Conversations and Stories

As mentioned in an earlier post, integrity is manifested through the filters and screens that make up the various affiliations in a person’s life. Some of these affiliations are stronger, newer, and exercise greater influence than others. Because of these differences, integrity is not necessarily central in a person’s affiliation landscape as evidenced in the graphic below. Furthermore, this positioning is not static. As time passes, the filters and screens vary in intensity and significance, and the balance point for integrity shifts.

Filters and Screens

We humans are social creatures. We have highly evolved language skills and capabilities which we use to communicate with each other through conversation. These conversations convey meaning about us, our situations, our needs, and our aspirations. Essentially, they are our stories.

Stories are structured conversations we have with others about our experiences and the meanings they hold for us. Because of the influence exacted by filters and screens upon us, the stories we tell at one time may be quite different than the stories we tell at another time, place, and circumstance. Stories are contextual. The “truth” they express is relative.

As stated in an earlier post, establishing ground truth is a critical first step for knowledge brokers to ascertain behavior and communication patterns and make relevant responses be they positive or negative. Proclaiming one’s ground truth is an exercise of story-telling. Context is crucial if the reality that shapes a person’s story and truth can be well-understood and acted upon appropriately.

Stories are dependent on the conditions that exist at the time of their telling. The forum — who is in the conversation, where it occurs, when it takes place, and what processes are followed — and the agenda — topics for conversation, expected outcomes from the conversation, and next steps to be taken — are major determinants in how the story is told. Even the same experience shared by many will be related differently depending on the forum and agenda.

Knowledge brokers are concerned about ground truth because of the implications on communication patterns. Repeated over time, stories are reflections of sustained conversation themes and understanding. Changing forums and agendas changes these conversations. Changing conversations leads to experimentation and different experiences. New experiences prompt learning which leads to different stories in an attempt to make meaning out of the new experiences. These new stories influence recurring conversation themes. Told with sufficient frequency over time, stories change the underlying communication patterns and adaptation and evolution occur.

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Tuesday, September 6, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

Integrity Expanded

As a knowledge broker, one of our main goals is to stay “in integrity,” in other words, to remain true to our purpose, principles, and intentions. Because these characteristics have personal significance rather than public they are considered “informal.” The graphic below, a variation of the diagram posted in an earlier blog, associates these three integrity elements with sides of a triangle.

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The use of a triangle sends a mixed message. Its structure is symbolic of a rigid, top-down hierarchy. However, it is the most stabile of all geometric forms requiring changes to the lengths of the sides and sizes of the angles in order to alter its overall dimensionality. In other words, the original must be destroyed to take another shape. Because of this duality between rigidity and stability, both the sides AND the angles have meaning in the metaphor.

In the diagram below, the angles are labeled “authority,” fiduciary,” and “legal.” These three characteristics are more public than personal in their significance and are considered “formal” integrity elements. In dealing with other people as part of a larger social system, we are expected to be wise stewards of resources be they investments / use of time, talent, money, creativity, etc. We are also expected to comply with the laws enacted by the government having local jurisdiction. Finally, we are accountable for our responsibilities commensurate with the authority we have to act. This is the foundation of justice.

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The combination of both informal and formal components represented by the sides and angles of the triangle provides us with integrated personal and public dimensions of integrity. This is represented graphically below.

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This same sense of informal and formal can be applied to organizations as well as individuals. In addition, any organization has an integrity as does each person who is a member of it. Because of the correlation in integrity between formal and informal, and individual and organization, integrity is the foundation of organization design approaches.

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Thursday, September 1, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

Integrity and Ground Truth

Each of us as individuals is endowed with a unique personality, temperament, and intelligence footprint. In addition, each of us holds a unique set of experiences and associations that span our lives from “womb to tomb”,” so to speak. The combination of these two provides us with the way we understand ourselves, interpret who we are in the context of the world in which we live, and make meaning out of what happens to us along life’s path.

Because we are individuals, each of us sees ourselves as having distinctive characteristics in physical appearance, psychological profile, and “presence”” among others. The concept of presence is related to what is called “integrity.”” The diagram below shows the basic building blocks of integrity: purpose —- why I exist; principles— – what I stand for; and intentions – —what I am up to.

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A person’s integrity is an inherent product of the life process. It is inevitable. The nature of our integrity is obvious regardless of our conscious and deliberate awareness of it.

This leads to one of our primary challenges: to KNOW what our integrity is. Only we can determine what are our purposes, principles, and intentions. Just like we can’t opt out and not have integrity, no one else can determine ours for us. And when we have even touched or deeply felt what comprises our integrity it remains ours alone; hence, the drawing is black and white just as our self-knowledge, though changing over time, appears at any given moment to be cut and dried.

Ah, if it was only that simple! Alas, we are social beings. Our lives are enmeshed with the lives of others. The diagram below positions the integrity of a person in the context of five general social categories wherein each of us is placed in relationship to others.

Family members, the locations where we live, our employers, the political platforms we advocate, and the religious beliefs we hold, etc. contribute to a “web” of experiences” we share with others and influence our sense of ourselves. These social structures have direct impact on the context in which our lives are conducted.

We tell stories about our experiences that project our integrity through the filters and screens of the groups to which we “belong.”” Our true selves – —our integrity – —is often concealed in the shadows overlaid by layers of interpretation about us that are not really ours. Those stories may or may not speak about how we really feel and what we really think and how we really believe, but how someone else wants us to.

This theme is expressed in the illustration below. Because our relationships with others are lifelong, complex, and filled with nuances of meaning that extend from unrecalled memories, our integrity becomes lost in a maze of questions about who I am, who is speaking for me, what are they saying about me, and is this REALLY my truth being spoken.

Being lost is not a permanent condition. Being found is to confront the primary challenge mentioned above of knowing what integrity is and addressing the confounding questions honestly and openly. Peeling back the onion-like layers of representation that shroud our integrity is an exercise in independent investigation of truth – —a fundamental endeavor for a knowledge broker.

As the picture below suggests, aligning with our integrity “projects”” our voices. And with our voices, we can say who we are, what is happening to us, and what it means to us and others. In other words, we speak the ground truth and with that truth spoken and heard, the groundwork is laid for our participation rather than to have others represent us on our behalf.

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Wednesday, August 31, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

Introduction to Social Agriculture

In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond posits that agriculture is the foundation upon which civilization is built. Nonetheless, this association is not without certain complications. Some activist authors such as John Zerzan take an extreme stand that agriculture is the bane of true civilization. On the other hand, historian and author Fernand Braudel brings a less judgmental perspective in his trilogy, Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-18th Century. He focuses his historical inquiry on the everyday experiences of those whose daily lives were lived at the crossroads of a burgeoning agricultural society and the rise of capitalism. Yet again, there are other writers such as Heather Pringle who, in her article, “Neolithic Agriculture: The Slow Birth of Agriculture”,” softens the view further by holding that the birth of agriculture occurred in the Neolithic Age prior to the large-scale cities and far-reaching civilizations. Plant and animal domestication during this period did not bring with it the adoption of a social dominance model which appeared later. The range of these three suggests that the association of agriculture and civilization has considerable room for further exploration!

The application of strategic frameworks facilitates the exploration of ideas and intellectual spaces. This is certainly the case in the association between agriculture and civilization. As the convergence of technology, energy, environment for life at the point of human equivalence draws nearer, agricultural practices will change dramatically.

In the diagram above, the combination of technologies that are faster, smaller, more integrated, and more intelligent fuels a bifurcation in production agriculture. Agricultural practices that yield what people use in petroleum, fiber, and industrial applications take advantage of economies of scale and promote globalization and commoditization. Meanwhile, those agricultural practices that result in what people eat such as nutraceuticals, place-based specialties, food with specific qualities (organic, faith-based, ethnic), and livestock, leverage economies of place and tend toward localization and customization.

The dichotomy prompted by the bifurcation of production agriculture feeds a creative tension along the continuum of fossil-fuel energy —and renewable energy that if usefully applied, has the potential to bring the association of agriculture and civilization into a more favorable balance than at any time in human history. As condition reports are received through different media about changing conditions and circumstances in production agriculture they can be tied to the “strategic framework” suggested by the diagram and organized into meaningful actions on the continuum in response. And given the advances that are on the horizon this topic of agriculture, civilization, and technology will provide ample fodder for future consideration!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by –Steve Bosserman on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Concept of Human Equivalence

Human equivalence— is the point when the collective capacity and capability of integrative technologies equal or exceed the thinking and decision making powers of humans— and represents a unique stage in the development of human civilization. It can be easily argued that due to the fuzzy mix of outright complexity and occasional irrationality that characterizes the functioning of the human mind, equivalence by “the machine”” is a theoretical supposition that is unachievable in the real world. However, each year that passes brings a significant uptick in the power of technology to blend human and non-human processing and behavior patterns. Writers such as Hans Moravec, Ray Kurzweil, and Eric Drexler point to these trends and postulate futures where not only is equivalence reached, but exceeded in a transhumanistic experience associated with technological singularity. For the most part looking at the near future, as Bill Joy, co-founder and former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems outlined in his Wired Magazine article entitled “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us”, the combination of robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology is having a profound, transformative affect on the integration of humans and machines— right now.

These changes in technology complement changes underway in two interrelated streams of development: energy and environment (specifically, an environment for life).

The diagram above illustrates how energy, an environment for life, and technology converge at a point of human equivalence and extend beyond into an unseen future. These three constitute a “strategic framework”” upon which updates on the rapid changes taking place along each line can be attached. These postings document the transition from dependence on fossil fuel to adopting alternative sources ranging from an established choice like nuclear to less advocated possibilities like solar, wind, and geo-thermal. They also include acknowledging the condition of the planet in its varying capacity to sustain life and tracking a commensurate bifurcation within agriculture toward globalization of fuel, fiber, and feed production and localization of food production for human consumption.

The central theme is that as convergence on human equivalence draws nearer, circumstances press us to reconsider and redefine our relationships with “the machine,”” the environment that sustains us, the sources of energy required make it all work, and, ultimately, one another. Although these responses and reactions are as unpredictable as the context that shapes them, our ongoing commentary on trends, conditions, and events within a logical, strategic framework guides the purposeful action and collective influence that ensues. The dawn of human equivalence is a clarion call to rise-up as individuals and co-determine destiny.

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Monday, August 29, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005

Displacement and Globalization

From the dawn of human civilization the dominant “organizing principle” for everything done that is considered of value is the production of something to be consumed, traded, or sold. The definition of what is worthy work, the merit of an individual doing such work, and the potential for an organization to focus the efforts of many to accomplish great deeds are based on producing something deemed of value as the outcome. However, the underlying theme of the Industrial Age is the displacement of people from paid work by technology. From the time of the Luddite uprisings nearly two hundred years ago to last decade’s Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and his manifesto entitled, Industrial Society and Its Future and The Culture of Fear as described by Barry Glassner in his book by that title, recent history is replete with examples of worker displacement and its negative consequences on the self-image and self-worth of the individual in modern society.

In keeping with this primary theme, a stream of profound developments over the past 40 years and continuing into the foreseeable future, information and communication technologies are challenging conventional wisdom about what constitutes paid work in a global economy, how such work is packaged, and who has the opportunity to do it. The first wave of work redefinition and reductions-in-force occurred in the 1980’s as data collection became automated. As this was concluding, the stage was already set for the second wave of redefinition and reductions beginning in the late 1990’s and early this decade. This wave was fueled by the advent of the PC and its distributed information-generating capabilities in a globally networked environment.

Even now, the foundation for the third wave of redefinition and reduction is rapidly coming into place. Pushing this wave forward are irresistible, knowledge-building forces driving technologies to integrate so effectively and efficiently that their collective capacity and capability equal or exceed human performance—a point termed human equivalence. Regardless of when, exactly, this point arrives, as it nears people will be relieved of a significant amount of work associated with making things. As a result, nothing short of a sea change is impacting almost every dimension of human existence marking the final chapter of the Industrial Age.

Accompanying this climatic conclusion of the Industrial Age is the birth of the Knowledge Era wherein the value of human effort is no longer pegged to productive output. A new economy is emerging that establishes responsiveness, flexibility, and creativity in relationships between and among people as the metric around which human endeavor is determined, measured, and compensated. Whether termed the relationship economy, as proposed by Bruce Morgan in his book, Strategy and Enterprise Value in the Relationship Economy, or the support economy as suggested by Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin in their book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism, clearly we are in the midst of dramatic change.

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Globalization is a natural outcome of second wave progress. Enterprises invest as quickly and deeply as they can in those technologies that improve performance in consistent, timely deliveries of quality, reliable products and services. Still, due to inadequacies or cost that precludes existing technology as the solution, inefficiencies persist in the production environment requiring people to do paid work in order to bridge. Increasingly, this remaining paid work is outsourced to the lowest cost labor provider wherever in the world those labor sources might reside. As technology continues to evolve and is adopted, a more favorable cost-benefit scenario is established that insources work —but without the people. As the diagram above suggests, the relationship between technology adoption work flow is akin to an infinity symbol, as technology goes in, work is outsourced and the number of people doing paid work is reduced, more technology goes in and the same work that was previously outsourced is insourced, but with much less paid work required.

This cycle is repeated over and over in quicker loops as technology gets faster, smaller, more integrated— and more human-like. The globalizing labor force promotes top-down behavior. From the macro economics view, value chains drive cheap labor and automation. The net result is profit for companies and readily available goods for the individual. The increasing displacement is driving a bottom-up phenomenon. From the micro-economic view people are ill equipped to adapt to the increasing rate-of-change.

The transition from an Industrial Age drawing to a close to a Knowledge Era rising from the ashes affects every aspect of our lives. Despite the harsh realities posed by displacement and globalization, this trend hastens the advent of a new economy based on relationships of people to each other rather than things. These relationships are the building blocks for healthy communities and successful families. There is a lot to look forward to!

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Friday, August 26, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005.

Welcome

Welcome to my blogsite, Diary of a Knowledge Broker. It is often by quite circuitous and coincidental routes people find one another: the results of Googling, an email reference, a URL embedded in another article or posted on a website. Whatever the case, I am glad you are here. Feel encouraged through the postings on this site to find your voice, ask yourself the next right question to further your individual search for what is true, and witness to the truth as you experience it so that others may have the opportunity to benefit from what you now know. This blog is as good as you and others respond with comments on this site or positive action in your lives. Participation, regardless of means, is the central theme!

I, too, am glad to be here. This is perhaps as unexpected an occasion for me as it is for you. This past June, I attended the Open Culture conference in Milan, Italy. As with most conferences, I go because someone else is there I want to meet. The person who invited me was Andrius Kulikauskas, founder of Minciu Sodas a social networking organization based in Lithuania. He and I knew one another from email exchanges, but had not met in person. This conference gave us a face-to-face convening point.

As in all social situations, having the opportunity to talk with one person may have been a compelling reason for going in the first place; but once there one meets so many others. One of these was Robin Good. You see Robin’s picture in the top, left-hand corner of the Communication Agents homepage. If you click it you will be led to Robin’s various websites starting with MasterNewMedia and moving to others such as Kolabora and MasterViews.

It is quickly obvious that Robin is heavily involved in Information Communication Technology (ICT). His passion for these technologies and associated tools is borne out in his presentations on the subject. Robin gave one of them entitled, “The Long Tail,” based on the work of Chris Anderson, at the Open Culture conference. His content knowledge, hands-on experience, and overt passion concerning what ICT is and how it functions triggered my excitement about the impact advances in ICT would have on people, especially in their relationships to one another in their personal development, their work, and their communities. As Robin and I discovered what the other was doing, the complementary aspects of our work became obvious. The result was an invitation to join the ranks of Communication Agents, to which I accepted. And that brings me here. My heartfelt thanks to Robin for making this opportunity possible—this a precious gift, indeed!

I describe myself as a “knowledge broker.” With the pervasiveness of ICT capabilities, the roles we play in our work and relationships to one another are a complex mix of saying our truths, aggregating these diverse points of truth into recognizable frameworks of patterns, and putting theories into action we believe will influence the patterns we see and experience. Knowledge brokers move easily and freely among these three roles depending upon the current circumstances in which they find themselves. My fellow communication agents— Sepp, Chris, Tom, Rinaldo, Ivan, Emma, and Robin —are excellent examples of knowledge brokers. The content of their posts pertains to topics of vital interest to each of us. Their perspectives span the full breadth of a knowledge broker’s world and speak about truth, patterns, or action. Please invite them into your mind and heart and give them a read.

Regardless of what brings us to this point, I am looking forward to our interactions, knowing your truth, and seeing where this leads us!

Steve Bosserman

Originally posted to New Media Explorer by Steve Bosserman on Thursday, August 25, 2005 and updated on Saturday, September 24, 2005