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Enjoying the scenery

Occasionally I’m asked what I think about being the parent of an autistic son. Over the years (about 16 now) I’ve had the chance to give it some thought, and I have to say that although my opinions on quite a few things related to autism have evolved – and some have outright changed -  there is one thing that I’ve always believed:

Parenting an autistic child is, first and foremost, nothing more – and nothing less – than parenting a child. Yes it is different, and sometimes (OK, much of the time) more difficult than being the parent of a “normal” child, but that doesn’t change the fundamental nature of being a parent.

Parenting is hard. We try and try and try to get our kids to do something, understand something, say something. They go for a long time, apparently ignoring (avoiding?) all of our best attempts. Then, all of a sudden, when we aren’t really looking (or when we’ve kind of given up), they do it, understand it, say it.

At those moments we feel good, not just for our kids and their accomplishments but for ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to put in the long hours, day after day, never quite knowing if it will pay off or not. This is especially true for the parents of autistic kids. But what can you do?

The following quote from George Leonard’s The Way of Aikido applies as much to parenting as it does to any other endeavor to which we apply ourselves.

What we call “mastery” can be defined as that mysterious process through which what is at first difficult or even impossible becomes easy and pleasurable through diligent, patient, long-term practice. Most learning occurs while we are on the plateau, when it seems we are making no progress at all. The spurt upward towards mastery merely marks the moment when the results of your training “clicks in.”

To learn anything significant…you must be willing to spend most of your time on the plateau. [T]o join the on the path of mastery, it’s best to love the plateau, to take delight in regular practice not just for the extrinsic rewards it brings, but for its own sake.

Another way of looking at it comes from a saying I heard a while back:

A truly happy person enjoys the scenery on a detour.

How’s the scenery where you’re at?

This modified version of something I originally wrote in February 2006 was inspired by a tweet today from John E. Smith, aka @StratLearner

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Is any project ever really finished?

Earlier this year, I came across Michael Rubin‘s book Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolutionat my local St. Louis County Library branch. What an unbelievable find of a book. In some great stories, and lots of detail, Rubin tells the early history of what has become the LucasFilm empire, not to mention the birth of Pixar and the evolution of digital film-making that can be found on any new Apple Macintosh computer.

More to the point of this post, though, is that the book explains Lucas’ approach to making – and in the case of Star Wars, tinkering with – movies, exemplified by the following quote:

A movie is never finished, only abandoned.

Back in the spring of ’05, during spring break, my then 12 year old son made it a point to watch all of the Star Wars DVDs that were then available, including Episodes I (The Phantom Menace), II (Attack of the Clones), and the original trilogy. To make sure he was up to speed for the upcoming release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, he also bought and watched (several times!) the animated Clone Wars Vol. 1. Needless to say, when he was watching when I was home I sat down and watched with him.

As we watched some of the original trilogy, Ian asked what it was like to see the originals in the theater. In time, the conversation wound its way to the special editions of the movies in theaters, then the re-release on VHS. As we watched the DVDs, I would tell Ian where something was different, where things were added from the original to the Special Editions. Even I was caught by surprise at the end of Return of the Jedi; I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, suffice it to say that the special edition was tweaked just a bit for the DVD version, so there are now 3 different versions of Return of the Jedi. (And yes, I have all three versions.)

Though it is written as, and meant to be, a history, Droidmaker is an excellent – if long – case study on how to bring your vision to life. The conventional wisdom about LucasFilm seems to be one of an easy road, things that just fell into place to create this great success. Would you be surprised to learn that The Empire Strikes Back almost didn’t happen? I sure was.

I think we have all at some point “abandoned” projects, not because we thought we were finished but because someone – maybe us, maybe someone else – said it was time to stop. Some deadlines are hard, and you don’t have any choice but to deliver what you have. For example:

Though Episode II was shot entirely digitally, it still had to be transferred to film for display in theaters. This meant that the “final” edit had to be complete about 2 weeks before release date for printing and distribution. It was printed and distributed, but Lucas wasn’t really finished with the film and continued to edit a final final cut right up until release, when the digital version was distributed to the few theaters in the country that have digital projection. The vast majority of people that saw the movie in theaters did not see the “final” version of the film (which, by the way, is the version that is on the DVD.)

I’m not sure what my point is, if there is one, in this rambling post. On the one hand, there is the desire to have your art (and if the result of our work is not art, what is the point) truly reflect your vision for it, to make it as complete as possible. On the other hand is the practical reality that dictates to us that at some point we have to stop, whether we want to or not. And right in the middle is that nagging question, “Is any project ever really finished?”

Just something to think about as this Monday comes to a close.

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(Some) Rules are meant to be broken

On vacation over the last couple of weeks I spent a lot of time with my own kids teenagers, and had the opportunity to watch a lot of other parents’ interactions with their kids.  The following thought occurred to me while driving home last week:

A big part of a parent’s job is to teach their children the rules of life, to let them know which ones shouldn’t be broken, and to help them understand when and why the rest can and/or should be broken.

As I jotted that quote down in my notebook I recalled some advice on the topic of rules from Leonardo da Vinci, as quoted by Michael Gelb in his book How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day as part of his introduction (my first) to Mind Maps. After a brief description of Mind Maps, Gelb lays down the rules of Mind Mapping before presenting some exercises.

The rules themselves are important, but what really grabbed me when I first read the book was Gelb’s “justification” for using rules, the aforementioned quote from DaVinci’s Treatise on Painting:

These rules are intended to help you to a free and good judgment: for good judgment proceeds from good understanding, and good understanding comes from reason trained by good rules, and good rules are the children of sound experience, which is the common mother of all the sciences and arts. (emphasis added by me)

As anyone with children – especially teenagers – knows, though, rules have a very bad reputation. From the kids point of view, rules are evil things meant to repress (oppress?) kids and limit their adventures in life.  Unfortunately, many people in organizations have this same perspective.

Rules in the form of organizational processes, best practices, etc., are all too often ignored – often quite blatantly and proudly. The not invented here syndrome is alive and well. Part of the problem is that most, if not all, rules are presented as “you cannot / should not break this rule.” The rules aren’t there to help you develop your ‘good reason’, they are there to tell you what to do and how to do it.

You can see this in the way many organizations apply the idea of “best practices”: capture past practices that worked and apply those practices, as is, to future situations that are similar. While this works fine for what I call “information” processes – and is a critical step in helping any organization improve – it is not appropriate for “knowledge” processes. Or, in terms of DaVinci’s scheme above, the blind use of rules, in the form of best practices, stops short of the goal – good judgement.

This is not to say that past experiences should not be exploited in creating/acquiring new knowledge. Except for the rarest of occasions, most new knowledge created today is derivative of something past. It is important to know what has come before and learn from the successes and failures of others. The rules that come from those past lessons then become the framework for the future, not the fully developed solution to be applied like a generic template to a MS Word or PowerPoint document.

What is your language?

Another of my posts from the past, on a similar theme as my re-post last night of Knowledge in translation.  This time, the translation in question is that between the language of autism and the language of the non-autistic.

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WHAT IS YOUR LANGUAGE

Everyone has their own path to follow through life. Easy to say, somewhat harder to believe because most of our daily experiences involve others who live incredibly similar lives to ours. This sometimes gets in the way of us realizing that there are differences in this world, and that the path that we’ve chosen for ourselves – or that has been thrust upon us – may not be the best path for everyone.

Earlier this week, Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN blogged about his recent introduction to and conversation with Amanda Baggs, a 26-year old autistic woman who gets around in a wheel-chair and communicates through a text-to-voice device. In his words, Amanda “opened his eyes about the world of autism.”

Amanda is obviously a smart woman who is fully aware of her diagnosis of low-functioning autism, and quite frankly mocks it. She told me that because she doesn’t communicate with conventional spoken word, she is written off, discarded and thought of as mentally retarded. Nothing could be further from the truth.

— Paging Dr. Gupta: Behind the veil of autism

A far cry from how autistics, especially “low-functioning” autistics, are typically portrayed in the media. (Compare, for instance, to this portrayal on ABC’s PrimeTime earlier this week.)

Just as technology allows her to communicate through the voice synthesizer (on which she can type over 100 words per minute), technology – in the form of YouTube – has allowed her to be heard by a much wider audience. In fact, it was her video “In My Language” that caught the eye of CNN. Amanda’s description of the video:

The first part is in my “native language,” and then the second part provides a translation, or at least an explanation. This is not a look-at-the-autie gawking freakshow as much as it is a statement about what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not.

I encourage you to take about 10 minutes and view Amanda’s video. If you are already somewhat familiar with autism, this will help you understand even more. If you are not familiar with autism at all, this is a good start in understanding that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

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Amanda was also featured this week on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

I’ve also written a bit about this on my autism blog in 29 Marbles – Why don’t more people understand this yet?

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Knowledge in translation

I revisited the following, originally posted in July ’07, after putting Douglas Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language back onto my currently-reading list.  It is still relevant, so thought it worth sharing again. With any luck, I’ll have some new insights to share after I’ve read the book again.

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KNOWLEDGE IN TRANSLATION

Several years ago I read Douglas Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, an examination of the creative process in the form of poetry translation. Hofstadter established some structural and literal guidelines and had several friends and colleagues translate a 16th Century French poem. (See the wikipedia entry for a bit more detailed synopsis.)

The book was brought back to mind by a post by Jack Vinson and his thoughts on a post by Victoria Ward entitled Traduttore-traditore, in which she discusses the challenges of (you guessed it) translating poetry. Comparing the translation of poetry to knowledge work, Victoria leaves us with this:

And these five tips on translating poetry are as good for knowledge work as any other guidance I’ve come across if, for the word poem, you substitute the words ‘knowledge thing’ – a bit graceless I know, but it serves the purpose for now. The first sentences here come from the original tips. The companion sentences are mine.

1. Stay Close to the Poem. Get thoroughly intimate with the thing.

2. Know the poet. Understand it’s context and origins inside out. Get familiar with everything you can about the thing.

3. Go for Grace. Convey the essence of the thing with pith and elegance.

4. Be Wary. Don’t take other’s people’s ways of looking at the thing as your own. Own your own way of relating to and conveying the thing and ignore the noise.

5. Take a Deep Breath. Sit with it. Go away. Come back and look at it again.

What I think that Victoria is hinting at is that, in many ways, knowledge work is often an act of translation. Not from one language to another (though that undoubtedly happens, too), but within the native tongue of the knowledge worker. The translation, then, is one of culture not language, but instead of having to translate between British English and American English or Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish, knowledge workers have to translate between Engineering and Production or Sales and Human Resources.

After an e-mail exchange with Jack on the subject, I went back into Le Ton Beau de Marot and found this related passage that I had marked when I read it the first time. I apologize for the length, but felt it best to include the whole thing.

Distortion-free Idea Transmission: A Chimera

Any good translator’s ideal is to get across to a new group of readers the essence of someone else’s fantasy and vision of the world, and yet, as we have repeatedly seen…, the mediating agent necessarily plays a deep and critical role in doing such a job. A translator does to an original text something like what an impressionist painter does to a landscape: there is an inevitable and cherished personal touch that makes the process totally different from photography. Translators are not like cameras – they are not even like cameras with filters! They distort their input so much that they are completely unique scramblers of the message – which does not mean that their scrambling is any less interesting or less valuable than the original “scene”.

A curious aspect of this analogy between the translation of a piece of text into a new language and the rendering of a scene as a painting is that the original text…plays the role of the scene in nature, rather than that of something created by a human. The original text is thus a piece of “objective reality” that is distorted by the translator/painter. But what, one might then ask, about people who read the text in the original language? Are native-language readers able to get the message as it really is, free from all the bias and distortion inevitably introduced by a scrambling intermediary?

As the letters and words of the original text leap upwards from the page into a native reader’s eyes and brain, they shimmer and shiver and then suddenly splinter into a billion intricately-correlated protoplasmic sparks scattered all over the cerebral cortex and deeper within – unique patterns in the unique mind of the unique reader that each distinct person constitutes. The idea that all native-language readers see “the same thing” falls to bits. It’s true that in the case of native-language readers, there is no intermediary human scrambler, but it’s not true that, because of this lack, there is no idiosyncratic perceptual distortion. How sad it would be if that were the case!

Since this is the theme song of George Steiner’s “After Babel”, I can think of no better way to end this chapter than to quote a few sentences from the end of his first chapter, entitled “Understanding as Translation”:

Thus a human being performs an act of translation, in the full sense of the word, when receiving a speech-message from any other human being. Time, distance, disparities in outlook or assume reference, make this at more or less difficult. Where the difficuulty is great enough, the process passes from reflex to conscious techniqe. Intimacy, on the other hand, be it of hatred or of love, can be defined as confident, quasi-immediate translation….

In short: inside or between languages, human communication equals translation.

In other words (my words): Just because everyone is told the same thing doesn’t mean that everyone hears the same thing.

Or, to be more specific to the world of knowledge management and knowledge work: Just because all of your knowledge workers have the same knowledge doesn’t mean they all “know” the same thing.

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Tools do not a master – or failure – make

I’m working on a new post to address the question “Is modern technology ‘dumbing down’ America’s youth?“, as posed in the most recent edition (22 July 09) of the local news weekly - West News Magazine. (The html version of the article isn’t available as of my writing this, but you can read it here.)

This question seems to come around every year about this time as everyone is preparing for the annual back-to-school ritual and teachers, parents, and others lament the sad state of our children at the hands of modern technology. Going all the way back to when I heard this discussion about allowing calculators in math class, I’ve never quite understood how a tool, especially one as broad as “modern technology”, could be given the blame or credit for anything that an individual or group achieves (or fails to achieve).

Along that train of thought, here is a reprint of something I wrote back in August 2006 that looks at another much maligned tool – Microsoft PowerPoint – while I work up a “long answer” to the question.

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Tools do not a master make

No tool of modern technology is as universally used, and almost as universally reviled, in the world of business and government as is Microsoft PowerPoint. Perhaps most famous of the PowerPoint bashers is Edward Tufte, writer of several books and essays on information design. (I was fortunate enough to attend one of his courses in the late ’90s, his poster of Napoleon’s March to Moscow still hangs on the wall in my office.)

Tufte has described his issues with PowerPoint in magazine articles (such as PowerPoint is Evil in Wired magazine), in a self-published essay entitled The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, and in a chapter in his latest book Beautiful Evidence. In the past week or so a few others have also lambasted PowerPoint, including Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge in a couple of posts (Festival of Bureaucratic Hyper-Rationalism and Tufte and PowerPoint) and Scott Adams (via Dilbert).

Don Norman, of the Nielsen Norman Group, has a different take on PowerPoint. In his essay In Defense of PowerPoint, Norman places the blame not on PowerPoint but on those who use it improperly. “Don’t blame the problem on the tool.” Or, put another way – PowerPoint doesn’t bore people, people bore people. Cliff Atkinson is another who believes that PowerPoint can be used effectively. For some great ideas check out the Beyond Bullets blog or Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points.

Of course, this problem is not limited to the world of business. One of the big promises of ever faster and more powerful consumer technology (if we are to believe marketing campaigns) is that everyone will be able to perform like an expert. Take, for example, the following pitch for Apple’s GarageBand software (emphasis is mine):

The new video track in GarageBand makes it easy to add an original music score to your movies. And don’t worry about your musical talent — or lack thereof. Just use GarageBand’s included loops, or try a combination of loops, software instruments, or any previous audio recordings you created.
Apple – iLife – Garageband

Don’t get me wrong, I love GarageBand (and the whole iLife suite for that matter, I use it almost every day). It is very easy to create a ’song’ using loops, like my First Song. Once I got comfortable with the GarageBand interface, it only took me a couple of hours to browse through the loops, pull some together so it sounded good, and export it to iTunes. The ’song’ is listenable, but doesn’t reflect any real musical skill on my part. I didn’t apply any knowledge of time signatures, keys, tempo, or anything. I just dragged-and-dropped.

I guess my point is don’t get pulled into a false belief that a tool, any tool, can make you an expert at something or give you expert results. Remember, good tools are nice to have, but in the hands of a master even the simplest of tools can create wonders.

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As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my  “short answer” to the question is an emphatic “No, modern technology is not ‘dumbing down’ America’s youth.” More to come.

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Use it or lose it (or, The importance of continuous practice)

Talking with a friend this morning about the idea of “use it or lose it”, I told a story about a conversation I had a couple of years ago with my son on the subject of lunar eclipses.  I wrote about that conversation not long after it happened, and since it came up I thought I’d share it again.

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You’ve forgotten a lot of things you used to know, haven’t you Dad?

This astute observation from my son came at the end of an interesting conversation we had about lunar eclipses. We were driving east on I-44 in Southwest Missouri as the sun went down in the rear-view mirror. A short time later, we saw the moon coming out from behind some hills in front of us.

When I pointed the moon out to my son, he said, “It’s supposed to be a full moon tonight.” Which was odd, since what we saw appeared to be a crescent moon. “Maybe it’s just blocked by some clouds,” I tried, not really believing it myself.

Not long after, we stopped for gas. On getting back in the car, we noticed that the moon was now a “half-crescent,” something that doesn’t normally occur. Knowing now that it wasn’t the clouds I offered the only explanation I could think of – a lunar eclipse.

I explained that the shadow on the moon was actually the shadow of the earth. Having never experienced one, and obviously never exposed to it in science class, he asked what, to me, was the best question possible: How exactly do eclipses work?

I won’t bother you with the details of the discussion that followed, but we got to the point where I had to say, “I used to know how to figure that out, but I’ve forgotten.” Which, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, led to the question I opened this post with.

Part of it may be me getting old, but I think it mostly comes down to the old saying: Use it or Lose it. Mastery – fluency – in any pursuit requires constant practice. And one of the most important things that we can master, and thus continually practice, is the ability and desire to ask questions, to figure out how the world around us works.

For a lot of great photos of the 03 March 07 total lunar eclipse from around the world, check out the ‘loony’ group on flickr.

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I’m happy to say that Ian has not lost his desire – nor his ability – to ask incredible questions, and to actively seek out the answers. He definitely keeps me on my toes.

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Some new thoughts on “my dad is a knowledge worker”

Several years ago (has it really been almost 5 years?!?) I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog post entitled “My dad is a knowledge worker“:

While I was reading Martin Roell’s Terminology: “Knowledge Worker”, a TV commercial I saw a while back came to mind: elementary school students were telling the class what their dads did for a living, and after a couple of well defined jobs (policemen, construction, etc.) were announced one boy proudly stood up and stated, “My dad’s a pencil pusher!” I don’t remember what the commercial was for, but the imagery stuck with me I think for the same reason Geoffrey Rockwell, as described by Martin, doesn’t like the term “knowledge worker”: the job title gives you no real idea of what the job is.

Apropos of what I’m not entirely sure, but this old post came to mind earlier today when I was thinking about some ideas related to Work Literacy.  It occurred to me that calling someone – say a Systems Engineer like me – a “knowledge worker” would be like calling Albert Pujols an “athlete”.  (Not that I’m comparing myself to Albert!)

Sure, he is an athlete, but he is a very specific type of athlete, in a sport that requires a very specific set of skills and experiences. You can not get across what he does, or what he must be able to do, with a generic description of “athlete”. Like all athletes, though, there is a core set of skills and abilities that Pujols must have simply to be able to consider participating as an athlete in his specific sport. Fitness, endurance, flexibility, etc., all things common to most athletes.

In the same way, each individual knowledge/concept worker is a very specific type of k/c worker, requiring a very specific set of skills and experiences in order to do the work they do.  But like athletes, there is a core set of skills and abilities that anyone who would be a k/c worker must have. And that core set of skills and abilities is, I believe, what the term “work literacy” should encompass.

The question then, of course, is what makes up this core set of skills and abilities?

(As you may be thinking, I am not the first to raise this question – visit WorkLiteracy.com for more on the subject. On completing this post, I realized that it was simply my way of putting the question into a context that made sense to me.  I hope it makes sense to you, too.)

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Some thoughts – and a mind map – on Army Knolwedge Management

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my discharge (honorable, in case you’re wondering) from active duty as a US Army officer.  It was while serving in the Army, both on active duty and later in the Army Reserves, that I was first exposed to and practiced knowledge management so it seemed fitting that I mark the date with a reflection on Army Knowledge Management.

In the early days of Army Knowledge Management – or AKM – the focus was very technology focused, as evidenced in AKM Guidance Memoranda #1 (August 2001) and #2 (June 2002).  Then, as now, AKM was primarily the responsibility of the Army’s CIO.

In some ways, this reflected the “state of the art” at the time, where KM was the pitch phrase of all sorts of software vendors hawking the latest and greatest KM tools.  The main early focus was the capturing and conversion of “tacit” knowledge into “explicit” knowledge that could be stored in a vast “knowledge repository” that could be shared across the Army enterprise, and the consolidation of the technology infrastructure to support that repository.  In many ways a necessary evil; the downside was that it reinforced the idea that KM was solely the domain of IT.

Over the years the broader scope of KM has come to be realized, as can be seen in the most recent Army Knowledge Management Principles, published in August 2008. The principles are broken down into three main categories: People/Culture; Process; and Technology. For all you visual thinkers out there, and for myself, I’ve taken the principles, and the supporting Rationale and Implications, and put them into a mind map using Mind Manager.

akm_principles

Back when the paper was published, Jack Vinson posted some thoughts about the principles. Having seen the early tech focus of AKM, I share Jack’s appreciation of the Army’s stated goal for AKM:

Implementing these principles will create a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the Army where key information and knowledge is “pushed and pulled” within the global enterprise to meet mission objectives — an Army where good ideas are valued regardless of the source, knowledge sharing is recognized and rewarded and the knowledge base is accessible without technological or structural barriers.

Though it is safe to say that AKM is still very heavily IT centric, KM has steadily infiltrated further and further into the Army culture.  This can be seen in one of the latest offerings from the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, the soon to begin Knowledge Management Qualification Course for KM sections:

The KM section supports the commander and staff in achieving situational awareness and situational understanding to enhance and speed decision making. The section does this by developing a plan that includes the “how-to” in displaying the common operational picture. That plan details the process on how a unit accesses and filters new information internally and externally, and provides a working KM system that can route content while keeping commanders and staff from being overwhelmed.

A long way indeed from knowledge repositories.

UPDATE:  For those of you who don’t have Mind Manager, here are two things to help you get the most out of the whole map:

1) a .gif image of the entire Mind Manager map;

akm-principles-complete

2) a public version of the map at Mind Meister;

If you update the Mind Meister map, I’d appreciate a quick note back so I can go back and check it out.

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Technology makes it easy to ‘remember,’ the trick is learning how to forget

As a follow up to my last post, The importance of forgetting, it seemed appropriate to republish the following, which I originally posted in March 2007.

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A blog post I wrote a year ago. Playing around with David Allen’s Getting Things Done. A recent article in Fast Company. Reading Steven Johnson’s book Mind Wide Open over Thanksgiving. Autism.

All of these things came together in my mind over the past few days. (If the internet is a global cocktail party, and blogs are its conversations, I’m the guy who takes it all in and thinks of something to say as he’s driving home from the party. At least that’s how it feels sometimes, especially with topics such as this one.)

Just over a year ago, I wrote the following:

My early days in Knowledge Management included a lot of time developing, deploying, and getting people to use “knowledge repositories.” (At least trying to get people to use them.) A worthwhile endeavor in some regards, I’ve always had misgivings about the whole idea, at least how it has been implemented in most cases. The cheapness of mass storage these days, and the way we just keep everything, has nagged at this misgiving over the past couple of years.

I finally realized one day that the problem has become not, “How do we remember all this knowledge that we’ve learned?” but rather, “How do forget all this knowledge we’ve accumulated that we no longer need so we can focus on what we do need?”

This same question has come up, albeit in a different context, in that other domain in which I blog: autism autism.

MOM – Not Otherwise Specified recently posted a very interesting piece about the role of memory, and the inability to purge it, in autistic behaviors. In her post, she quotes Paul Collins’ book The trouble with Tom:

Memory is a toxin, and its overretention – the constant replaying of the past – is the hallmark of stress disorders and clinical depression. The elimination of memory is a bodily function, like the elimination of urine. Stop urinating and you have renal failure: stop forgetting and you go mad.

This also plays on my long-held dislike of best practices, at least how most people implement them. If you are so caught up in what has happened before, it is hard to get caught up in what is to come.

In the context of mastery, especially of something new, it is sometimes hard to know when to forget what you’ve learned. You have to build up a solid foundation of basic knowledge, the things that have to be done. And at some point you start to build up tacit knowledge of what you are trying to master. And this, the tacit knowledge that goes into learning and mastery, is probably the hardest thing to learn how to forget.

Sometimes, though, it is critical to forget what you know so you can continue to improve. Witness Tiger Wood’s reinvention of his swing, twice, and Neil Peart’s reinvention of his drumming.

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