Making Mark Zuckerberg’s Business Philosophy Work

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...Image via CrunchBase

The central way Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg works can be summed up in his often repeated mandate to his staff: “Move fast and break things.”

What Zuckerberg is talking about has two dimensions:

1. That speed needs to be a key component of how his people work. If they don’t have a sense of urgency then it’s unlikely that they’ll achieve anything substantial quickly. As businesses grow (and Facebook is no different) layers of bureaucracy develop that impede rapid progress. That must be countered by elevating the speed at which teams work.

(This sense of urgency was also identified as a key component of many other successful businesses. See Professor John Kotter’s work at Harvard on corporate urgency).

2. That no great achievements will occur unless Facebook’s staff maintain a spirit of challenging the status quo, even to the point of destroying what is already accepted as being best practice.

(This concept is similar to the Austrian American economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of ‘creative destruction’ ).

Zuckerberg urges his teams to keep these two mind filters front of mind, to ensure they don’t rest on Facebook’s existing achievements and that they keep pace with social media’s breakneck pace of progress.

We all should do the same.

A simple and effective way to do this is by continually following two strategies consistently.

1. Set Short, Unreasonable Deadlines. 

Only be putting time pressure on both yourself and your staff are you likely to push both to achieve at an unusually fast rate. Follow normal, reasonable deadlines and your chances of being faster than your competitors are low. Time pressure almost always brings out the best in people of talent.

2. Always Ask, ‘How Would the Next Great Company In My Sector Do This? ‘

We need to stop aiming for best of category and start thinking major disruption. The first gives you progress and perhaps brief leadership, the second gives you a chance at really changing the game and establishing medium to long term dominance.

In today’s uber fast business world, Zuckerberg’s simple philosophy is a potent mind tool to get the most out of yourself and your people. The two strategies above will help you bring that philosophy to life in the day to day running of your business.

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg”  by Ekatrina Walter

All great achievements start with passion. Passion is what fuels everything. Passion is what motivates you, whether your motivations are spiritual, artistic, political, economic, social, or personal. You know that you are passionate about something when you become restless, when you wake up every morning knowing that you cannot not create whatever it is that you are passionate about.

Passion is what shapes your purpose, in life and in business. When the idea for a venture starts taking shape, purpose is what ultimately helps define it. If you rally around the purpose and build a culture around it, you will meet success; if you lose your way, you will meet failure.

The success of your mission will depend on a lot of factors, one of the most critical of them is people – employees you hire and those you partner with. Whether you are a growing business or an established one, if you don’t have a team that shares your vision, your dream, and your goals, the business will not be able to reach its potential. No matter how you look at it, no matter which field you are in, no matter how brilliant your ideas are, success is a team sport. You can imagine the most amazing products or services in the world, but it requires people to make your dream a reality. That’s where culture and leadership become important.

Think Like Zuck

Think Like Zuck

In the book “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg Ekaterina  talk about the philosophy of notable leaders of our time. “Think Like Zuck” is an analogy of a leader who follows his passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams, and strives for continued excellence in her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to building successful business and the approach they use to doing so. Facebook and its visionary Mark Zuckerberg are used as just one of the example of a leader who has a clear purpose in front of him and for whom that purpose drives all of his major personal and business decisions.

Zuckerberg believes that the world is moving toward radical transparency. To him, the information flow online shouldn’t be encumbered by, well, anything. He believes there should be no borders, no restrictions, no limitations on not only the way people connect and communicate online but in the way information is created, consumed, and shared.

In building Facebook, Zuckerberg was extremely focused on ensuring that the social graph he helped create online would be transparent and authentic. Authenticity is everything to him. Facebook was created on a principle of real-life identity and is intended to enhance your relationships with people you know in real life. One is not able to build trust inside online communities if one’s identity isn’t consistent and known to others. Hence, Facebook’s restriction of allowing only one profile per person. Believe it or not, people have been banned for creating multiple profiles. Facebook was the first social network to introduce this rule and demand compliance with it. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” says Facebook’s CEO.  “The level of transparency the world has now won’t support having two identities for a person.”  He believes that such transparency will also help build a healthier society.

Throughout the existence of the social network, Zuck stuck to his passion and to the purpose of Facebook’s creation. He always ensured that users came first and revenue second. Over the past eight years, he has been criticized for sacrificing revenue for users’ interests. But he always sailed his course. “I never wanted to run a company,” Zuckerberg said. “To me a business is a good vehicle for getting stuff done.” His belief in his company and its purpose was so strong, he declined to sell it over and over, even when Yahoo executives offered him $1 billion.

Money isn’t a priority to him; he is more interested in building something genuinely amazing than selling out. For the longest time, he rented a small apartment and slept on a mattress on the floor. He drove an Acura TSX. He doesn’t have fancy clothes, preferring T-shirts and hoodies. In the letter that accompanied the IPO, Zuck wrote: “Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.” In that he reminds me of Steve Jobs and his quote from a 1993 Wall Street Journal interview: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

“The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ . . . Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time. And that’s what this company is.” says Zuckerberg.

Zuck’s business interests always aligned closely with his personal philosophy. He even encourages his employees to work on the projects they are passionate about, not the ones that are forcefully assigned to them. What an incredible way to take advantage of not only human competence, but full human potential. And what a great reminder to lead with purpose.

Self Organized Criticality in life

Human nature, according to the Bhagwad Gita, is controlled by three qualities: Sattva, rajas and tamas signifying goodness, passion and illusion. The soul, which is invisible and incomprehensible to materials nature, apparently manifests through these qualities. By nature, a saatvik person is active, a rajasik person is good and tamasic is an ignorant person.

The saatvik person is identified by purity, transparency, stability and calmness of mind. We associate a kind of aura with this nature, which illuminates the world by knowledge and truthfulness. A rajasik person is identified by his passion. Desire for fruits of action and addiction to the fruits thus obtained, make a rajasik person dynamic, excited and action-oriented. A tamasik person suffers illusion and this  make him lazy, drowsy and ignorant.

 In science, materials qualities can also be identified, likewise, by these natures.  Sattva stands for purity, equilibrium or stress-free state, lustre, luminosity, order and stability of matter. Motion, energy and excitations are the rajasik qualities of matter. Finally, the tamasik qualities of matter are its inertia, disorder, chaos, darkness and instability.

 Thereby, materials nature is identified by concepts borrowed from Indic philosophy, particularly the 14th chapter of the Gita. Perhaps we can apply scientific nomenclatures to describe philosophic attributes.

 Currently, multiferroics is an active branch of research in physics and materials science.  It deals with three kinds of properties, namely, ferromagnetism, ferroelectrics and ferroelasticity. The prefix “ferro” in each case represents order. Thus, these three types exhibit spontaneous order, respectively, in magnetism, electrical polarisation and mechanical strain. While different materials exhibit different kinds of order, there is a fervent search to look for all or more than one order in the same material.  In the human world, it is equivalent to finding a multifaceted personality, having multiple traits in an indiviudal.

 In the 16th chapter of the Gita, Krishna describes the classification of human nature in terms of divinity and demoniacs. Divinity in a man results in fearlessness, mental clarity, commitment to knowledge, tendency for sacrifice and meditation, simplicity, non-violence, truthfulness, free from anger, and is of peaceful mind, tolerant, kind, charitable and free from greed. He is also illumined, forgiving, soft, and with internal and external purity. Even one of these traits is enough to establish order. More than one can enhance the order by several orders of magnitude. The process is reversible. These traits in turn can establish divinity in man.

 On the other hand, the demoniac nature leads one to arrogance, pride, intolerance, anger, cruelty and ignorance. Divinity leads one to enlightenment and ultimate liberation and demoniac nature to bondage. The divine believe in a “Paramatma” or Invisible Providence and attribute everything to it. The demoniacs, devoid of faith, pronounce that the world is created out of lust. All their activities are aimed in the destruction of righteousness and order.


 Whether in mythology or history, there is always conflict between the two natures. Unrighteous and demoniac people are intolerant of sattva- inspired virtuous people and try to harm them. They create discord and chaos in society. Puranas like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata depict in detail these conflicts. The conflicts end invariably and rightly with the victory of divinity over the demoniac. It happens because, when chaos resulting from demoniac activities reaches a critical point, a mechanism emerges from within the system, which restores order. In science it is termed as self-organised criticality.


Components for Innovative climate

Are you thinking about ways to transform your workplace into an environment more conducive to innovation? This article takes a closer look at six components of creative climates that have shown to be significant at facilitating creativity according to new research.


 This article will continue investigating creative climates with the goal of identifying the most substantial components that facilitates creativity.

What is a creative climate?

A climate can be seen as various aspects of the psychological atmosphere in a team and the surrounding organizational environment. The climate often conveys expectations about which behaviors and attitudes that are acceptable. In the creativity research field there has been many attempts to conceptualize the idea of a ‘creative’ climate – i.e. such a climate that facilitates outcomes that are creative. Examples of such conceptualizations are the Team Climate Inventory by Anderson & West (1996), the Creative Climate Questionnaire by Ekvall (1996) and the KEYS by Amabile et al. (1996).

Many components of a creative climate have been proposed during the years. Some examples are the degree of individual freedom, psychological safety, support and positive relationships among team members, vision provided by supervisors, creative encouragement, mission clarity, available resources, and even joy (Denti, 2011).

The search for significant components of a creative climate

we   want to highlight six components of a creative climate that have been shown to be among the most salient in predicting creative and innovative outcomes. To identify these components, we have scrutinized two recent meta-analytic studies on factors that influence creativity and innovation (Hülsheger, Anderson & Salgado, 2009, and Hunter, Bedell & Mumford, 2007). Meta analytic studies have the best ability to detect effects across multiple settings since they combine the results from a large amount of studies¹. The factors are presented in no particular order.

1. Challenge

Complex, challenging and interesting tasks and goals spur intrinsic motivation, which is a critical component of creativity. Yet here also lies an important caveat. Tasks and goals should not be too overwhelming because then the challenge risk becoming an obstacle – effectively stifling motivation.

Also see The Best Motivation for Innovation is ‘Being in Flow’ by Bengt Järrehult.

2. Intellectual debate

When working with complex and challenging tasks, problems often surface. The nature of these problems is that they are often novel to the people that encounters them and complex in that they can be solved in different ways. To ensure that a project can move forward, many viewpoints must be heard and people must feel secure enough so that they put forward their best ideas. In organizations where there is no debate people tend to stick to “tried and true” ways of doing things – applying old solutions to new problems.

3. Flexibility and risk taking

A basic reality of creative endeavors is that they are inherently uncertain. Often, there is no valid information that ensures that an idea or an innovation is guaranteed to succeed. Even a creative idea itself may not be practical enough to be realized into a new product, service or process improvement. Thus, risk is inherently built into innovation. Research shows that tolerating this risk, not minimizing it, is the best strategy. Thus, it is crucial that organizations accept and allow risk, encourage experimentation and failure.

4. Top management support

Another salient component of a creative climate is the perception of support from top management. This support entails both espoused support; when top management communicate norms that encourage innovation, risk taking and experimentation, and enacted support. This latter form of support is perhaps the most important, since it is the amount of resources such as money, time and facilities that top management is prepared to commit to innovation. If resources are not available, employees will see through the rhetoric of encouragement, effectively undermining these efforts.

5. Positive supervisor relations

Support for new ideas by the supervisor or team leader is critical for the further development and implementation of these ideas. Especially supportive leaders listen and give feedback to ideas, and tolerate a certain degree of experimentation. Furthermore, leaders should publicly recognize and reward creative efforts.

6. Positive interpersonal exchange

The last salient component of creative climates is joy. When team members experience a sense of “togetherness” that comes with a common goal, team members will want to cooperate efficiently for their mutual benefit. This increases both team performance as well as individual performance. With increased togetherness communication is facilitated, which will allow different perspectives and keep conflict away.

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, By Michael Sandel

Harvard professor Michael Sandel examines ‘moral limits of markets’ in new book

We are reluctant to allow moral and spiritual concerns into public debate, he says. Instead, we’ve come to rely on the market to assign value.

Michael Sandel, the superstar Harvard moral philosopher, wants people to spend more time queuing. Well, he wants people not to spend money to avoid queuing, which amounts to the same thing. Except sometimes the money option is ethical. When a bus arrives at the stop, it should be first come, first served; but he agrees I should not be under an obligation to sell my house to the first buyer who arrives at the doorstep.

“There’s no reason to assume that any single principle – queuing or paying – should determine the allocation of goods,” he writes. In which case, practical moral philosophy needs to indicate which principle applies in which circumstances. Professor Sandel does not give an answer, although he is very clear that the market principle applies in far too many cases, and many readers will agree wholeheartedly.

Perhaps we can figure it out from his examples. He objects to some people being able to buy the right to board airlines faster than others; or to pay for better service from a call centre; to paying someone else to stand in a queue on your behalf; to reselling concert tickets at a higher price. He thinks children should not be paid for attaining good grades at school.

This entertaining and provocative book is full of examples of vulgar commercialisation, including US towns that have sold advertising space on police patrol cars, the Washington lobbyists who pay homeless people to queue to see a congressman, the sale of a forehead as advertising space, and the purchase of naming rights to New York subway stations by (among others) Barclays Bank. A lot of us will agree that there is far too much of this in modern life.

However, there are examples in this book of the expansion of markets in ways that many people, especially economists, would mostly regard as beneficial, but the author argues are degrading. Life insurance is one. Sandel describes it as a “wager on death”. He shares, it seems, the opposition of religious authorities to life insurance before it became increasingly widespread from the mid-19th century.

There are certainly some commercial excesses in the life insurance market. These include so-called “dead peasants insurance”, whereby corporations take out policies on the life of their employees, originally without their consent; and the investment index of “viatical” insurance policies, whereby the investor buys at a discount the insurance policies of people who are dying and trades them. Yet to put normal life insurance policies in the same category, even though they may create a theoretical incentive to murder, seems extreme.

Sandel is particularly opposed to the idea, attributed to economics, that all human relations are market relations. His opposition to market relations stems not from an argument about fairness (that rich people can afford more), or about blackmail (poor people are effectively forced to make unpalatable choices because they need the money). Instead, his argument is that introducing market choices into domains where civic values ought to prevail has a degrading and corrosive effect.

The fact that a market might lead to outcomes that improve welfare is irrelevant to the over-riding importance of civic virtue, he argues. Thus a global scheme for a market in carbon dioxide is morally unacceptable, even if it reduces the level of emissions, because it does damage “to two norms: it entrenches an instrumental attitude toward nature; and it undermines the spirit of shared sacrifice that may be necessary to create a global environmental ethic.”

I would rather see an effective scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but then I’m an economist. Economics is firmly grounded in utilitarian ethics, which can conflict with Sandel’smoral principle of virtue for its own sake. So at some point he and an economist are bound to part ways in making ethical judgments.

However, he thinks economists are more ideological than is the case (for the most part). For example, the book cites a well-known example of the use of a financial incentive proving counter-productive: a nursery that introduced a fine for parents who picked up their child late found that it increased lateness. Similarly, offering pupils payments to improve their grades does not always have the desired result.

A jobbing economist is not philosophically challenged by evidence that a financial incentive does not work, however. She will try to redesign the scheme with incentives that do work. The field of economics known as market design offers examples of market incentives whose outcomes are both effective and (I think) moral. A kidney-matching market created by economists in New England in 2004 has dramatically increased the number of kidney transplants, a result that surely outweighs any counter-argument against the commodification of body parts.

Economics does not deny the existence of limits to markets, or what are known as “repugnant” markets. On the contrary, market design tries to identify which reasons can account for the, often instinctive, moral repugnance in a specific case, and work around it. The good professor’s insistence on a domain of civic values is certainly one principle for ruling out or limiting markets, and this explains why justice is supposed to be beyond purchase, and votes too, and why states insist on providing education for their citizens.

However, the generally accepted boundaries on markets vary, and the tide can flow both ways. There used to be a large market in humans, now banned in international law. The US prohibited the alcohol market in the 1920s. Short-selling of shares has sometimes been banned, sometimes not.

What Money Can’t Buy will tap into a widespread unease about having to limit government and accept a larger private domain in this age of austerity; and about crass commercialisation when unemployment and inequality are too high. But it does not offer a clear guide to which markets are repugnant, and why.

We might agree that the new markets in financial indices of agricultural commodity prices, created by Goldman Sachs and others, are intolerable. For me, the reason is the utilitarian one that they are making very poor people go hungry.

But is it really morally repugnant for educational buildings to be named after rich donors? Sandel objects to a school naming its donated gym after ShopRite. Yet he, the Anne T and Robert M Bass Professor of Government, researches in Harvard’s Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, named by a grieving but rich mother after a young Harvard student who died on the Titanic. Is the passage of time enough to disinfect the transaction?

He ends the book with a question: “Are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?” This is rhetorical. Of course the answer is, yes. But how do we know what they are?

We are reluctant to allow moral and spiritual concerns into public debate, says Michael Sandel.  Instead, we’ve come to rely on the market to assign value.

We are reluctant to allow moral and spiritual concerns into public debate, says Michael Sandel. Instead, we’ve come to rely on the market to assign value.

More than ever, we live in a society that sells and puts a price on just about anything.

Couples can hire an Indian surrogate mother for $6,250. Or they can invest that money in the American insurance industry, where betting on the death of strangers is a $30-billion business. Investors receive higher returns the sooner the stranger dies — a morbid spin on the adage that time is money.

Hunters can head to South Africa to kill an endangered black rhino provided they’re willing to pay $150,000 for the privilege. Or they can stay in Canada to kill a walrus for less than $10,000. Add a caribou, musk ox and polar bear and you’ll hit what hunting groups call the “Arctic grand slam.”

If it’s citizenship you’re after, $500,000 buys the right to immigrate to the United States. Many countries have similar policies, including Canada, though the price is higher here.

Even in prison, money matters. In some cities, prisoners can upgrade their cells with a nightly fee.

Teaching political philosophy at Harvard University, Sandel has practiced for years the art of merging the philosophical and the topical. His course on justice, for instance, is wildly popular. More than 15,000 students have taken it — and more than 1,100 students have registered in a single semester, making it the largest-ever class in Harvard history.

Repackaged into a 12-episode TV program produced by WGBH-TV, it’s “the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on public television,” reads the program’s website.

The series has generated millions of views on YouTube, and the lectures have been aired, translated and rebroadcast internationally. In part, that’s due to Sandel’s knack for using simple and seemingly trivial examples to reveal complex, even profound implications.

He’s been doing this outside the classroom as well. In one of his two TED Talks, he invokes Aristotle while grilling audience members about the nature of golf. Is walking across the course part of the game? Is golf still golf if players use carts to get around the course? Sandel explains that concerns about fairness and justice underlie these questions.

He recently finished an international tour that took him to Japan and Korea, countries that trace their philosophical roots to China, not the United States. Yet Sandel is a phenomenon in the region.

He threw the opening pitch at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. A few days prior, 15,000 attended a lecture he gave in an outdoor amphitheatre at Yonsei University. American political philosophers rarely attract this much fanfare at home, much less internationally.

At least one Japanese university has created a course to emulate his approach. Korean Supreme Court justice Jeon Soo-Ahn named Sandel a Western theorist worth reading, noting his emphasis on the importance of community. Perhaps that emphasis, at odds with liberal individualism, explains why China Newsweek put him on the cover, naming him the “most influential foreign figure” of last year.

“In almost every democratic society I’m familiar with,” he said, “there is a mounting frustration with politics as it is today. There’s a growing sense that established political parties are not really addressing the fundamental questions that people care about.”

Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s critics and supporters alike credit much of his success to keeping divisive moral and spiritual questions out of the public sphere. When abortion became an issue, for example, Harper quickly discouraged the discussion. A national conversation about abortion is off the table “as long as I am prime minister,” he said.

Sandel says that we are increasingly reluctant to talk about what kind of society we want. We are reluctant to allow moral and spiritual concerns into public debate. Instead, we’ve come to rely on the market to assign value.

“Part of the appeal of markets,” he writes in the book, “is that they don’t pass judgment on the preferences they satisfy. They don’t ask whether some ways of valuing goods are higher or worthier than others.”

The market is only interested in efficiently matching buyers and sellers. It is not interested in what is being distributed, or whether it is fair — let alone whether some things should be distributed at all.

Should pro-life groups be allowed to pay pregnant, abortion-seeking women to keep their children? Should those groups be allowed to pay habitually pregnant women — many addicted to drugs — to submit to sterilization? Such questions, admittedly, are less familiar in Canada than America, where both practices have arisen.

But these are precisely the questions Sandel believes we should be asking ourselves. How do we make these decisions? How should we think through them? Should certain things just not be up for sale, even if there are people who might freely consent to the exchange?

He does not oppose inequality everywhere, but believes that too much of it is dangerous. “Democracy does not require perfect equality,” he writes, “but it does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.”

However, inequality isn’t Sandel’s only concern. He opposes marketization, he says, because it degrades and corrupts social values. “Certain goods have value in ways that go beyond the utility they give individual buyers and sellers,” he writes. “How a good is allocated may be part of what makes it the kind of good it is.”

An example he provides is standing in line. There is, he says, a certain ethic of the queue. In grocery stores, for example, people can’t pay to jump ahead. The ethic is: first come, first served.

Likewise, immigration policy. Sandel writes in his book about Peter Schuck, a law professor at Yale Law School, and his proposal to create a market for refugees. The plan would entrust an international body to assign and allocate refugee quotas to member countries. Countries that don’t want to admit refugees could sell their responsibility to others more willing to take them.

In the long run this might efficiently match refugees with host countries. “Anything that would allow more refugees into prosperous Western countries would be a good idea,” says Catherine Dauvergne, Canada Research Chair in migration law at the University of British Columbia.

But the proposal grates against the sensibilities of some. “There is something distasteful about a market in refugees,” Sandel writes, “even if it leads to more refugees finding asylum.”

“A market in refugees changes our view of who refugees are and how they should be treated. It encourages the participants — the buyers, the sellers, and also those whose asylum is being haggled over — to think of refugees as burdens to be unloaded or as revenue sources, rather than as human beings in peril.”

“The thesis that Sandel is presenting is one that is really controversial and is not obviously correct,” says Joseph Heath, a University of Toronto philosophy professor.

“The idea that you can get a whole theory of the welfare state out of this idea that it’s just morally unacceptable for markets to do certain kinds of things — I just think the argument’s totally wrong.”

Author of The Efficient Society and co-author of The Rebel Sell, Heath embraces markets when they’re useful. About critics of the expansion of the market, he says, “what they typically do is they point to obvious examples where we think it’s really problematic for there to be a market for something, so we think that buying and selling sex is bad and so prostitution is illegal; and we think that buying and selling transplant organs is bad and so markets for organs are illegal in North America.

“But then what they do is they move very quickly from that and say ‘well, health care and education and pensions, they’re all exactly the same thing.’ But there’s actually a huge jump from kidneys and sex to health and education.”

To this, Sandel might note that lines are not easily drawn. And wherever you stand on the issue, Sandel believes we should aspire to at least engage one another in a deep discussion about what can be bought and sold, rather than off-loading that responsibility to the market. Our hesitation to undertake the great task of creating a robust democracy will not persist without consequences.

“If you try to empty the public discourse of substantive moral and spiritual questions, what you get, on the one hand, is a managerial, technocratic politics, which is all too familiar in recent decades,” he says. “But that is never satisfying or inspiring, and so there will be a tendency to fill the moral void, and it is often filled with the most narrow and intolerant of voices.”

“Fundamentalists rush in,” he warns, “where liberals fear to tread.” And so we need a deeper discussion about what matters most to us, about what kind of society we want. “Do we want,” Sandel asks, “a society where everything is up for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that markets do not honour and money cannot buy?”

Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to specific theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology, primarily to promote continuity and accuracy. The term “fundamentalism” was originally coined by its supporters to describe a specific package of theological beliefs that developed into a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and that had its roots in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy of that time. The term usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs. “Fundamentalism” is sometimes used as a pejorative term, particularly when combined with other epithets (as in the phrase “right-wing fundamentalists”).

Modern American liberalism combines social liberalism with support for social justice and a mixed economy. American liberal causes include voting rights for African Americans, abortion rights for women, gay rights and government programs such as education and health care.[1] It has its roots in Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism, Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Harry S. Truman’s Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Conservatives oppose liberals on most issues; the relationship between liberal and progressive is debated

Keynesian economic theory has played a central role in the economic philosophy of modern American liberals. The argument has been that national prosperity requires government management of the macroeconomy, to keep unemployment low, inflation in check, and growth high.

John F. Kennedy defined a liberal as follows:

…someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal’.

Modern American liberals value institutions that defend against economic inequality. In The Conscience of a Liberal (2007), by Paul Krugman, p. 267, he states: “I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.” Liberals often point to the widespread prosperity enjoyed under a mixed economy in the years since World War II. They believe liberty exists when access to necessities like health care and economic opportunity are available to all, and they champion the protection of the environment. Modern American liberalism is typically associated with the Democratic Party, as modern American conservatism is typically associated with the Republican Party.

How voters identify themselves has been fairly stable over the last two decades. As of August 2011, 19% of American voters identify themselves as liberals, 38% as moderates and 41% as conservatives. In 1992, 18% identified as liberal, 40% as moderate and 35% as conservative. Turnout, however, fluctuates. Liberals comprised 20% of the voters in 2006, 22% in 2008, 20% in 2010, and 25% in 2012, which was the highest rate in decades.

Tame Problems and wicked problems

The clear definition of the problem also unveils the solution.
The solution is determined according to criteria revealing the degree of effect— goal is achieved fully or partially, outcome is true or false.

Systems are difficult to work with, and seeing things for what they are is an essential first step.  Horst Rittel in the late 1960s distinguished between “tame” and “wicked” problems.  This is not the distinction between easy and hard problems—many tame problems are very hard.  But wicked problems, while not evil, are tricky and malicious in ways that tame problems are not.  The unexpected consequences we’ve seen have been because systems problems are wicked.  We will understand systems better—and why they spawn unexpected consequences—if we understand a little more of the properties of wicked problems and approach them with appropriate respect.


Tame problems can be clearly stated, have a well-defined goal, and stay solved.  They work in a Newtonian, clockwork way.  The games of chess and go are tame.  Wicked problems have complex cause-and-effect relationships, human interaction, and inherently incomplete information.  They require compromises.

For example, mass transit is a wicked problem.  Everyone likes mass transit—unless it comes through their neighborhood, it consumes road lanes, or they have to pay for it.  The difference between something that works in the lab, on paper, or in one’s head versus something that works in the real world and is practical to real people is a characteristic only of wicked problems.

Tame and wicked problems differ in many ways.*  See if the traits of wicked problems as described below sound familiar, either with the examples mentioned here or with situations you have experienced yourself.

  • Problem Definition.  A tame problem can be clearly, unambiguously, and completely stated.  Math problems are tame.  By contrast, there is no absolute statement of a wicked problem.  To state a wicked problem means to also state its solution.  That is, the problem can’t be stated without a proposed solution in mind, and coming up with a new solution means seeing the problem in a new way.  Avoid locking in a problem definition too soon.
  • Goal.  A tame problem has a well-defined goal, such as the QED in a proof or the checkmate in chess.  With a wicked problem, you could keep iterating and refining your solution forever—or go back and consider other solutions.  After all, if a wicked problem is something you can’t define, how can you tell when it’s resolved?  You don’t stop because you’re done (you’ve reached the goal) but rather because of external constraints (you’ve run out of money, time, or patience, for example).  You must strive for an adequate solution, not a perfect one.
  • Solutions.  Solutions are unambiguously correct or incorrect with tame problems.  The solution to a wicked problem is not judged as correct or incorrect but somewhere in the range between good and bad.
  • Time.  The solution to a tame problem can be judged immediately (that is, there is no maturation time), and the problem stays solved.  Euclid’s geometry proofs are still valid today.  Evaluating the solution to a wicked problem takes time (because the results of implementing the solution take time to be appreciated) and is subjective.  Is that a good design?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Like the response to art, different people will have different answers, and the solution causes many side effects (unintended consequences), like medicine in the body.  Additionally, a “solved” wicked problem may not stay solved—wicked problems aren’t solved but are only addressed; they’re treated, not cured.  Your perception of how good the solution is may change over time.
  • Consequences.  Trial and error may be an inefficient approach with a tame problem, but it won’t cause any damage.  Implementing or publicizing a proposed solution doesn’t change the problem.  With a wicked problem, however, every implementation changes reality—it’s no longer the same problem after an attempted solution.  After a failed attempt, the solution you realize you should have tried may now not work.
  • Reapplying Past Solutions.  A class of tame problems can be solved with a single principle.  A general rule for finding a square root or applying the quadratic formula will work in all applicable cases.  By contrast, the solution to a wicked problem is unique.  We can learn from past successes, but an old solution applied unchanged to a new problem won’t produce the old result.  Many unexpected consequences arise when we rush to reapply (without customization) a particular solution we’ve seen before—there will likely be unseen differences between the old and new problems.
  • Problem Hierarchy.  A tame problem stands alone.  It is never a symptom of a larger problem, but a wicked problem always is.  For example, if the cost of something is too high, this can be a symptom of the higher-level problem that the company doesn’t have enough money.  Often, we can’t see the higher-level problem (“This new software is terrific!  I can’t imagine what could be better.”).

Critical problems require a different approach. Because these problems threaten the very survival of the organisation in the short term, decisive action is called for, and people are required to follow the call for action in a highly disciplined way. In the absence of time to do a detailed, objective analysis for cause, solutions may be adopted that are based on causes that are assumed to be valid. But a partially successful response is better than standing by idly as the organisation expires. A not-uncommon critical problem is a company running out of funds to support its continuing existence. With this type of problem a ‘leader’ takes charge, often using an authoritarian command and control style.

Genba – Kaizen – Japaneese Management Philosophy

Genba  is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.” Japanese detectives call the crime scene genba, and Japanese TV reporters may refer to themselves as reporting from genba. In business, genba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the genba is the factory floor. It can be any “site” such as a construction site, sales floor or where the service provider interacts directly with the customer.

 In lean manufacturing, the idea of genba is that the problems are visible, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the genba. The genba walk, much like Management By Walking Around (MBWA), is an activity that takes management to the front lines to look for waste and opportunities to practice genba kaizen, or practical shopfloor improvement.

 In quality management, genba means the manufacturing floor and the idea is that if a problem occurs, the engineers must go there to understand the full impact of the problem, gathering data from all sources. Unlike focus groups and surveys, genba visits are not scripted or bound by what one wants to ask.

 Glenn Mazur introduced this term into Quality Function Deployment (QFD, a quality system for new products where manufacturing has not begun) to mean the customer’s place of business or lifestyle. The idea is that to be customer-driven, one must go to the customer’s genba to understand his problems and opportunities, using all one’s senses to gather and process data.

A term commonly used in Japan is gemba kaizen. It is an expression that conveys commitment to continuous improvement of practices and processes as a business philosophy. Translated to English “gemba” means shopfloor and “kaizen” means continuous improvement. This certificate prepares students/workers to actively participate in implementing ongoing, world-class manufacturing activities necessary to keep their company globally competitive now and into the future.

The term “gemba” was introduced to Westerners by Masaaki Imai in 1997 to describe the “real place” where products are developed and made, and where services are provided. Small kaizen enhancements to these key operations will multiply into greater success and profits many times over. One of the more attractive features of gemba kaizen as a management philosophy is its independence from technology, complex procedures, or equipment, because gemba kaizen techniques focus on techniques like total quality management, just-in-time, total product maintenance, and visual management to deliver maximum quality. For some companies, gemba kaizen has become a leading philosophy for implementing “lean thinking” into their processes and products. The result has been elimination of waste (in terms of materials, effort, money, time, etc.) and an improvement in fiscal performance. Not surprisingly, gemba kaizen’s approaches to eliminating waste are also one of the easiest and least costly steps to take in improving environmental performance.

The concept of gemba management has its own “golden rules”, and the first rule is: when a problem arises, go to gemba first. Much of what occurs in gemba can be passed off as routine, repetitive, and even boring work tasks, but it’s amazing how often we tend to overlook the importance of understanding the processes in gemba to financial and environmental performance. To take the concept of gemba performance to its ultimate level of simplicity, gemba kaizen offers the “5S” steps of good housekeeping:

Seire: Distinguish between necessary and unnecessary items in gemba and discard the latter.
Seiton: Arrange all items remaining after seiri in an orderly manner.
Seiso: Keep machines and working environments clean.
Seiketsu: Extend the concept of cleanliness to oneself and continuously practice the above three steps. Shitsuke: Build self-discipline and make a habit of engaging in the 5S by establishing standards.

Western companies typically modify the above approach into the following 5S:
Sort: separate out all that is unnecessary and eliminate it.
Straighten: Put essential things in order so that they can be easily accessed.
Scrub: Clean everything — tools and workplaces — removing stains, spots, and debris and eradicating sources of dirt.
Systematize: Make cleaning and checking routine.
Standardize: Standardize the previous four steps to make the process one that never ends and can be improved upon.

If  pondering what steps to take to improve environmental, health, and safety performance as operating budgets continue to tighten, go to gemba.

Gemba Kaizen is a practical guide to implementing kaizen in any business by teaching employees how to pay attention to details, use common sense and work smarter to boost results where they will do the most good.

kaizen masaki

It is a method of improving operations in order to convert our business into a self-sustaining, continually improving, visually controlled workplace.

In Japanese gemba means real place, the place where real action occurs and where the value-adding activities occur. When the earthquakes shook Kobe in January 1995, TV reporters at the scene referred to themselves as “reporting from gemba”. In business, the value-adding activities that satisfy the customer happen in gemba. In particular all businesses practices three major activities directly related to earning profit: developing, producing and selling. Without these activities a company cannot exist. Therefore in a broad sense, gemba means the sites of these three major activities.

Masaaki Imai says “Gemba Kaizen is when Kaizen is used in the gemba, for which there are three basic steps—pay attention to housekeeping, eliminate waste and standardize”.
As Masaaki Imay says “the workplace is viewed with a great deal of reverence in Japan. The place where your product is being manufactured is sacred. In many Western firms, managers treat the gemba as lowly and fit only for lower level employees. So they sit in their fancy cabins and make decisions based on what we would call ‘fabricated data’.
visit the gemba for a more hands-on experience”. In kaizen management are encouraged to take a deep interest in and to keep in close touch with gemba and to visit it regularly. This is quite different from western practices. In the West it is suggested that the management generally have little contact with gemba. They are largely desk-bound. They are happy to distance themselves from what actually happens at gemba.

After Toyota achieved Just in Time production, they starter looking at their vendors. Their autonomous study group was formed under Taiti Ohno. The group visited gemba of a vendor each month and conducted Gemba kaizen for three or four days. This proved to be very effective.
Toyota began conducting Kaizen Blitz to suppliers in the early seventies, which involved the movement of machinery, modifying equipment, change in electrical connection, etc.

Masaaki Imai first advanced his kaizen theory in his book “Kaizen the key to Japan’s competitive success” in the mid-1980s. He expanded this idea in late 1990s in “Gemba kaizen: a commonsense, low-cost approach to management”, a sequel to the first book. In this book Imai emphasizes how to maximize the results of kaizen by applying it to gemba – business processes involved in the manifacture of products and the rendering of services, areas of business where the real action takes place.
He posits that Japan has succeeded in implementing this philosophy because of the way the role of the Japanese supervisor evolved. According to Imai, Japanese supervisors are given precise descriptions of their roles and accountability, enabling them to control processes on a regular basis.

They are empowered to manage the work and the workforce through specific supervisory skills. Moreover, the emphasis on learning and performing these skills at the actual work site provided the groundwork for the gemba philosophy, a central component of both kaizen and the Toyota Production System.

Kaizen gives supervisors the responsibility of managing the five Ms (manpower, material, machines, methods and measurement) that allow workers to produce the output of production identified as: quality, cost, delivery, morale and safety.
How this translates onto the job floor can be seen in the following list of supervisory responsibilities:

  • prepare work standards (job instructions)
  • provide training and make certain that operators do their job according to standards
  • improve the status quo by improving standards
  • take notice of abnormalities and address them right away
  • create a good working environment

Gemba kaizen advocates that manager must maintain meaningful contact with the operational side of the event in order to track potential sources of risk.

Gemba is a place where manufacturing activities are conducted, as well as the place where employees have direct contact with customers in the service sector. Gemba can be dining room of a hotel, a car dealer’s service department or a doctor’s examination room. One place that is not gemba is the manager’s desk. According to Imai, managers often avoid going to gemba because they do not want to be embarrassed by their ignorance.

In kaizen management go to gemba regularly. They stay in one spot for several minutes and observe reality. In so doing they learn much. They will identifiy many areas that can be improved with little, or no, cost to the organization. Imai provides five simple but golden rules for gemba management:

  • when an abnormality arises go to gemba first
  • check the gembutsu (the relevant item)
  • take temporary countermeasures on the spot
  • find and remove the root cause
  • standardize to prevent recurrence

Gemba should be the site of all improvements and the source of all information. Therefore, magement must maintain close contact with the realities of gemba in order to solve whatever problems arise there.


Maintaining gemba at the top of the management structure requires committed employes. Workers must be inspired to fulfil their roles, to feel proud of their jobs, and to appreciate the contribution they make to their company and society. Instilling a sense of mission and pride is an integral parte of management’s responsibility for gemba.

Komatsu’s Genba Philosophy Underpins a Tradition of Product Support

As a means of finding customer solutions, Komatsu has been using an approach that places emphasis on the genba, or workplace where the customer actually operates the equipment, to steadily solve each issue. Especially in the early days, when  business centered on exports from Japan, many Japanese engineers were assigned around the world to provide product support. In order to carry on this tradition throughout the Komatsu Group Network, including  distributors,  have been making concerted efforts to provide training.

Komatsu Support Extends to Managerial Training
Komatsu has been hosting Global Training Institute (GTI), an 11-week program to strengthen and promote the professional development of middle management staff of product support divisions at its subsidiaries and distributors. Besides business strategies in the mining and construction and utilities businesses, the GTI program focuses on quality assurance activities, the KOMATSU Way as exemplified by the concept of a Win-Win-Win (beneficial for customers, distributors and Komatsu as a manufacturer) relationship and Kaizen activities, as well as various programs for the execution of business operations. Training is provided at optimal genbas, mainly at Komatsu bases in Europe and the United States in addition to Japan, in order for participants to learn about respective business fields. Lecturers are primarily from within Komatsu, including members of top management, directors and managers. Thanks to this training program, Kaizen activities, which have been formulated during the program period and brought back to participants’ home countries, have contributed to producing tangible results.

Five Principles in Enterprise

Principles are general rules and guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission.
The name of the principle should be short and recognizable. Its definition describes “what” the principle means in language understood by stakeholders. The motivation describes “why” the principle is important to achieving the organizational mission. The implications describe “how” the principle changes behavior.

1.    Principles in Overall Business

First, principles are statements of belief that reflect the values, culture and real-world concerns of the organization. They normally have a longer shelf life than objectives, strategies, etc . Principles are certainly there to guide the organization, not just for the professional, they are not the same as ethics; but also for decision making, governance., etc.
    • Principle – general guideline that requires judgment and informs decisions
    • Policy – clear governable rules. Not following these kills a project (or worse).
    • Standard – specific requirements that projects/artifacts/roadmaps shall meet.
    • Procedure – standardized activities and deliverables to reduce risk and minimize errors.
    • Guideline – best practices and reference models that we collectively agree will improve delivery, quality, and reduce cost.

2.    Principle in Decision Making

 Enterprise principles provide a basis for decision-making throughout an enterprise, and inform how the organization sets about fulfilling its mission.
Principles are those core decisions values (not value as in benefit, but values as in beliefs) that shape behavior and define culture.
Principles allow many people to individually make their own decision to run in the same direction to meet the same objectives in a rapid manner. Not everyone will follow. But many will.  As principles provide guideline of harmonizing decision-making across a distributed organization. In particular, they are a key element in a successful architecture governance strategy.

3.    Principle in Talent Management

Principles are used to guide professionals along with ethics and values. Normally the common bound between departments, business units, divisions and branches are strategic goals and objectives. Principles are also used to help people identify choices and make appropriate decisions.
Cultural values shape behaviors and principles help to articulate these values. Principles power individual and group dynamics, as it defines expected behavior;

4.    Principle in Enterprise Architecture

Principles can be used to reduce the set of options that a solution architect may choose from, and may be used to guide teams to address key challenges that plague an organization and which are often overlooked.
They can drive behavior or architectural decision, architecture is largely about coordinating action across heterogeneous communities. Principles help these communities agree on what they will do in concert and equally important, what they won’t do.

5.    Principle in Governance

Governance: Don’t step out of line, and the line is drawn sharply. 😦
Principles: Please step into line, and the line is drawn with broader strokes. 🙂
There is often a difference between what organizations say and what organizations do, corporate governance has a responsibility to set and develop enterprise culture. So, it will certainly articulate the highest level of values / principles.
The standards can change without changing the principle.  Principles underpin governance, and governance follows principles. Principles provide a more robust foundation that makes it possible to straightforwardly derive solution-level governance from enterprise-level governance.
 Principle is philosophy, based on  business value and strategy, 3P: Principle, Purpose, and Progress are inter-related with each other, as principle is a positive guideline, helps business make progress and fulfill the purpose.
“Purpose and principle, clearly understood and articulated, and commonly shared, are the genetic code of any healthy organization. To the degree that you hold purpose and principles in common among you, you can dispense with command and control. People will know how to behave in accordance with them, and they’ll do it in thousands of unimaginable, creative ways. The organization will become a vital, living set of beliefs.”
Dee Hock, Founder of VISA, quoted by Alan Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways

wicked problems

Wicked Problems
A wicked problem is one for which each attempt to create a solution changes the understanding of the problem. Wicked problems cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion, because the problem definition evolves as new possible solutions are considered and/or implemented. The term was originally coined by Horst Rittel.
Wicked problems always occur in a social context — the wickedness of the problem reflects the diversity among the stakeholders in the problem.
Most projects in organizations — and virtually all technology-related projects these days — are about wicked problems. Indeed, it is the social complexity of these problems, not their technical complexity, that overwhelms most current problem solving and project management approaches.
Some specific aspects of problem wickedness include:
  • Individuals don’t understand the problem until they have developed a solution. Indeed, there is no definitive statement of “The Problem.” The problem is ill-structured, an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints.
  • Wicked problems have no stopping rule. Since there is no definitive “The Problem”, there is also no definitive “The Solution.” The problem solving process ends when you run out of resources.
  • Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong, simply “better,” “worse,” “good enough,” or “not good enough.”
  • Every wicked problem is essentially unique and novel. There are so many factors and conditions, all embedded in a dynamic social context, that no two wicked problems are alike, and the solutions to them will always be custom designed and fitted.
  • Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation,” every attempt has consequences. As Rittel says, “One cannot build a freeway to see how it works.” This is the “Catch 22” about wicked problems: Individuals can’t learn about the problem without trying solutions, but every solution they try is expensive and has lasting unintended consequences which are likely to spawn new wicked problems.
  • Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions. There may be no solutions, or there may be a host of potential solutions that are devised, and another host that are never even thought of.

 For a more detailed discussion of wicked problems, see Wicked Problems and Social Complexity, CogNexus Institute’s most downloaded white paper. Also, read the original and definitive paper on Wicked Problems by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning.

Problem wickedness demands tools and methods which create shared understanding and shared commitment. Following Horst Rittel’s analysis, we have developed “Dialogue Mapping”, based on Rittel’s Issue Based Information System (IBIS), which provides an elegant way of dealing with the fragmentation around a wicked problem.
Because the group or team’s understanding of the wicked problem is evolving, productive movement toward a solution requires powerful mechanisms for getting everyone on the same page. There will be volumes facts, data, studies and reports about a wicked problem, but the shared commitment needed to create durable solution will not live in information or knowledge. Understanding a wicked problem is about collectively making sense of the situation and coming to shared understanding about who wants what.
Dialogue Mapping™ is such a method, because it is an approach which is rooted in maximizing communication and coherence among diverse stakeholders. Dialogue Mapping™– the process of crafting IBIS maps interactively with a group — is not a process in the traditional sense: it is a structural augmentation of group communication. It provides a group with an enriched Dialogue environment which both DE-emphasizes personal dynamics (e.g. right/wrong or win/loose dynamics) and creates a coherent shared space for crafting and negotiating shared understanding.

Wicked problems thru open critical enquiry

Traditional inquiries seek to eliminate a paradox by narrowing the definition of an issue, re-stating the problem, or hoping it will go away,

Major social change spurred by technological change has led to unprecedented flows of people, information and resources impacting on global ecological systems. Unfortunately for all of us, these flows have produced a new class of sociology-environmental problem that challenges the very existence of the society that produced it.

Wicked problems that have arisen from the impacts of social-environmental change include community responses to environmental disaster and the clash between the social and biophysical sciences. In each of these examples, the source of the problem is also the basis for its resolution — an underlying paradox. Unfortunately, traditional inquiries seek to eliminate a paradox by narrowing the definition of an issue, re-stating the problem, or hoping it will go away.

Conversely, in an open critical inquiry, paradoxes provide a valued diagnostic for points at which current thinking is frozen. Whereas in traditional research, a paradox is treated as a pair of opposites, in an open inquiry, the pairs of opposites are treated as complementary, and provide a useful indicator of the heart of the issue.

The three foundational elements of an open critical enquiry are:

• multiple ethical positions;

• multiple world views; and

• multiple ways of constructing knowledge.

In the traditional mode of inquiry, the problem would be approached by selecting one world view and one construction of knowledge, and expecting the two to be logically consistent. For example, a socio-environmental issue would be divided into issues of society and environment; the ethical perspective would not usually be examined. In an open inquiry, a way must be found for all to be included — even if in practice, the three foundational elements are contradictory. For example, agreeing on the existence of climate change as a reality does not necessarily lead to a shared concern for the next generation, or to equal acceptance of the sources of information that led to the projection.

Shifting to an open critical inquiry entails a different construction of the task: • No longer is the inquiry regarded as the sole responsibility of one specialist discipline or profession; rather, it seeks evidence from all affected parties;

• The findings of the inquiry are not expected to be final, certain or complete;

• Rather than being treated as an error to be eliminated, any paradox that arises is welcomed as offering a potential solution; and

• Participants in such an inquiry include both researchers and the researched, since both groups are part of the problem and of its potential resolution.

Following are four steps for conducting an open critical inquiry.

STEP 1: Identify the range of world views that make up the context of the problem. When dealing with wicked problems, the world view of the interested parties might be of the planet as an inexhaustible source of resources, or as divided between Western wealth and Southern poverty, or as a set of technical or a set of social issues. They may have assumed that the state of the world will always be in a state of flux, and that our understanding of either the social or the physical environment will always be provisional and partial. On the other hand, the participants may consider that the research outcome should be certain and generalizable to other wicked problems. It is up to the transdisciplinary practitioner to make these positions transparent to each participant.

STEP 2: Select the knowledge traditions most likely to contribute to the review of a particular wicked problem, without being limited by any particular disciplinary perspective or the current conventional wisdom on the issue. In accepting the equivalence of the knowledge from all contributing parties, an open trans-disciplinary inquiry recognizes the validity of each construction of knowledge and its particular tests for truth. For example, if the context of a wicked problem is ‘the pursuit of an industrially-developed world’, the constituent epistemologies would be those of the differentially-developed North and South. If the context is ‘the current distribution of planetary resources’, the key knowledge’s would be social, economic and ecological management.

 STEP 3: Establish that there is a group of knowledge cultures that make up the suite of interests in social-environmental decision-making. Within each of the five ‘knowledge cultures’ described below, there are criteria for testing the validity of the evidence that that knowledge culture is prepared to accept. The trans disciplinary inquirer must therefore be familiar with those criteria or they run the risk of testing one knowledge culture’s contribution against another’s set of criteria; for instance, judging a holistic contribution by statistics, or a community contribution by the objectives of the lead industry of the area.

i.Individual knowledge Each individual mind is, by any definition, the primary site of the construction of knowledge, albeit mediated by the society in which it is developed .

 Michael Polanyi identifies the difference between individuals’ explicit and tacit knowledge’s. That is, what you know you know, and what you continually draw on without knowing that you know. Added to this is the important difference between ‘knowing that you don’t know’, and ‘not knowing that you don’t know’. In classical Science, these finer points are excluded from an inquiry. Only the individuals’ rational and externally-validated observations are considered to contribute to knowledge. Yet an individual’s reflection on their experiences is crucial to any understanding of the dynamics of change.

 ii.Community Knowledge A community’s knowledge is constructed through shared events, significant symbols, and above all, a shared local language.

 Anthropologist Clifford Geertz describes the knowledge of a local community as gained through “citizens not just using their eyes and ears, but using them collectively, judiciously and reflectively to understand their own locality”. Each community is different from all others, but linked to others in a network in their local region, across the nation and around the planet.

 iii.Specialized Knowledge

Each specialization – Medicine, Law, Ecology, Engineering, etc. — forms a distinct community of practice, with its own research models and paradigms.  The rigor and validity of a specialized inquiry rests on well-defined questions, critical doubt, empirical observations, and capacity to generalize the findings. The result will often be delivered in a specialized language that increases accuracy but reduces access to the findings by other forms of knowledge. With no built-in connection between the disciplinary paradigms, specialized knowledge can be represented as a disconnected ring of boxes.

This poses challenges for open trans-disciplinary inquiry, which aims to be both synoptic and synergistic.  A synoptic inquiry seeks to understand a whole through the insights of each of the component parts.  Examples are the synoptic weather chart and multidisciplinary inquiries. A synergistic inquiry seeks to establish a relationship between the parts capable of producing a fresh whole, one that none of the parts could have achieved alone.  Examples are the four chambers of the human heart that beat as one; and an open trans-disciplinary inquiry that resolves a wicked problem.

 iv.Organizational Knowledge

Generally speaking, government, industry and the major non-government agencies have  adopted a ‘managerial approach’, and as a result, all forms of organization tend to function under a similar framework of strategic decision-making that includes planning, designing, applying and reviewing. The language used refers to results, cost/benefits, objectives, timelines, inputs and outcomes, depending on the knowledge culture.

v.Holistic Knowledge 

Holistic knowledge is universally described as ‘an understanding of the whole’. One school of thought seeks to document the parts of the whole as units in a hard (technical) or a soft (social) system.  The findings of such an inquiry are represented as a grid, a hierarchy of detailed lists, or a flow chart.  The second interpretation of holistic, which is to seek to understand the whole through grasping its essence or core.  For example, holistic thinking has contributed to our understanding of Ecology through the creative coining of concepts such as biodiversity and ecological niche. The validity of the findings of a holistically-oriented inquiry rests on the extent to which it evokes a shared meaning among the participants and consumers of the research.

STEP 4: Establish a Collective Learning Cycle

The aim is to bring the participants in the wicked problem together so as to create a greater understanding of the whole while respecting the perspectives of the contributing knowledges.  A methodology is needed that can respect the contributions of each individual knowledge culture, while at the same time provide a body of expertise that brings them together synergistic.    such a methodology can be found in Weatherhead School of Management Professor David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model, which entails four steps: reflecting on principles; making concrete observations; generating new ideas; and testing the ideas in practice.  Over several decades, Kolb and his colleagues have confirmed the reliability of this cycle for adult learning in general.  Building on Kolb’s model,   ‘Social Learning Spiral can be developed that consists of four questions, to be asked in sequence:

1.What should be?  Reflecting on principles, generating ideals.

2.What is? Conducting concrete observations, generating facts.

3.What could be?  Thinking creatively, generating new ideas.

4.What can be?  Testing the ideas, generating effective practice.

The extent to which this process differs from the usual decision-making process cannot be over-estimated:  at each stage, the process of collective knowledge construction differs radically from the usual pursuit of one ‘right’ answer. Following are my suggestions for proceeding through the four questions.

1. WHAT SHOULD BE? Develop Principles. The first step involves bringing together the multiple world views of the different knowledge cultures of the participants, ideally drawn from all the cultures involved.   Their world views will be reflected in each of the participants’ ideals for the outcome of resolving the wicked problem.  Each participant’s ideals stand alone and are respected for their own sake.

2. WHAT IS? Describe Parameters.  The second step asks for the same group to identify the parameters that support and inhibit the attainment of their ideals.  All parameters are treated as legitimate, as in Step 1.  This supplies the ‘facts’ that define the inquiry and reflects each of the contributing knowledge cultures.

3: WHAT COULD BE? Design for Potential. The third step calls for the use of the imagination, as the process moves from the synoptic to the synergistic.   Optimum conditions for creativity such as trust, security and challenge are required to develop shared creativity.  Innovative, business not-as-usual ideas are sought, remembering that this issue is a wicked problem whose resolution will fall outside of the mainstream society that generated it.

4. WHAT CAN BE? Doing the Design. The fourth step is again a synergistic process. The energy generated in the design process is maintained in forming practical collaborations to put the ideas into action. Appreciative and illuminative evaluation methods monitor the plans, steps and outcomes of the collaborative action plans.

In closing

The collective learning process described in Step 4 applies each of the foundational principles of an open critical inquiry: the shared ethic is made clear in the focus question; different worldviews are respected and shared in stage one; multiple knowledges are reflected in the parameters of the wicked problem that the decision-making interests declare in stage two; the creative use of the imagination in stage three generates the creativity required for innovative solutions; and finally, the innovative solutions are put to the test by taking and reviewing action.

A note of caution: having completed an open enquiry, we are not finished. Remember, wicked problems have no ‘stopping rule’. The last stage of the cycle only serves to secure the collective learning to date and provides a launching pad for the next learning cycle.




Critical thinking – cognitive skills for next generation management

The Importance of Critical Thinking Skills

Over two decades ago, the Secretary of Labor appointed a commission to determine the skills our young people would need to succeed in the working world. The commission’s fundamental purpose was to encourage a high-performance economy characterized by high-skill, high-wage employment. Although the commission completed its work in 1992, its findings and recommendations ring true in the new millennium.

The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report identified critical thinking skills as being essential for a high-performance workplace. The post identifies a three-part skills foundation: basic literacy and computational skills, the thinking skills necessary to put knowledge to work, and the personal qualities that make workers dedicated and trustworthy. This foundation in thinking skills includes creativity, decision making, problem solving, seeing things in the mind’s eye, knowing how-to-learn, and reasoning. Today’s work place puts a premium on reasoning skills and an ability and willingness to learn.”

The findings in the SCANS report have been reinforced in subsequent studies.  In 2009 the Economist Intelligence Unit published a report, The Intelligent Enterprise:  Creating a culture of speedy and efficient decision-making. The report states that “despite the wide recognition that accurate and timely decision-making is crucial, most firms’ ability to make good decisions needs improvement.”

The Conference Board identified two key skills needed by successful leaders in their report, Developing Business Leaders for 2010—analytical ability—especially the ability to sort through information sources and focus on the most relevant aspects—and the ability to make sound decisions in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty.

In September 2011, the Corporate Executive Board surveyed 5,000 workers, globally, and found a lack of analytical skills was “pervasive among both the general employees and among management.” Only 38% of the average workforce uses a balance of judgment and data in their decision making.

Critical Thinking Skills are Essential

Critical thinking skills can be defined as the ability to exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking, using knowledge, facts and data to resolve workplace issues.  They are essential for:

  1. Solving problems and making decisions. Rapid changes in the workplace require delegating decision making and problem solving farther and farther down the organization. Among today’s workers the critical thinking skills for analysis, problem solving, and teamwork are in high demand and short supply.
  2. Problem prevention. Preventing problems does not happen automatically. Identifying potential problems and planning preventive and contingent actions require good, solid analytical thinking.
  3. Effective teamwork. The benefits of teamwork are oft reported; but teamwork is not automatic. Teams experience growing pains and they take time to mature into productive units. Team members need critical thinking skills for communication, conflict resolution, decision making, problem solving, and self-management.
  4. Empowerment. Effective empowerment means providing the responsibilities and the skills for people to manage their own work and to do it effectively. To keep teams cohesive, a common language for solving problems and making decisions is needed.  These skills empower people to work together to solve problems, make better-balanced decisions, and manage business-critical projects.

The Challenge of the 21st Century

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that during the 2010-20 decade, over 54.8 million job openings are expected and more than half—61.6%—will come from the need to replace workers from the baby boom generation as they retire or otherwise permanently leave an occupation. A lack of critical thinking skills among new employees compounds the loss of institutional knowledge held by employees leaving the workplace.
  • As organizations become more global, the diversity of the workforce requires a common approach to resolving organizational issues that can surmount cultural and language barriers.
  • The information explosion continues to move at a rapid pace with no end in sight. This accelerates the rate that technical knowledge becomes obsolete while exponentially flooding our lives with data. As a result, the ability to organize and evaluate information with an analytic eye is increasingly important.

Putting the puzzle together

Rapid fire changes in the workplace mean increased responsibilities for many employees. These new responsibilities mean that analytical skills, driven by a process that is underpinned by logic and good questioning, are key to maintaining competitive advantage. Sharpening the thinking skills of workers and providing a context in which they want to and can succeed is a key to solving the 21st century challenge of staying competitive in environment of rapid change.

Research conducted in recent years by Pearson, as well as by a variety of independent academics, has shown that people who score well on critical
thinking assessment are also rated by their supervisors as having:
Because it is often difficult to discern such critical thinking skills through a resume or job interview, many organizations are turning to assessments
to help them evaluate candidates. One of the most widely used assessments in this area is the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, from Pearson TalentLens. The Watson-Glaser offers a hard-skills appraisal, and is suited for people in professional and managerial positions.
Perhaps not surprisingly, independent research has also found that the higher up the ladder a position is, the more essential critical thinking becomes. People who are successful in these positions tend to be able to learn quickly, process information accurately, and are able to apply it to decision-making. One of the most well-established research findings in
industrial psychology is that cognitive ability is directly related to performance in all jobs5.
Critical thinking, one type of cognitive ability, is of particular importance where sophisticated decision-making and judgment are required.
It is not uncommon for organizations to ignore such research findings when they are engaged in succession planning or top-level executive searches. Organizations often assume that everyone at the highest corporate levels is bright and a “good thinker,” so they don’t assess their candidates’ critical thinking capabilities. However, a 2009 study by Ones and Dilchert6 found that there is variability in critical thinking ability within groups of executives (as well as among supervisors and managers). Although executives generally did perform better on critical thinking tests when compared with other groups, there was a wide range of higher and lower scores.
Simply put, the research found that some top executives are better at critical thinking than others – and so are likely to be more successful. It is important to note that research has also found a positive correlation between certain personality characteristics and job success.
Consequently, organizations that include both critical thinking and personality in their battery of assessments tend to get a more comprehensive view of a candidate than do organizations that use either personality or critical thinking assessments alone.

fortunately, critical thinking can be taught. Pearson has developed the following RED Model – Recognize Assumptions, Evaluate Arguments,
Draw Conclusions – as a way to view and apply critical thinking principles when faced with a decision. This model is particularly helpful in critical-thinking training programs.
Recognize Assumptions.

This is the ability to separate fact from opinion. It is deceptively easy to listen to a comment or presentation and assume the information presented is true even though no evidence was given to back it up.
Perhaps the speaker is particularly credible or trustworthy, or the information makes sense or matches our own view. We just don’t question
it. Noticing and questioning assumptions helps to reveal information gaps or unfounded logic.
Taking it a step further, when we examine assumptions through the eyes of different people (e.g., the viewpoint of different stakeholders), the end result is a richer perspective on a topic.
Evaluate Arguments.

It is difficult to suspend judgment and systematically walk through various arguments and information with the impartiality of a Sherlock Holmes. The art of evaluating arguments entails analyzing information objectively and accurately, questioning the quality of supporting evidence, and understanding how emotion influences the situation. Common barriers include confirmation bias, which is the tendency to seek out and agree with information that is consistent with you own point of view, or allowing emotions – yours or others – to get in the way of objective evaluation. People may quickly come to a conclusion simply to avoid conflict. Being able to remain objective and sort through the validity of different positions helps people draw more accurate conclusions.
Draw Conclusions.

People who possess this skill are able to bring diverse information together
to arrive at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence, and they do not inappropriately generalize beyond the evidence.
Furthermore, they will change their position when the evidence warrants doing so. They are often characterized as having “good judgment” because they typically arrive at a quality decision.
Each of these critical thinking skills fits together in a process that is both fluid and sequential.
When presented with information, people typically alternate between recognizing assumptions and evaluating arguments. Critical thinking is sequential in that recognizing faulty assumptions or weak arguments improves the likelihood of reaching an appropriate conclusion. Although this process is fluid, it is helpful to focus on each of the RED skills individually when practicing skill development. With concentrated practice over time, typically several months, critical thinking skills can be significantly increased.