CP2-Meeting Florence, 6th. Oct 2006

A: Shawn takes us through „two-stage emergence“.

A fast-track real exercise on elliciting archetypes. What Shawn did with us:

1. Define the topic / question / setting:

(For practicing we picked „How to deal with difficult people in a COP“)

2. Everybody tells short stories about „difficult people“.

3. After hearing about those stories, make a list of typical issues that crop up, „types“ of people in a COP that emerge from the stories.

4. Spread them out on stickers on a wall.

5. Formulate positive and negative attributes to those „types“, add them to these types (stickers to the types).

6. Take out the types and randomize the attributes all over the wall.

7. Group the attributes along similarities.

8. Create a name for each group, preferably some cartoon-figure or historical figure, or literary figure…. à „archetypes“.


Careful about archetypes and not stereotypes.

How useful is this? Actually only useful when doing parallel effort on themes and values (on other walls in the same room). Shawn thinks the work on themes and values can directly lead the group to work on reflecting on what to do, whereas archetypes are often sidelined.

How does it help to work with people „who need a solution“, ie. it does not give us an immediate response on how to deal with difficult people in COPs.

Long discussion on concrete problem-solving paradigm (the expectation of most newbies dealing with COPs: „how do you do this“) versus investigating and dealing with complexities. Watch out: There is not a dichotomy here, it’s a continuum. Got to meet people where they are.

Cynefin – Framework (http://www.cognitive-edge.net)

4 types of decision-making settings:

  1. Known

Causes and effects are well known. Each time you need to get an effect, everybody knows what causes it and can act accordingly to achieve the intended effect.

Sense -> Categorize -> Respond

  1. Knowable

Cause and effect are known. But not everybody knows about it. You need an expert to tell you what to do to reach an intended effect.

Sense -> Analyse (by an expert) -> Respond (upon recommendation by an expert)

1 and 2 are the „ordered world“. The following 3 and 4 are the messy world.

  1. Complex

Cause and effect cannot be directly related. Too many variables interact with a particular effect. What works and what doesn’t depends very much on the situation, the setting, etc. etc. Experts are not much help here. Best way to figure stuff is to

Probe -> Sense what happens, how the systems reacts, discover patterns of what usually happens -> design the most useful settings that usually lead to an intended effect.

–> „Culture“, Leadership, Learning, Innovation.

–> „Trust“ is an important aspect of working in complex environments. Trustbuilding through track-record of getting things done together.

==> This is where COPs come into their own!!

  1. Chaotic

Nothing is predictable. No way of knowing why some things work and others don’t. Giuliani in the first hours after 9/11: Just did what came to mind, no system in it. What worked you pushed, what didn’t you stopped doing.

=> The „Just Do It“ paradigm: Seems to push chaotic stuff into complex stuff (ie. 4 to 3). However, JDI only makes sense if you track how what you do works out -> get some idea what works and what doesn’t -> discover patterns => you’re in the complex setting and beginning to cope.


We met for an hour today and, even though we had a very noisy phone bridge, the excitement was palpable and the conversation had a life of its own. Although we’ve been working together online for a month or more, there is nothing like actually listening to each other and thinking together to get the  juices running.  We acknowledged that “we meet in advance, not to close off any possibilities but to move the discussion forward about what we might do and how.” The following topics were proposed for discussion during our dialog:

  • Effect of Web 2.0 tools on our notion of what a community of practice looks like.
  • How to talk about and learn from each other about timing in the design of learning events when we don’t have traditional constraints such as the classroom hour. When does the learning happen?
  • How to talk about the value of play and error correction in learning events? Are these topics more important today than they were before?
  • Process innovation versus content innovation? How describe and justify to others?
  • All of this with an overarching focus on memory — how it’s formed and what use it is in a community of practice.

We are also thinking of experimenting with process and how we organize ourselves for learning during the dialog:

  • Stories and other techniques to put cases for discussion “on the table” at the beginning of a segment
  • Improvisations or dramatizations to demonstrate what we learned at the end of a segment
  • Expeditions to organizations or places that are or were once exemplary as venues for learning.
  • Different ways of representing what we’ve done, from written notes to audio or video recordings to make it more public, porous and legitimate
  • Any methods of welcoming participants from the online Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop into our conversation
  • Having each segment of the schedule (including evenings) organized by a different team, who would be responsible for all of the above
  • How work with the likelihood that we will have no internet access at the guest house where we’ll be staying.

In case you’re curious (you could still join us in Florence!) here is a 4 minute audio recording that gives you a sense of the voices that will be there.  It turns out that Etienne Wenger will definitely join us for part of the time.

Prato and memories

September 10, 2006

My connection here has more to do with serendipity than anything else. I’m travelling with a girls school choir from Christchurch, and we are in Florence at the same time as the get together occurs. And as one who is fatigued by formal paper driven conferences, the opportunity to attend an event initially refered to as a ‘muck about’ was too good to miss.

I’m involved in a range of learning communities. Putting aside at this stage nuances of meaning, these these usually have an online component (lists, corperate blog, course management system, virtual community space etc) – some are part of bounded courses (with the dreaded assessment) some are professional development oriented (with both vonenteers and conscripts) and some are just for fun (everybody choosing to be there) and some are a bounded professional affiliation. (Pay your fees and you are in).

The just for fun ones include several informal networky things – almost like mutual mentoring, support and sounding boards.

Here is a well known quote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana.

I could build a lot on this idea: memory is a mixed blessing. There has been a bit about this in our local paper in the coverage of the escape of Natascha Kampusch.

There is an expiry date of first hand memories. I am interested to note how often now we are talking to my sons about events I took for granted. I remember with chagrin how much passed from consciousness with the death of my grandfather.

In a slightly whimsical mood I quote this little extract on someone’s thoughts on Nietzsche:

From http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/text-only/issue.101/11.2ramadanovic.txt

In the second of his untimely meditations, Nietzsche suggests
     that a cow lives without boredom and pain, because it does not
     remember.[1] Because it has no past, the cow is happy. But the
     animal cannot confirm its happiness precisely because it does
     not have the power to recall its previous state. It lives
     unmindful of the past, which, as it gives happiness, also takes
     it away from the animal. Nietzsche uses this example to point to
     the liberating power of what he terms "active forgetting," a
     willfull abandonment of the past that is beyond the capacities
     of the cow:

In the case of the smallest or of the greatest happiness...
          it is always the same thing that makes happiness happiness:
          the ability to forget or, expressed in more scholarly
          fashion, the capacity to feel unhistorically during its
          duration. (UD 62)

Nietzsche calls for an abandonment of the past because, as he
     says, it "returns as a ghost and disturbs the peace of a later
     moment" (UD 61). Too much past precludes action, happiness, and
     further development. As an antidote to this predicament he
     suggests a critical discourse on the past that would be
     attentive to the needs of the present and able to distinguish
     between what in the past is advantageous and what is
     disadvantageous for life. Thus "active" forgetting is selective
     remembering, the recognition that not all past forms of
     knowledge and not all experiences are beneficial for present and
     future life.

Then there is different memories of the same event, and different interpretations of the same fact. People can merely brood.

That’s the other side. As well there is the question: How can communities of any kind manage their thoughts, their experieinces, stories and findings? Especially now in a web 2.0 environment?

How can we avoid overload? Filter out irrelevant stuff? Not filter out stuff we should engage with but may not want to? (Think professional development for us out of our comfort zones) Share key ideas that may challenge the status quo and still keep relationships intact? Assist with the boundaries of our community thinking? Manage the corperate vs the individual? Incorperate newcomers without mere indoctrination . . .

We shall see. I’m coming to Prato relatively inexperieinced at this sort of event, knowledge construction, open space etc etc, and basically because I can, circumstances being what they are. And also because I have met online, read about, read the blogs of, talked by teleconference to some of these people, and look forward to a chance to meet in person. – Derek

A beginning

August 15, 2006

Between the 5th and 8th of October, 2006, some people from CPsquare will be stealing time from work, friends and family to get together and dialogue about memory, learning and forgetting in communities of practice. We’ll use this blog as one of the ways for keeping track of our memory up to the event.