#CCK11 – The Bias in Frames are an Integral Part of Design, Innovation and Education

Serendipity drawns me back into the frames discussion, this time through Jon Kolko’s Magic of Design series on the Fast Company Design Blog.  This post also relates to an assertion that the arts are integral to the 21 Century economy.  Most people’s everyday work lives operate in something close to a scientific orientation, but we still need access to a more biased and creative orientation.  Integrating the arts into our social workspaces give us inspiration to add design thinking to this workspace and the process is explained through Jon Kolko’s Magic of Design.

I’ve previously discussed Jon’s first 2 posts on a process for innovation and providing work space to explore deviant ideas.  His last post in this series is about the importance of bringing frames, perspectives and biases to the design process.  The statement: “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time” is attributed to F Scott Fitzgerald.  To participate in design processes, the trick is to bring both diversity and this type of intelligence to your processes.  In this case, we can not ignore science as a way of driving our actions, but we also need creative innovation, and in some ways science and innovation are at opposing ends of a spectrum.  Sometimes we need to embrace our biases.  As Jon explains it:

For as a designer stands in front of a whiteboard in a war-room, surrounded by anecdotes, quotes, pictures, sketches, and working models — and searching for a new, innovative, and persuasive idea — she is relying on her ability to connect something in her own life with something in the data she’s gathered. She is purposefully applying a frame of bias to objective, empirical data, in order to produce something new.

This is called sensemaking.  . . . the interplay of action and interpretation rather than the influence of evaluation on choice.”  . . . all of this (design activity) is useless if the people doing the synthesis aren’t very interesting. Synthesis requires a team of varied and highly eclectic designers who are empowered to embrace their biased perspectives. . . . Groundbreaking design doesn’t come through statistical regression testing, metrics, and causality. It comes from the richness of a biased perspective on the world.

Here is the primary Issue: How do we hold the multiple perspective as important and shift between them on an everyday bases?  There is no place where this is more important than in education.  What kind of Environment can help us to function better in this way?

#CCK11 Education: Stretching the Mind by Adopting New Frames

A follow up on the frame discussion prompted by reading Jamshed Bharucha’s Education as Stretching the Mind.   Jamshed places the idea of re-framing as a central goal of education, which he states like this:

Learn new frameworks, and be guided by them.  But never get so comfortable as to believe that your frameworks are the final word, . . .

He defines frameworks broadly:

a range of conceptual or belief systems — either explicitly articulated or implicitly followed. These include narratives, paradigms, theories, models, schemas, frames, scripts, stereotypes, and categories; they include philosophies of life, ideologies, moral systems, ethical codes, worldviews, and political, religious or cultural affiliations. These are all systems that organize human cognition and behavior by parsing, integrating, simplifying or packaging knowledge or belief. . . .

But there is a problem.  Frames are necessary to reduce cognitive chaos and complexity to a manageable level, but the mind also has an overwhelming bias to maintain these frames, even in the face of disconfirming evidence and sometimes they even create perceptions that are just plain wrong.

The brain maps information onto a small set of organizing structures, which serve as cognitive lenses, skewing how we process or seek new information. These structures drive a range of phenomena, including the perception of coherent patterns (sometimes where none exists), the perception of causality (sometimes where none exists), and the perception of people in stereotyped ways.

But the plasticity of the brain can allow us to change our mind, abet within limits and with much effort, critical tools, reasoning, and the support of ethical and committed people called educators.  Neuro-linguistic Programming: I’ve always thought that therapy should be grounded in education, but maybe education should be grounded in therapy.  I believe strongly in positive psychology, but maybe we can also benefit from curing some of our diseased conceptions.

#CCK11 Frames: The Tools and Contexts We Use to Create Meaning in Joint Action

This post follows a discussion from CCK11 MOOC, where there has been some talk about framing, context, and rationality.  Lindsay Jordan says:

Frames which seem pretty much the same thing as ‘context’ – am I right?

and Jaapsoft2, who says:

Context is a means to think about words in a rational way. Frames do have a physical, neural source. Reframing is a neuro-linguistic method where a situation or context is seen in another frame.

I agree, but I am going to think of words, word meanings, frames and contexts at 3 different levels, in order to tease out a deeper understanding of these concepts for myself.

First Level – Society

I going to think of frames at a societal level.  Frames at this level are not associated with our personal contexts, but they can be thought of as the contexts of our words and word meaning in a larger shared societal sense.  In example, the meaning of the word surgeon can not be separated from the concept of hospital, disease, as well as many other concepts.  All of these words inter-relate to create a frame that gives depth to our understandings and meanings, but it does so in a ways that is generally shared with other people around us.

Second Level Personal Experiences

Our personal contexts do enter into our understandings through our past experiences.  You may have a different understanding of the word surgeon than I do.  We share a societal frame, but may differ on a personal level because of our unique experiences.

Third Level – Joint Action

When we are in a specific context and speaking to each other, we negotiate the meanings of our words and concepts to fit our context and intentions.  You might say that this is where our personal frames come together and we attempt to form a negotiated shared frame between us.  M.M. Bakhtin (I think) would say that interaction is where our unique frames, added to our intentions, come together to create meaning jointly as we act together.  I wrote about this before:

(I)n dialogue, once we have spoken, we have to wait to see how our utterance is interpreted by our counter-party before we can go on.  We can speak, but it’s like the meaning is in the hands of our dialogic partner.  I think it’s what Wittgenstein meant when he said that we don’t reach for certainty, but rather for the ability to go on and continue the dialogue.  Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist give a similar account of the psychological implications of this dialogic way of looking at things when they quote Bakhtin saying:

(T)here is no reason for saying that meaning belongs to the word as such.  In essence, meaning belongs to a word in it’s position between speakers . . . meaning is realized only in the process of active, responsive understanding. . .” (p.232)

In this way framing does not determine meanings, but it does set the stage, or maybe it’s better to say, it gives us the tools by which we can act together to create meaning in joint action.

This is also the conceptual space where reframing is able to happen.  Jaapsoft2’s reference come from a therapeutic technique of trying to find other frames that help us to think of our circumstances in new ways.  Goffman did this same thing when he pointed out that people with disabilities were stigmatized because of their deviance, but it was also possible to think of difference without a negative connotation.   However, at some level, we try to reframe things, at least in small ways, every time we speak together.  And that is just as I am doing now.

#LAK11 Data Science and Analytics: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hans de Zwart posted a great summation of the critiques of big data and its usages.  I will comment his post in 3 sections, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

I like this Dataist’s Venn Diagram on Data Science combining Hacking Skills (innovating with technology), Math and Stat knowledge, with core expertise.

Data Science Venn Diagram

Data Science Venn Diagram

Data science is then a combination of an expert in Machine Learning (to deal with the massive amounts of data being generated), traditional research expertise (to process and analyze that information) and a willingness to engage in creative disciplinary innovation to bring these insights to practice (danger zone).  I think this is a list of skill and knowledge needs.

The Bad

Most of the naughty list is from Drew Conway’s original definition of danger zone and from George Siemens’ 10 concerns.  Drew’s reason for calling it a danger zone was to warn of people who hack (innovate) with poor core knowledge and George’s concern list is mostly about data procedures getting away from our intentions.  These are valid concerns, but I think they relate to statistical and measurement concerns.  My take on the problem is this: due to common pedagogy, most people have a rather formulaic understanding of measurement and statistic.  They know how to plug in the numbers, but they aren’t so good understanding what they are doing conceptually and what limitation are being violated. Not only is this a problem because they are operating blindly, but also because they are missing the inherent limitations that exist in their calculations.  So people are blind to both the validity problems they are creating and do not have a good conceptual understanding of what their procedures are capable of doing.

The Ugly

Hacking skills are the most likely skill to be ignored in this diagram.  This is a new area and it can’t progress without innovation.  Even though innovation is widely celebrated, managers do not really like it because the very idea of management is wraped up in the idea of control (with or without command).  In a standardized economy people were interchangeable and must conform to existing processes.  Today the world, even the data world, changes to quickly for standardized process in most circumstances.  To respond, management must be reformed to its core purposes and I don’t think the discipline is ready to tread these waters.


This view is against Chris Andersen’s view of The End of Theory in favor of dimensionally agnostic statistics.  Google is just a tool.  Popularity does not equal quality or relevance as was pointed out with recent concerns that organizations spamming google results.  As the Sloan article Hans quotes states:

Information Must Become Easier to Understand and Act Upon

Collaborative Inquiry: Collaboration as a Method to Increase Research Capabilities

Catherine Lombardozzi has blogged about Collaborative Inquiry, a topic I’ve been skirting for  a while with terms like: learning networks, un-conference, collective intelligence, distributed decision making, distributed cognition or connectivism.  I think this basic idea is a natural part of web 2.0 thinking that is collaborative in its core nature. I also think it is a way to tap into the knowledge flows associated with Hagel’s Power of Pull thinking and is also just a good way to address knowledge areas that are in flux as opposed to stable and well established.  Less and less of our practices are stable today and this is a natural way to gain knowledge and direction.

To extend this idea I’ve been thinking about why you would want to choose a collaborative research structure over a more traditional set up, and I’ve put my ideas into this concept map.  It’s not a finished product; just beginning thoughts.

A Comparison of Individual and Collaborative Research

Individual Collaborative Research Comparision - Why would you choose collaborative research methodology

How Might Schools Prepare Us for “Real Life”

Michele at the Bamboo Project got my interest with a post about: How School Screws Things Up for Real Life.  My take on her main point:

(S)chool does a really terrible job of preparing our young people for “the real world” by setting up some seriously unrealistic expectations.

Let’s summarize this way:  people expect school to prepare them for their work life, but fail because the social structures and expectations, “the rules of the road if you will”, are completely different.  It’s reasonable that this “hidden curriculum” is important, but I think that there is even more involved.  It’s something that goes to the very purpose of schooling and I’ll begin with this list:

  1. Skills are more important than Content.  Schools put too much emphasis on content recall instead of things like analysis.  Most students do need an understanding and recall of some content, but skills are more important, especially skills like analysis.  Many specifics that Michele lists can become issues because novices often take their world at face value (i.e., their first impression).  Analysis prepares us to look deeper and begins with problem framing, exploring different way of looking at a problem in order to find an acceptable way to communicate and to guides one’s actions.  This is the essence of maturity and something important to workers and employers and it leads me to a 2nd point.
  2. In early life, Maturation is more important than Knowledge.  Our lifetime is generally divided into 3 periods.  Schooling, working, and retirement.    Because schooling is first, it’s natural to assume that what is happening at this time is maturation.  Instead of trying to cram everything they will need to know into one’s first 22 years, an impossible task to begin with, strive instead for helping students reach maturity in their capabilities; to be their best possible self.  The ability to act with whatever capabilities one excels, along with promoting emotional, physical, and personal wholeness, is much more important than what content one knows.  This is how we should be measuring students.
  3. Graduates don’t need certificates; they need resources.  It make no sense to think that one’s learning needs end with graduation at age 22 or there abouts.  John Hagel has suggested that knowledge today is found in flows, and if we want to be successful, we need access to these knowledge flows.  It also makes no sense that one’s developmental influences (their school) should not be a participant in this flow.  Students should graduate with more than a certificate, they should also have an active personal learning network.  I can think of no better transition process than to build a learning network in school that can be carried into later life.  Imagine if an employer was not only hiring a school’s “product”, but also an entire knowledge network resource.  It is the essence of this 2.0 networked world that artificial boundaries to accessing resources are being eliminated.  Let’s make schools part of this boundary breaking

This is not an exhaustive list.  What other ways of educational reform could help us function better or healthier in life?  What should schools look like; what should be their purpose?

Encouraging Innovation, Demystifying Design

This post is based on Jon Kolko’s Fast Company’s design blog post and follows Jon’s previous post on design synthesis here and a post on playfulness here.

Demystifying design could be a good theme of Jon’s posts.  Today he looks at the relation of playfulness to innovation and the work cultural requirements in three points.

Embrace dynamic constraints.

Any design or artistic endeavor needs constraints to focus participant activities within an endless universe of possibilities.  Jon’s point is that the best art accepts constraints and then selectively finds innovation by stepping outside of those constraints.  Hence, accept constraints, but also accept the possibility that constraint may take on a dynamic character.  Encourage a culture of functional flexibility.

Provide a Runway (Space) to Explore Deviant Ideas

Don’t allow decision processes to squash deviant ideas during design processes, even conflictual ideas.

The notion of being playful is to appreciate and encourage divergent thinking and the shifting, flexing, and removing of constraints. Play is about exploring “what-if” scenarios; that is, dream states. Our lives, jobs, and compensation are so frequently tied to rational thought that we have often forgotten how to actively dream, yet these dreams — the ability to generate ideas, outlandish or otherwise — are at the core of design innovation. Design synthesis embraces this divergent dreaming.

Encourage Flow and Autonomous Decision Making

Jon references psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow; an “automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.”   I diverge with Jon on this point.  I like the idea of flow, but I’m going with Hagel’s  knowledge flows, not Csikszentmihalyi’s version, which I think takes us back toward magical thinking.  I interpret Hagel’s flow as much more than a rational process.  It is a social, emotional and unpredictable process that has some similarities with Jon’s approach.  It fits the idea of playful design spaces, but doesn’t depend specifically on a hard to define altered state of consciousness, which may or may not be available when they are needed.

#LAK11 – Utopian and Dystopian Visions of Analytics: It’s a Question of Validity

Catching up on the beginning of LAK11 which began last week.

George Siemens’ 1-16 post has initiated a discussion on critiques, much of which seems to focus on dystopian critique.

David Jones’ earlier critique is a good example.  His interesting critique is based on his fear of teleological implementation:

This remains my major reservation about all these types of innovations. In the end, they will be applied to institutional contexts through teleological processes. i.e. the change will be done to the institution and its members to achieve some set plan. Implementation will have little contextual sensitivity and thus will have limited quality adoption. . ..

This is what I consider to be a basic modernist approach with only quantitative teleology, that is, final causes can be judged solely through numbers resulting from simple quantitative analyses.

I studied Samuel Messick for my dissertation and my reading of him was that he was a psychometrician who took seriously the postmodern critique of the 20th Century philosophers of sciences.  His response was that the question of validity could never be answered without both quantitative and qualitative analysis.  Messick’s approach has always been seen negatively by those who need the teleological certainty of positivist quantitative only answers.  This is exactly the simplistic way David fears analysis will be used and his fear is valid.  Not because these tools can not achieve good things, they could improve our lives tremendously.  However, understanding in depth their use and the consequences of their use is a difficult undertaking requiring quantitative and qualitative analysis in it’s own right.  Many people will not be willing to put in that kind of effort.  A utopian leaning vision can only be achieved with hard work and much effort, but a dystopian vision can be achieve with only minimal effort.

New Forms for Pedagogy: Another Take

Developing Creativity through Lifewide Education by Norman Jackson considers the inadequacies of the structure of higher education and claims that;

(E)duration that is dominated by the mastery of content and cognitive performance in abstract situations, (it) is not enough. . . . (Quoting Douglas Thomas and John Seeley Brown)  “What is required to succeed in education is a theory that is responsive to the context of constant flux, while at the same time is grounded in a theory of learning”.

And it’s not just educational practice.   The problems also extend to research based knowledge generation.

Paradoxically, the core enterprise of research – the production of new knowledge – is generally seen as an objective systematic activity rather than a creative activity that combines, in imaginative ways, objective and more intuitive forms of thinking.

This critique of knowledge generation also fits with the ides of my last post inspired by Jay Cross.   If your context is rather stable, than knowledge generation that emphasizes objectivity and systematicity will work relatively well.  But if one’s situation trends towards a contextual flux in a complex multi-demensional variable field, then systematic objectivity may be useful for verification of experimental data, but not for generation hypotheses and theories, the things that lead and guide inquiry.  Current methodological thought treats the creative generation of hypotheses and theories rather cavalierly considering their central place in inquiry.

Norman list 8 propositions for a new curricular approach.

In order to facilitate students’ creative development for the real world we must create a curriculum that –

  • Proposition 1 : gives them the freedom and empowers them to make choices so that they can find deeply satisfying and personally challenging situations that inspire and require their creativity. A curriculum should nurture their spirit: their will to be and become a better more developed person and create new value in the world around them
  • Proposition 2: enables them to experience and appreciate knowledge and knowing in all its forms. And enables them to experience and appreciate themselves as knower, maker, player, narrator and enquirer
  • Proposition 3 : enables them to appreciate the significance of being able to deal with situations and to see situations as the fundamental opportunity for being creative. They need to be empowered to create new situations individually and with others by connecting people and transferring, adapting and integrating ideas, resources and opportunities, in an imaginative, willful and productive way, to solve problems and create new value.
  • Proposition 4: prepares them for and gives them experiences of adventuring in uncertain and unfamiliar situations, through which they encounter and learn to deal with situations that do not always result in success but which do not penalize ‘mistakes’ or failure to reach a successful outcome
  • Proposition 5 : enables them to develop and practice the repertoire of communication and literacy skills they need to be effective in a modern world
  • Proposition 6: encourages participants to behave ethically and with social responsibility promoting creativity as means of making a difference to people or adding value to the world
  • Proposition 7: engenders a commitment to personal and cooperative learning and the continuing development of capability for the demands of any situation and the more strategic development of capability for future learning
  • Proposition 8: helps them develop and explain their understandings of what creativity means in the situations in which they participate or create, and values and recognizes their awareness and application

More broadly, how do we do this?  I’ll fall back on Hagel, Brown and Divison’s Power of Pull framework.

  1. Tap into knowledge flows, especially through Web 2.o technologies such as Personal Learning Environments or community wide collaborative research projects.
  2. Find a trustful, creative and knowledge flow filled environments (both virtual and physical).  Places where serendipity is more likely to strike.
  3. Rather than scalable efficiency,  strategize for scalable connectivity, scalable learning, and new possibilities for performance.
  4. Tap into people’s passion.  You could say, manage by helping people find inspiration.

People might say; “this does not represent the real world”.  I would counter that their real world was the 20th Century.  That world is now fading, and as they say, the new world is here, it’s just not evenly distributed,

Learning Beyond a Standardized Approach

Interesting post by Jay Cross that helpes me clarify my last post and explore some new directions.  In his post Jay says;

No more efficiency models, and no more Six Sigma. Forget that. We aren’t in a stable environment and won’t be in a stable environment. We have to have our people go out and experiment, innovate, and invent. Job descriptions, competency management systems, and all that legacy stuff are needless baggage.

So, a good first question to ask yourself is, “Is there evidence for functional stability in the environment”?  I mean functional in that, is there real stability, or are conservative forces trying to hang onto a fading paradigm.  If the answer is yes, than there may be a place for six sigma and other standardized programs.  But if the field is in flux, and there is a lot of flux today, than standardization can’t be your primary focus or strategy.

So if your area is in flux, how can you focus your strategy.  Jay also has some good suggestions for structuring learning processes and environments for a learning strategy.

(I)f you have an employee who is entering a new area . . .  and they have no framework, then formal learning is the way to get them up to speed—to learn the lay of the land, the technique, and the structure. But as soon as you form a complete tableau in your mind of that domain, then you are empowered to go out and fill in the pieces.

This country has missed one of the best opportunities for employee development and worker fulfillment by not asking the employee her life aspirations. Once you identify that and let the people you work with know that, you plan together to make it happen. . . . If you have a manager who isn’t willing to participate in making people better, then throw him out the door. Focus on the platform. The program stuff will get what they need if they have the right platform and things are hooked up. . . . establish an environment for learning—where you can focus specifically on your learning ecology and what will make it healthy and grow.