Archives for posts with tag: Knowledge


The next Albert Einstein has been born already.

He made a leap of thought that no one could have predicted. The leap took years of work, hours of discussions and collaboration, thousands of miles of travel. When he started the journey, he had no idea he was getting ready for a new idea of such magnitude.

The relativity theory was not deductible simply from the observations he’d made. Einstein’s work changed the world because it raced through the twentieth-century network of scientists, and then of writers, and then throughout the networks we call culture and history.

We can expect that the next Einstein is more likely to be a data wonk than an absent-minded professor. New software will correlate unrelated data sets and develop insights, theories and open new worlds to us. These program will make us rethink our thinking. The next Einstein will make sense of data that a program has uncomprehendingly flagged as interestingly anomalous.

The next Einstein is like to do her work in the public space, on the connected Web. Rather than waiting to publish final results, she will post early results and perhaps a speculative hypothesis. As word spreads, a web of links and connections will grow around her. Some nodes will turn into hubs, some hosted by amateurs others by professionals, scientists, businesspeople or scholars. We know, however, that many of the nodes and the threads that connect them will disagree, will argue, will go down a dead end, will be wrong, childish and selfish, will be a waste of the links that connects them. Still, we will be able to follow how an idea spreads and the effect it has as the competent and the nutty take it up, make it their own and pass it on.

This is not just a change of tools. The nature of the knowledge that the next Einstein uncovers will be different from that produced by Albert Einstein almost 100 years ago. Our new knowledge does not consist of a careful set of works that have passed through a series of narrow gates. We once believed that knowledge was scarce, when in fact our shelves were just small. Our new knowledge is not even a set of works: it’s an infrastructure of connection. We now travel through abundance as knowingly as we can, always within a context and from a point of view, always connected with others, always with the amount of care we judge is required. Knowledge is now a network with the characteristics of the Web.

We can argue all day if the new knowledge will bring us closer to the truth. We can’t argue that networked knowledge brings us closer to the truth about knowledge.


Image: Courtesy of Behanceserved

I was raised in the traditions of Western schooling with the goal to develop a workforce for the industrial age. If I knew the answer, I was rewarded. My intelligence was measured on standardized tests and all those tests were about knowing the right answer. When I started to manage people, I was rewarded for my certainty – we had a goal and I knew how to get there. Often I had no clue and was filled with fear we would never reach that goal, but I was able to hide my fears and create this aura of knowledge.

Those days are long gone and forgotten. The construct of knowledge and predictability seems laughable when computers can cause a market meltdown, pricing Accenture down to $0.01, when we struggle to prevent a major ecological disaster, when the world is filled with black swans. Our world gets more complex by the day and any thought of certainty seems ridiculous. Information is now consumed in streams and the idea of “truth” transforms right in front of our eyes and mutates into something we have problems defining.

We have to sacrifice certainty.

Our whole belief system is based on certainty and we are defined by our positions, our explanations. In order to survive and prosper in our complex reality, we have to embrace uncertainty. Everything we believe in, everything we “know” needs to go. Time for spring cleaning. Don’t throw everything out, just store your knowledge in the garage and let it sit there. Open the doors and invite new positions in. Listen to what other people have to say, embrace the opposite position, the weird opinion, the unimaginable. We have to live Winston Churchill’s famous quote:

“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.”

These uncertain times create spaces for invention. We need to let go of old positions and jump into the not-knowing space to discover new ways of thinking. Life goes in inevitable cycles and we need to embrace the ebb and flow to experience real happiness.

Enjoy disruptions and weirdness.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Tony Robbins or some other life-changing guru. I feel that our need for certainty is so limiting because we don’t really listen. We’re constantly looking for confirmation of our own knowledge. Instead, we need to look for disruptions of our belief system. How beneficial is it to embrace only like-minded views? Your echo chamber gets louder and louder while the box you put yourself in fills up with sameness.

We need to look for disruptions, not similarities. What kind of world can we create when we enjoy weirdness and cherish differences? We don’t have to agree on anything. That’s fine. But every time we experience disruptions, a door opens in our mind to a world that was closed off before.

Companies have challenges embracing uncertainty, especially when business leaders continue to use the machine as the dominant metaphor. Industrial age thinking leads to massive failures since the executives have no clear feeling how their actions affect the collective action of the company. Dynamic organizations are still very rare because sameness is rewarded, certainty lauded and opposing voices pushed aside. Companies need to routinize the exercise of imagination. They need to store all their “knowledge” away and open the doors to new ideas.

Many organizations believe in a culture of fear. Fear is not a good path to creativity. It forces people to focus on incremental solutions, on safe choices. The successful managers of the future will facilitate listening, learning and imagination. And successful companies will embrace this credo:  “We are door openers. Everyone here is an explorer. How could we possibly live our lives looking at door and not open it.”