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Complexity and Knowledge Management Navigators…

Are you creating a flow or a disturbance?

I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I have had lately, where people have talked about developing flow; some are even using ‘Knowledge flow’ as an alternative to KM.  So, what is a ‘flow’ and what are the implications for discussions on process design?

People who find themselves in a state of ‘flow’ are in ” a state of effortless concentration, so deep that they lose their sense of time, of themselves and of their problems” (Kahneman, p. 52).

I like the idea of ‘effortless concentration’, a process so natural that it occurs automatically; a type 1 cognitive process.  That, for me, is the challenge for anyone looking to develop interventions, such as improving decision-making processes, innovation or knowledge sharing; how do you design systems (forces) that are effortless?

Too many times people fail to acknowledge the automatic, type 1, processes that people accept as they cross the threshold of engagement (virtual or physical) with an organisation; much like a motorway filter lane, people make adjustments and join the flow.  The problem for employees is that outside agents fail to acknowledge these flows, developing processes (forces) that are seen as requiring extra effort, creating counter flows or disturbances that become a focus for attention – a spot on the end of a teenagers nose!

Here, the process requires effort as people enter a mode of control, or type 2 cognitive process.  The problem is that the new process becomes but another source of thoughtful energy expenditure, one of many that inform the work day; something that you are ‘forced’ to do, something that takes energy from the body, something that requires effort.  This can create counter flow; a disturbance that creates resistance to new processes.

If you force yourself to do something, you are less willing or less able to exert self-control when the next challenge comes around” (p. 53)

The new process fuels resistance, which itself takes effort, that, in turn, can negatively impact motivation; further depleting the decision-making/innovation/knowledge-sharing process that the intervention was designed to address.

Where am I going… It’s fine to talk about flow, but KMers, consultants, managers, we all have to recognise that flows already exist.  The challenge for us to recognise this and design interventions (use forces) that don’t increase resistance to the challenge at hand.  KM is a great example, too many people in organisations see it as an additional task, something that they do on top of their workload; surely that is a signal that the flow is not being recognised.  The trick is create minor disturbances that quickly become accepted as part of the natural, effortless, flow of the organisation; processes that punctuate the equilibrium, that take up too much thought, and therefore energy, will too often create resistance and perhaps failure.

Stating the ovious…I realise that there can be times where punctuated equilibrium is required as a form of intervention – this post is more a reflection on those times where external/internal agents miss the significance of flow and cause more problems than those they started out with.

4 comments on “Are you creating a flow or a disturbance?

  1. Md Santo (@md_santo)
    March 4, 2012


    Considering Knowledge behaving as subject instead of Data and Information as object , the structure and behavior of Knowledge could be considered as psycho-somatic entity :
    1. As “flow or thing” (somatic) Knowledge could be codified from Tacit to Explicit
    2. As “consciousness” (psycho), Knowledge could be considered as part of DIKW continuum and/or part of Nature Knowledge continuum
    3. As Independent to SpaceTime (IST) superposed with Dependent to SpaceTime (DST) within “duo-entity-force” (DEF) or boson force , Knowledge could be transmitted in entanglement speed called as Consciousness Transforming Phenomenon (CTP) within Nature Knowledge continuum

    Therefore within your issues on “Are you creating a flow or a disturbance?”, from my view, it’s better putting “consciousness attributed knowledge” to get rationale. In this circumstance, to minimize disturbances and getting much “flow” (somatic) as well as “consciousness” (psycho) leverage, I’d like to suggest the use of Knowledge Interface (KI) which is more psychic or consciousness oriented to evaluate the dynamic of interaction among persons and their organization as well as to make assessment / measurement especially in quantification of variables 1stKI, 2ndKI, 3rdKI, 7thKI, 8thKI and 9thKI respectively

    Ref of this short narration are URLs – “The Language of Knowledge : Knowledge Interfaces” and – “Fundamental Force Map of our Smart and Animate Universe : Generated from Knowledge Management through Inverted Paradigm Method”

  2. Stephen Bounds
    March 5, 2012

    Hi David,

    Nice post. Personally I am a little cynical of the idea that you can ever implement “KM processes” without it being seen as an overhead. If people think things are OK, KM will never be seen as necessary or desirable. Rather, the implementation has to be driven from within the organisation in recognition of a busted state (in which case they won’t think of it as “KM”).

    On a slightly different tack, I’m finding that many organisations find incremental change processes too slow. Instead, they consciously perform a full disruption by turning off an old technology system and replacing it with the new, shiny one.

    The result, of course, is chaos but it is possible that the new equilibrium may be more productive than the old one after the disruption calms down (particularly if the new system promotes a more efficient process).

    I don’t know that taking this approach is a smart move but it’s almost the standard ploy at the moment when doing ICT systems renewal.

  3. Dr Jayanth G Paraki
    March 11, 2012

    ‘Flow’ implies Direction as in Film Direction or ‘free-floating anxiety’ means a perpetually anxious person.

So, what do you think?

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