Can paragogy help technology production?

A sticky idea…

Howard Rheingold has thrown up a new idea – Peeragogy – which has found a sticky resting place in my brain.

In a blog post written as a pre-cursor to his 2011 Regents’ Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley he reflects on his experience to date with collaborative learning, and sets out the stall for his next project – to collaboratively create a guide to collaborative peer-to-peer learning:

I’m calling it “peeragogy.” While “paragogy” is more etymologically correct, “peeragogy” is self-explanatory. In my lecture, I’ll explain the evolution of my own pedagogy and reveal some of what I’ve discovered in the world of online self-organized learning. Then I will invite volunteers to join me in a two week hybrid of face-to-face seminars and online discussion. Can we self-organize our research, discover, summarize, and prioritize what is known through theory and practice, then propose, argue, and share a tentative resource guide for peeragogical groups? In theory, those who use our guide to pursue their own explorations can edit the guide to reflect new learning.

This idea has definitely struck a chord with me – and slightly tongue in cheek I tweeted:

Is it me, or is #peeragogy about doing learning in the way a lot of “real” work is done?

More going on

As is so often the way, I then read further to discover that someone else had not only spotted the connection but grounded it with references. Rheingold acknowledges the work of Joe Corneli and Charles Danoff, who have termed this area of study Paragogy, have co-authored a paper on it, and are writing a book. In their paper Corneli and Danoff make an explicit link between Paragogy and Peer Production.

Relating this to technology production

When I tweeted, what I had in mind were the complex loops of idea exchange implicit in any kind of technical product development (either for external customers or internal company users):


Most, if not all, of these conversations imply some sort of mutual learning:

  • what sorts of things might surprise, delight or downright disappoint the customer/user
  • what sort of product and business model might work
  • what are the technical options
  • what does the industry provide
  • how can we adapt the current technology to meet the needs
  • what would we like the industry to develop next
  • and so on…..

If the future of work is learning, or more bluntly work is learning- so what, how can we exploit the developments in paragogical theory and practice to make such work work better?

My questions

it’s turtles all the way down, but a few starter questions that spring to mind are:

  • does treating these processes as learning exercises lead to better performance? (and how might we measure that?)
  • what support do teams need to surface learning goals around their work?
  • what team and organisation culture will best support rapid learning?
  • how beneficial is it to make the learning explicit?

Right now this is mostly a “lightbulb” – I need to do more thinking and have some dialogue to explore further.

if any of this strikes a chord with you, please comment.

The Social Origin Of Good Ideas (again)

Although I first skimmed this paper back in May I’ve finally got around to reading it properly and writing some summary notes.

At an emotional level I feel pleased that a behaviour that I find natural (i.e. to dip into different work groups or areas of study and share ideas between them) and feel to be one of the more useful of my talents is shown to have measurable benefits. If anything it prompts the networker’s perennial question – “which groups haven’t I tapped into yet?”

In a similar vein, serendipitously this comes into view: Caves, Clusters, and Weak Ties: The Six Degrees World of Inventors on the way that researchers can bring in new ideas to a company through their weak ties with other technologists.

How blog and wiki fit together (for me)

In the same post that I just blogged Johnnie Moore goes on to say:

Traditional models of group thinking seem based on me trying to cement my well-formed brick of thought to your well-formed brick. Increasingly, I find much more satisfaction in sharing the less-formed ideas and responses I have to conversations. I sense that by doing so, it’s possible to create some sense of joint intelligence that can get beyond existing mental models.
I suppose that my blogging process tends towards bricks, as I write down ideas and get to tweak and edit them and improve them, to make them more palatable to the outside world.

For me this is the nub of why I need a blog plus me-writable and world-writable wikis.

Blog posts by their nature are a snapshot at a point in time and therefore imply some form of stasis. Wiki pages however are timeless and hence never finished, always open to flux.

I’ve found the writing style that has started to evolve since I had this combination of tools is to scatter thoughts around the wiki-spaces until some juxtaposition forms that is sufficiently clear to create a blog-entry. The blog-entry becomes a picture of my thinking at a point in time and therefore essential to mapping out some kind of path. The state of the wiki pages continues to evolve – by looking where there is activity you can see which parts of my mental associations are currently to the forefront of attention.

Mental models and the ladder of inference

Johnnie Moore is thinking about changing mental models , in particular how to ensure that group work really does take advantage of the collective intelligence of the group rather than falling back to s simple comparison or accumulation of everyone’s individual world view.

This reminded me of the work published by Chris Argyris, Peter Senge and others on the [bliki]LadderOfInference[/bliki] . I wonder how we could encapsulate this thinking into the world of the blog?

Patterns for Change

Lilia Efimova points to Introducing New Ideas Into Organisations, in particular the collection of patterns [PDF, 454 kB].

This is 123 pages, so I’ve only just started to work through it, but on first reading it’s fascinating – you know the “ah ha” moment when someone codifies stuff that you’ve been doing intuitively…

Certainly I recognised many patterns here as things I and others have learned the hard way as ways of introducing our ideas into the daily life of the organisations we work with – and I think many of us will also be able to learn from it.

The patterns are grouped into the following categories:

* Roles
* Events
* Keeping the Idea Visible
* Dealing with Sceptics
* Early Activities
* Reaching Out
* Convincing Others
* Teaching and Learning the Idea
* Long-term activities

I’m sure this will be a great resource for coaching – an inherent assumption of the NLP approach is that if you can identifiy the patterns under a successful piece of behaviour you can teach it to others.

Seven Survival Tips for Knowledge Managers

Dave Pollard offers Seven Survival Tips for Knowledge Managers

  1. Focus knowledge and learning systems on ‘know-who’, not ‘know-how’
  2. Introduce new social network enablement software and weblogs to capture the ‘know-who’.
  3. Keep only selected, highly-filtered knowledge in your central repositories.
  4. Don’t overlook the value of plain-old ‘data’.
  5. The bibliography may be more valuable than the document itself.
  6. Don’t wait for people to look for it, send it out, using ‘killer’ channels.
  7. Create an internal market for your offerings by giving valuable stuff away.

Learning Organisations and Constraints – more

Hyperlinks to broken Wiki deleted
The work following on from ealier posts 1 2 3 was starting to get too convoluted for blog posts, so I‘ve set up a Constraints section on the Wiki, and started to document my process there

Having discovered the Twiki Draw plugin, I think a wiki with a drawing tool could well be the perfect tool for developing this sort of exchange…

Learning Organisations and TOC pt 3

Continuing to work through Overcoming Organizational Defenses to find links with the TOC approach it struck me that creating a CRT was in itself a form of Cognitive Mapping.

In other words by extracting the key concepts from the book into a CRT it should be possible to graphically display and test the book’s argument at the same time as comprehending it.

In the first chapter Argyris gives some strong clues about the sort of Undesirable Effects (UDEs) we might see in the real world…
Continue reading “Learning Organisations and TOC pt 3”