            -------------- Original message ----------------------
            From: "Cornejo Castro, Miguel" <miguel.cornejo@...>
            > Hi Joe,
            >
            > that was a very interesting angle, and one to consider. Indeed a large
            > part of the intervention issue could be described in that frame, as a
            > very serious part of the forum that was "intervened upon" was its
            > character of inquiry into the subject, a "COI" by your description,
            > indeed. That was not, however, the full story, as it also had a
            > practice-oriented "show and comment work" part.
            >
            > As you can see in my last ("looong message" :-)) post, near the end, the
            > intervention:
            >
            > - Split the forums so as to separate the "COI-type" technical inquiry
            > side, from the more "social-practical" side.
            >
            > - Broke the stranglehold of the clique (social-practical) on the
            > conversations and initiatives of the rest.
            >
            > Please refer to that post for much more detail :-).
            >
            > Best regards,
            >
            > Miguel



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