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CHANGE & CHANge & CHange & change

Changes and change management are in all likelihood the most discussed subject in organizations all over the world, beside economy. How many kilometers of text, methods and models produced on the topic one might just guess. However, the subject/the area will for the coming decades keep on producing new methods, new models and new books since our desire to find ‘the’ way, ‘the universal’ way to make this happen – seems to be intrinsic.

For someone who has listen to pundits regarding change and been taught the most prevailing models one might wonder; why don’t we use them in daily life?

One answer, is that the models probably are too complicated. When the ‘change’ occurs one can’t remember all steps in the model even though they’re often aided with metaphors like the change mountain, the ice berg (done to death) or as a whale, dolphin or a fish. So how can one make it easier? How can one simplify it or to rephrase Einstein; ‘…to simplify it as much as possible but not more than that’?

One way to look at changes (which by the way is the only thing on the planet that stays the same; the cycle upon cycle of change. All of creation is in a condition of constant change.) on a high logical level or high grade of abstraction, are that here are two kinds of change; things that come together and things coming apart. The former is sometimes called development or construction (from latin ‘to build up’) and the latter disintegration or destruction (from latin ‘to build down’). Both of them are necessary for change to happen and are always connected to each other. To view things on high logical levels ease the understanding and also ease to see things as a whole or an entity. From our experience most changes fail due to the ability of the persons involved in the changes to understand the intention behind the change and to view the change as a whole (one only sees and understands parts of the change). On top of this or – depending on how one views – on the bottom of this, the prevailing assumptions, prejudices, preconceived ideas etc. (all summarised on a high logical level with the word; presuppositions) simultaneously interfere or involve.

Why would we otherwise have schools in the Western world that look like they do? As the journalist Tracy Kidder express it: ‘Put twenty or even more children with approximately the same age in a room. Put them behind benches in rows, let them wait in lines, and force them to behave well. It’s like a secret committee – now lost from history – has been studying children and when they’ve found out what the children didn’t like or wanted to do, then the committee decided that all children shall do that’.

How come that our corporate organizations look like they do? On Gigaom’s site the guest writer Dave Kashen put it like: ‘Why are companies using organizational structures that are thousands of years old?’, and then shows examples of modern contemporary ways of organizing businesses.

So, when change occur, how can one simplify the change? How can one view it from a logical level – as high as possible?

Is the change itself something we need to build up (construct), to build down (destruct) or do we need a combination of them?

Where do we (figuratively) construct things without destructing?

What’s the intention behind the change?

What are the existing presuppositions?


Knowledge vs information

In Sweden there’s a saying that states something like: ‘Knowledge is perishable with a best before date’. In English, we think one phrases it like ‘Knowledge has an expiration date’. You’ll also find expressions like: the half life of facts i.e. that the knowledge you have today only half of it is worth anything within one, two, three or five years from now, depending on line of work. Many states that this goes for many professions even professions like dentists, and physicians and not just jobs which we couldn’t foresee exist five years ago. Many companies also build – due to this – huge Knowledge Management systems.

What are the underlying assumptions for the ‘Knowledge has an expiration date’? To answer the question we need to describe and sort out the assumptions. And yes, there is a best before date of knowledge if we equate knowledge with all information that are poured upon us every day. If so, we agree that what you know today, more or less half of it isn’t worth much a year from now. But, what if you compare knowledge with the roots of a tree and the information as all the leaves – the foliage – of the tree?

The Swedish Professor Emeritus Sven-Eric Liedman says approximately: ‘The person that says that knowledge has an expiration date doesn’t look at knowledge as the roots of the tree rather as the leaves which the tree fells every autumn.’  We have the same view as Mr Liedman and would rather state that knowledge and integrated knowledge or isomorphic knowledge is lifelong, and that the half life of integrated root knowledge at least is a mankind. A silly example of this is how we cope with language and where we don’t half life knowledge even though we know we speak ‘wrong’: Is there really a sunset and a sunrise every day? Yes, we apprehend it like that, however we all know the sun isn’t going to bed… Like the arabian proverb states: ‘The eye doesn’t see anything if the mind is blind’.

So, in which areas do you handle knowledge as information? In which areas do you handle knowledge as knowledge? What’s the pros and cons of doing this? Does your company have a Knowledge Management system or an Information Management system?

Presupposition # 20 – Think outside the box

Together with the metaphor where you see a glass of water that is either half full or half empty (if your ‘box’ is water. The glass is always full with H2O and O), the saying ‘think outside the box’ probably is the most over used phrase in change management. Everybody knows that we ought to think outside the box, so why don’t we do it? Are we not smart enough? Is it hard or does it demand to much effort? Of course we don’t have the general answer to these questions however we’re pretty persuaded that it has to do with  – as with all changes – our presuppositions and our frames.
In a world that most people describe and choose to understand as complex and fast changing, it sometimes is hard to perceive the boundaries, the connections and the interconnections. For many it’s just a mess. So when asked to think outside the box – people don’t know where to start. What if we’re not at all bad in thinking outside the box? What if we just have trouble to recognize the box? Phrased in another sense; to think outside the box we need to know which box we need to think outside of.
One gentleman that has thought outside the box for more than two decades but still isn’t very well known is professor Gunter Pauli.
Mr Pauli really is thought-provoking and together with Professor Dr. Heitor Gurgulino de Souza he created already back in 1994 the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives or ZERI.
The organisation really strives for making this world a smarter, better and true sustainable place to live and work. They also coined the phrase the blue economy compared to the green economy they mean we’re in at the moment. To be able to make the shift from the green to the blue economy Mr Pauli means that amongst other things we really have to make innovative products that create jobs instead of eliminating jobs, as a lot of the intentions with business today are. To be able to do this, Mr Pauli means that we have to view situations and phenomenons with new eyes i.e. to think out of the box. At propositum we would rather express it as to use your ability of isomorphism (corresponding or similar in form and relations) that is to say to use knowledge from one area and transfer that to another area.
Although the presentation style from Mr Pauli might be apprehended as patronizing please take your time to watch this video from the opening session at the ninth HEC Sustainable Business Conference. It’ll definitely challenge some of your presuppositions  – we can promise you. Mr Pauli’s messages truly are intriguing.
So to think of:
How does your box look like, that you eventually might start to experience – or need to experience from another angle?

Economics – Fruit, apples and pears

Most people state we live in the most enlightened time of mankind’s history. Never ever have we had access to so much information, knowledge and contacts. The paradox with this is to grasp what really is happening. One example of this is the Euro-crisis. Depending on whom you listen to you get different explanations of why, and what to do to solve the crisis and irrespective of whom you listen to it’s really hard to get an overview of the real problem. Another thing that emanates out of the enlightened time we’re in is how we communicate. In our striving to understand – we see experts being interviewed, explaining, telling us theories and models – regardless of area and subject. Most often we have one journalist interviewing another one or two journalists followed by; not just one expert, by at least two experts/pundits or more…The result? As one professor once said: Still confused but on a higher level.

The funny thing with the professor is that we assumably are more confused – depending on how you view it – on a lower level. How come? Since pundits are specialised within a narrow field they very soon take the subject into details, parts, into a language (nomenclature) that’s only understandable for the initiated etc. We assume you have seen and heard discussions where you are really keen to learn more about something/someone but lost interest after a few minutes when the pundit has taken the subject and chunked it down to a very low level – haven’t you? On the other hand when you’ve met a person who is really good in describing something (instead of explaining) and is really good to make it clear for you on which logical level, which chunking level he/she is with the story – we most often say: what a storyteller! Those people knows the logical difference between Fruit, Apples and Granny Smiths and they can tell the difference between apples and pears even though they’re at the same logical level. From a communicative point of view – tragically – most people don’t compare apples and pears, they compare Granny Smith & Red Delicious with Fruit!

A person who can describe complicated things on a high logical level, which alleviates the comprehension is the Irish economist and journalist David McWilliams. With his Punk Economics: Lesson 1 & Lesson 2 he really makes something almost impossible to grasp – the Euro Crisis – graspable. You might not agree with his conclusions, however both Lessons are well worth watching. As we see it there are two main reasons to watch them: 1. for your economic insights, apprehension and to understand what really is going on at the moment,  i.e. to get a dissociated position where you can experience what is happening by looking at it from a position besides, beyond or above. The second reason to watch the videos is that David McWilliams succeeds with going up and down in logical levels – to chunk up and down without losing the overall frame. So even if you’re not interested in Economics, watch his Lesson 2 from a communicative and illustrative point of view.

To summarise; how do you work with the logical levels when you communicate? Do you as most experts go down within your area and lose the overall frame and subsequently your audience? Are you comparing Fruit with Granny Smith or do you make a difference between Fruit, Apples and Granny Smiths? Do you know why you communicate and do you describe your intention by making it clear to the audience when you go up and down (chunk up and down) in logical levels?

Presupposition # 19 – Global Prejudice Index

For the keen reader of propositum’s site you’ve noticed how we encourage you to pay attention to the intention, of the things you measure. We’ve also been fascinated by the urge for all rankings and lists – irrespective of subject – and also been interested in the force that our presuppositions engender.

Richard Florida the author of ‘The rise of the creative class’ has together with his colleagues put together a Global Prejudice Index which one can think is just another index and ranking – however there are some conclusions in their work that is worth considering. In this article ‘The high price of prejudice’ in The Atlantic, Richard Florida goes deeper into it. By asking the following questions: Is the city or area where you live a good place or not a good place to live for regarding: Religious minorities, Ethnic and racial minorities, Gays and lesbians & Immigrants from foreign countries, the index has been compiled. One can argue about how they’ve put the index together (it’s funny to rank prejudices since the respondents preconceived ideas is the foundation for the results…) however the conclusions and the implication of them are really remarkable. According To Mr Florida – prejudice is not just morally dishonorable, it’s also bad for the economy.

So, Which are your main prejudices? Which of them assist you, in reaching what you strive for? Which of them are obstacles for you?

Not everything that counts…

It is said that Keynes, like Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, said more clever things after they died than they did while they were alive. If it’s true or not we don’t know however the headline is from a quote from Einstein stating: ‘Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted counts.’

We’re living in a paradigm where what we measure have such an immense effect on people, groups, teams, divisions, companies, societies and the whole world. Almost too often we don’t question why we measure things and we just take it for granted that we shall measure. We just presuppose that we shall do it i.e. it’s almost an unconscious presupposition. But what happens when we forget the intention behind the measure? What happens when we steer organisations just on figures? What happens when we without noticing – measure means instead of goals? What happens when the search for measurements become the only thing of importance?

One very important measure is unemployment. One of the most important figures that affect a whole world as soon as the latest figures are published. Who is responsible for the importance we put on the unemployment figures?

Once again it’s probably John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was concerned with unemployment and one aim he had was to bring the levels of unemployment down. He was worried about it due to the fact that he had seen societies been destroyed when the levels had been too high especially after the crash in 1929. He also thought it might lead to radical and extreme politics. On the other hand Friedrich von Hayek – today still the economist combatant to Keynes – thought that rapid inflation was the curse. Two different viewpoints (presuppositions) that had led to different kinds of actions for almost a century and influenced governments around the world – especially at present times. Nicholas Wapshott describes it beautifully in these interviews from the Institute for New Economic Thinking. As Mr Wapshott recounts ‘…Keynes reason or common sense was that if the private sector can’t employ people then the public sector have to…’ in order to avoid unemployment. As you can see and hopefully recognise a statement still in the news.

But if we scrutinise unemployment we can see that when we measure it we look at the number of people in the range of 15-74 years of age that don’t have a full time employment. It doesn’t say anything regarding how the population look like. We might actually have a lot of people younger than 15 year and older than 74 year that we have to provide for. It all emanates from Keynes’ fear of people not working.

What happens if we change mindset and look at how many who really is working, i.e. contributing to the wealth of the nation? The figure is called the level of employment (LoE) and shows the number of employable workers between 15-64 years of age who are employed as a percentage of the total population in that age. A different starting point showing another dimension than just measuring unemployment.

To measure things is important and it’s more important to really think of why do we measure this? It’s very easy to measure things and to go down into pieces and sub-pieces of the measurement, and all of a sudden forget what the original overall headline was. Without noticing one are directed by the figures…or expressed in another way; by chunking down you might extract one thing and think it’s valid for a whole world.

So be aware of what you measure and why, cause sooner or later the measurements will direct you, and please remember the quotation: ‘Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted counts.’

Paradigm and presuppositions

Paradigm is a greek word literally meaning ‘to show beside’ or ‘to point out beyond’ (‘para’ = beside or beyond). Tomas Kuhn gave the word its present-day meaning in the book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolution’ in 1962. Kuhn meant that the development of science is not uniform but has alternating normal and revolutionary (or extraordinary) phases. When Kuhn began his historical studies of science (in the 1950s), the history of science was a young academic discipline. When he later wrote the book, the scientific changes were actually not really considered. There was a notion of how science ought to develop. According to the notion or presupposition if you would like to; science develops by the addition of new truths to the old truths, and in a few cases – the correction of past errors.

Kuhn was of a different opinion. He expressed that during normal science, scientists neither test nor seek to confirm the guiding theories of their ‘disciplinary matrix’ as he sometimes called the paradigm. Nor do they regard abnormal results as falsifying those theories. This conservative resistance of key theories means that revolutions are not sought except under extreme circumstances. The response to a crisis will be the search for a revised paradigm. A revision that will allow for the elimination of at least the most common exceptions and hopefully the solution of many unsolved puzzles. Such a revision will according to Kuhn be a scientific revolution, a paradigm shift.

The 2011 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Dan Shechtman is definetly a living proof of this. When he in 1982 discovered what today is called quasicrystals, he really made a shift in the paradigm of his discipline. The peer scientists didn’t believe him. He could show them that the quasicrystals existed but according to the theory – to the presuppositions – they couldn’t exist. As Mr Shechtman says: ‘…for a couple of years I was alone, I was ridiculed, I was treated badly by my peers and my colleagues. ‘People did not just believe in what I said  – People were hostile.’ Mr Shechtman was expelled from the group of scientists he belonged to because he was a disgrace. Not only his group backbite him. Very well known chemists such as professor Linus Pauling a two times Nobel Laureate (in chemistry and the peace prize) who until he died – claimed that ‘Dan Shechtman is talking nonsense.’

It’s very funny that still in 2011 the crystals are called quasicrystals. They are crystals however to convince the scientists of the old paradigm, Shechtman et al. called them ‘quasi’ which means ‘as if, almost’.

Scientists at Cern might be in exactly the same phase as Shechtman was in 1982. In September 2011 they made an experiment with neutrinos (a very small elementary particle) and observed that: ‘the neutrinos travel at a velocity 20 parts per million above the speed of light, nature’s cosmic speed limit.’ The scientists didn’t really beleive in what they experienced since if it’s right – then parts of Einstein’s theory of relativity is false! So at the moment ‘independent’ researchers are looking into the results from CERN to see if they are true. Expressed in another way to see if a whole world have to change its presupposition, its ‘paradigm’.

What we presuppose is really an extremely forceful power for how we think and act. Sometimes we don’t trust what we experience with our senses due to the fact that – this can’t be true. It took Mr Shechtman two years before his observations started to make ground and then as he says ‘hell broke loose’. Please watch this interview with Dan Shechtman where he in an intriguing way describes his story when he developed the quasicrystals from which he got the Nobel Price in Chemistry 2011. Mesmerizing!

Our presuppositions are really the solution to and the obstacles for progress. So please also consider; which are the ‘truths’ I have that support me in my progression and which are the truths that ‘hinder’ me.


Presupposition # 18 – Time

‘The Meeting at 12 00 was moved forward three hours’. Does this mean that the meeting starts at 09 00 or at 15 00?

In general almost all people on the planet look at time as if you have the future in front of you and the past behind you. A very common analogy for that is the time line. We use the time line as if we as humans travel along the time line – towards the future. But what if the time line is moving and you are just a passive observer to time? Depending on your presupposition the outcome will be very different.

Researchers have found that the Aymara people in the highlands of Bolivia have a notion of time opposite to the rest of the us, so that the past lies ahead of them and the future behind. The tongue is spoken by about 2 million indigenous people in South America. The Aymara literally walks backward into the future. The direction forward is the source of what’s known and what they have seen with their eyes i.e. what has happened in the past (the past ahead). The future is literally behind – where they can’t see.

Another intriguing way of looking at time is also from South America and the Amondawa people in Brazil. They have no age, no watches or calendars. They don’t even have words for week, month or year. They use the patterns of day and night and the rainy and dry seasons. To solve the age issue, they change names depending on which stage in life they are. Some might argue that they enjoy a certain freedom…

But what about the English language – do we always look at time as if the future is in front of us? When we say that we’re 30 minutes ahead of time we indicate that we are at an earlier point in time. You can say that we – just like the Aymara people – put the past in the front.

So, what about the meeting, does it start at 09 00 or 15 00? Depending on how you look at time and if you’re picturing yourself as being in motion relative to time or if you look as time itself is moving (how you presuppose) – you will either be there by 09 00 or by 15 00 and no one; has done anything wrong!

Finally, we might also think of why humanity is the only species that speak in past and future tense. All other species communicate (what we know at the moment) just in present tense!

Individual collectivism in the digital age

Remember when the first pop videos were launched? The music experience was enhanced and a whole new industry was born. During the last decade not much have happened and most videos (the technique is dead but the word has survived) walk the same road hoping that ‘more of the same will be better’. Those of us working with communication know that this isn’t the case.

Aaron Koblin an artist specializing in data and digital technologies and Chris Milk have taken the music video or rather the digital age to a new era. They have among other things been working with Radiohead’s video ‘House of Cards’ and for the Johnny Cash Project where participants can draw their own picture into a collective whole to make different versions for the video to ‘Ain’t no Grave’. Now they have taken the digital technique to the next level with ‘The Wilderness Downtown’ a music video for Arcade Fire’s song ‘We used to wait’ a collaboration with Google where they really use the potential of todays web browsers. The video is truly adapted to the viewer since you before it starts type in your address, and during the video you are asked to draw a post card that’ll choreograph the video. The address you typed take you via Google Maps’ Street View to a truly unique experience for the observer and now we’re talking of real customization using the screen as a multiple screen. Captivating and truly amazing!

So as the old seminal thinker Marshall McLuhan said back in the 60s: ‘The media is the message’ maybe it’s been changed by these guys to: ‘The interface is the message’. Judge for yourself and please make your own personal experience at The Wilderness Downtown.

Presupposition # 17 – Keynes vs Hayek round 2

There’s an old saying stating ‘all proofs rest on premises’ which is true. Even mathematics rests on unproved axioms which we often tend to forget.

There’s probably no other field where our presuppositions make us think and act in a pre-defined way as the field of economy. We have earlier written about the brilliant Keynes vs Hayek video by producer John Papola and economist Russ Roberts. The video presenting Round 1 ‘The boom and the bust’ was released in early 2010. Now they have made a new and even more captivating video called ‘Fight of the century’. In 8.45 minutes you learn more of economics than you in all likelihood did during university, and for those of you who haven’t studied economics (that goes for most people), these 8.45 is well worth spending since you’ll understand more what the politicians talk about and your general knowledge will raise a lot.

Great presented, an enthralling tune, intelligent and impressive lyrics. All summarised within 10 minutes. Professors and teachers and all of you working in a profession where communication play a great role – please watch and learn!

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