We see it every day, in every job advertisement, mission statement, corporate brochure: "our greatest asset is our people". For some reason, we roll our eyes. Why? After all, we agree with it.

We roll our eyes, not at the statement, but rather at the reality we suspect lies behind it. Even in knowledge work, people are frequently treated as no more than cogs in roles, even though their unique point of view, peculiar skills, and emergent impact on the team's collective intelligence are the competitive advantages - the cognitive edge - that we rely on for success.

We tell ourselves we are practising the art of the possible, are making a difference and... someday things might change?

We will examine some unstated concessions we make to the status quo, and speculate on how these elephants in the room remain unaddressed. The conclusion is inescapable: Ninja elephants!

Ninja Elephant

We'll talk about how to spot ninja elephants in the wild, how to handle and address them with safe-to-fail experiments, and even enlist our stealthy pachyderms to help people and organisations learn more about themselves.

This talk aims to inspire a reexamination of how we work together, and the impact our willingness to engage with hard questions has on our cognitive edge and our ability to change the world.

 
 

Outline/Structure of the Talk

  • Introduction to the concept of cognitive edge
  • Some examples of what we actually do in the workplace
  • The roots of our reluctance to engage with the uncomfortable
  • The impacts of these practices on the socio-technical system
  • Professional ethics and responsibilities
  • Engaging with the challenge: a hint of Cynefin
  • Some actions for tomorrow

Learning Outcome

  • Familiarity with the concept of knowledge work as a complex adaptive system
  • Understand some of the impacts of the "elephants" on knowledge work
  • Recognise the gap between "uncontroversial" and "professional"
  • Have a list of probes (safe-to-fail experiments) that are suitable for a probe-sense-respond cycle in the organisational change space
  • Recognise the potential of complexity theory as a change management tool

Target Audience

Practitioners and their managers, HR

Prerequisites for Attendees

Some work experience, but even students will recognise it.

schedule Submitted 2 months ago

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