Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Intermediation Scales

This is an update to a talk I’ve prepared on knowledge management in organizations.  In a twitter conversation I said “intermediation scales.” When questioned at the time I couldn’t explain. Since then I’ve experimented and discovered how intermediation perpetuates and grows.

I draw upon the work of Michael Roberto’s “Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer” and in my talk show in Slide 18 how his three Cultures, along with the addition of a “Culture of Self,” align with the process learning forms:

Process Learning
Front line
Core Group
Shadow Core

Organizations skew towards these cultures and the culture amplifies a certain framing of knowledge.  When we remove the Core and Shadow patterns we have a bipolar pattern of “Self versus Yes”. This occurs when knowledge flows freely and feedback is immediate and responsive. This direct and intimate relationship is the elusive Self-Organizing Team.  

Adding time, distance, people and even technology increases complexity.  Scaling up involves communications loss.  Scaling out is more desirable, however we don’t understand complex social systems well enough to understand how.  For scaling up, the mechanism is rather simple:

  • ·         Intermediation increases through inattention
  • ·         It scales up through norms of inattention (normalization of deviance)
  • ·         It is reduced by focusing, which restores context 

Hence overly strong cultures which are fixated on a single purpose may also attend to unnecessary things.  And looser cultures and certain types of competitive cultures can improve focus.

This perspective on scaling supports my claim in Slide 22 that loose coupling is essential to smoothly functioning networks. 

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