Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Figuring it out as we go along

George Siemens has an interesting post on his Connectivism Blog about Knowing before doing. He refers to the gradual awakening of organisations to social media, but, he says,

"the language is still ensconced in the mindset of hierarchy and control"
I concur. Recently, a colleague and I ran a blogging workshop for a group of local authority education consultants. The person who had requisitioned the workshop had hit on the idea that blogging would be a good way for these widely dispersed people to support one another. The problem was, as the day progressed, it became evident that he had in mind to keep the whole matter under pretty tight, centralised control. The word "control" was in fact used several times. It wasn't easy to explain that there would be no centralised control over the forum, that the result would be a peer-to-peer network rather than a cascade or a neat centre-out arrangement... and that would be a strength rather than a weakness. This was very much a case of applying old paradigms to new technologies (new wine in old wineskins?).

Man has always had a fear of the unknown, of things he can't control, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. We see evidence of this mistrust, this reluctance to relinquish control everywhere. The old adage "if you want a thing done properly, do it yourself" didn't become a cliche through lack of supporting (if subjective) evidence.

The current approach is to figure it out as we go along. Not to expect or even try to have all the answers sorted out, all our ducks in a row before we set off down a particular learning journey. It takes a great deal of courage to allocate budget to this sort of learning, since it isn't always clear before you start what you're going to wind up with in the end. When I get frustrated by a client's reluctance to embrace the suck-it-and-see mentality, I try to imagine myself trying to explain to some tunnel-visioned, bottom-line-focused holder-of-the-purse-strings that I have spent £x,000 on a knowledge/learning solution, but I have no idea what it will look like, yet.

One other interesting point: George says "I don’t really want to join a CoP", referring to the hierarchical view of CoPs as a community which one joins. I have never seen CoPs in that light. To me, a CoP is just as much a loose collection of people with an interest in common. Each "member" having their own unique, handpicked version. In fact, a person's Blogroll is probably far closer to being their community of practice than any formally structured equivalent. And, while he might not want to join one, I see George as being a pillar of mine!-)

1 comment:

Nancy White said...

Karyn, my read of George's post with respect to the comment on Cops was much like yours. I do agree with his concern that organizations may be mistakenly trying to control or construct the CoPs.