Transforming OurSpace Using Thinker's Thoughts
October 2007


This month it's my privilege to take the helm from Shel, to think some thoughts, and to share them with you. I'd like to address a subject I believe is closely related to his piece last month on education. What I read in Shel's thoughts are a reminder to respect people, whether children or adults, students or teachers. To respect their knowledge of their world, to respect their ability and desire to learn and grow, and to respect their view of the world we share with, but don't necessarily perceive the same as, them and everyone else.

I'd like to extend the concept just a smidge and take it to the workplace. If I use de Bono's Six Thinking Hats model, I would have to say the majority of my job is Blue Hat. I spend my time thinking about thinking, and my responsibilities include helping our knowledge workers communicate, collaborate, and innovate.

The use of information technology is an important aspect of this work, in that it is used to expand our human capacities for research and communication, but it is not the lifeblood of a learning organization. It is, and most likely will continue to be, in the domain of humans and our relationships - our social networking - where the real job of managing our knowledge takes place.

Our most difficult and intractable task, then, is with respect to affecting cultural change - to transforming a buttoned-up, knowledge hoarding culture into an open, sharing, and learning/teaching culture. So that's my subject and, as I write these words I find it somewhat laughable to think I'm going to say much of value in just a few paragraphs. Nevertheless, I shall plod onward.

Rick Ladd

On Respect and Cultural Transformation

If many companies are experiencing what mine is today, one of the main issues causing consternation (at least in successful ones, where there's time and resources to reflect rather than a constant struggle to survive) is how to attract and retain high-quality people to maintain their workforce in the face of a large and looming exodus of Baby Boomers. I am amazed at the level of hand- wringing and teeth gnashing that swirls around me and seems to find its way to a majority of the conversations about our general direction.

What really strikes me, though, is the difficulty so much of the senior management of our organizations has in understanding and respecting the very people they say they want to have as part of their organizations. When I use the word respect, what I'm thinking of is recognizing that all employees (both experienced and newly-hired) have the need not only to work and receive a paycheck, but also to be part of something bigger than themselves and to be recognized as capable of understanding and contributing to the needs of that organization.

The act of simply listening can be sorely hampered by the preconceived notions we take into a relationship. Many or our senior management, and others in leadership positions, think the way they did things, and the answers they came up with, remain useful in all situations and for all time. The people they need to carry out the business of the organization most likely don't see things quite the way management does. This is likely to be especially true of new-hires.

In my experience, this is not because they are fundamentally different than people who may be only 20 years their seniors, but because they grew up in a world where communication and expectations have dramatically shifted from that of their parents.

I could go on with details of these differences, why they matter, and how ignoring them may have disastrous consequences, but I think I'm out of room. Besides, since I could be blowing hot air, I'm interested in what you might have to say, so . . .

What do you think?