Pancake past and possibility

Week seven


The future will always be what we make of it. While “we” includes many “I”s past and present, and “it” contains infinite possibility, core fundamentals are evident. We can see the layers that have been built over time and predict those yet to come.

Weinberger (2011) shared five concepts as ideal to support the “networking of knowledge.” These were conceived as part of the information explosion, resulting from the Internet, and how best to provide adequate access to endless information. Important now, these concepts become increasingly critical as knowledge, systems, and people continue to evolve. For leaders today and in future to be successful, we must:

  1. Open up access – make available to everyone everything that is available.
  2. Provide the hooks for intelligence – help key knowledge to “filter forward.”
  3. Link everything – “show your work,” repeating a grade school math phrase.
  4. Leave no institutional knowledge behind – include the past in the present.
  5. Teach everyone – employ the Web, but also evaluate and embrace it.

Weinberger (2012) spoke of knowledge as linking together differences given knowledge lives now in the network versus in individuals. Greater danger exists at the same time. We enjoy today a much larger, louder echo chamber, preferring opinions that reaffirm our own, and a vaster network of affirmation is more dangerous. It becomes exclusionary (All Tech Considered, 2016). It creates “digital islands of isolation” (El-Bermawy, 2016).

As a communicator, Weinberger’s (2012) linkage of knowledge to storytelling gives me my own affirmation and caution. The author stated that “knowledge is beholden to its beginning,” which includes language, culture, history, and family. Stories can teach us about those beginnings. What we “know” depends on where we started, and storytellers have a choice and “moral duty” to spread knowledge in the selection of a beginning. If, for example, a tale begins from the assumption that every princess needs a prince, a certain race is inferior, or individuals have outlived their usefulness at a specific age, we expect and therefore see that trope echo in media coverage and society. This is because “the world matters equally but differently to different people” (Weinberger, 2012). Stories have the power to marginalize the thoughts and feelings of those excluded from or misrepresented in said stories, thereby perverting knowledge. Alternatively, stories may include multiple beginnings and perspectives to enhance and extend the universal body of knowledge.

Echoing the importance of the beginning, Kelly (2016) outlined we may steer specifics by embracing larger trends. As “cognification” occurs, whereby everything becomes increasingly smarter, intelligence moves from a single dimension of noise to a multidimensional symphony or harmony. To extend Kelly’s (2016) musical analogy regarding the role different types of intelligences may play, so also does varietal leadership have a part now and in moving forward. It is not just many types of intelligence, or skills, that matter, but the way those are employed by different leaders.

Leadership is about effectively leveraging resources and always has been. From developments in the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age, the fundamental need to adapt and manage resources is the same today as it was as it will be. Technology simply requires we increasingly be more agile and flexible in approach than ever before (Libert, 2014). We have different resources and we employ them differently. The future will mean more of the same, so the dynamic, aware leader is the one who will succeed.

Considering changes to come and the speed at which these may arrive, the only consideration potentially missing from Weinberger’s (2011) “networking of knowledge” list is an ethical one. Leaving no knowledge behind covers our history (and the possibility of repeating history to a degree), but in looking specifically forward, we must ensure technology has all we can give it in terms of safe design (Bostrom, 2015). This last point alone is no mean feat for a leader. We do not all agree on ethics today, and teaching an AI to value the myriad ethical considerations beyond or even equal to straightforward decisions is daunting. Seeing the many layers that form the whole, and conceptualizing where future change will occur is not easy. It is necessary (Machen, 2014).


All Tech Considered. (2016, July 24). The reason your feed became an echo chamber – and what to do about it. NPR. Retrieved from

Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when our computers get smarter that we are? [Video file]. Retrieved from

El-Bermawy, M. (2016, November 18). Your filter bubble is destroying democracy. Wired. Retrieved from

Kelly, K. (2016, December 13). How AI can bring on a second Industrial Revolution. TED. Retrieved from

Libert, B. (2015, February 6). Is your leadership style right for the digital age? Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved from

Machen, D. (2014, March 25). The future is what we make it: Human vs. inhuman, it’s our choice. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room [Kindle version]. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (2012, October 3). The networking of knowledge and storytelling: David Weinberger for the Future of StoryTelling 2012. Future of Storytelling. Retrieved from

Keyboard as pitchfork, Internet as torch

Week six

There were points in time when I felt bullied as a child and young adult. In fifth grade, a boy confronted me on the playground, saying I told people he “liked me.” I am summarizing, but he made clear in front of the other kids that he absolutely did not. I was embarrassed and a little fearful this thread might continue. Fortunately, it ended there on that day. At age 12, a close friend suddenly and inexplicably reversed her good opinion of me. For reasons unknown, she linked up with another girl I knew, and the two would make negative comments to the room, whenever I would walk by. It is difficult to recall how long this went on, but it felt like most of a year. My mom tried to help to only make it temporarily worse, but whether an eventual result of her actions or the two girls getting bored, the torment ended shortly thereafter. I am personally grateful these incidents occurred well before the Internet. And for the one example I can come up with in the nascent digital age during college, those bullies confined themselves to simple slander and rumormongering.

I mention the above not to engender sympathy or because the events were so insurmountable. They sound small recounting them, but I remember still the feelings of the time, and these are only shadows of the feelings that were. Despite some tears, I survived and thrived. However, if I attempt to reimagine those personal incidents as occurring in today’s cybersphere, with the digital tools at the cyberbully’s disposal, I paid only a fraction of the price for my mistakes, whether stupid, well intentioned or not even mistakes at all. Leonhard (2014) said technology does not have ethics, which is true. And for humans, technology’s inherent lack of ethics provides an ethical vacuum to jump into. Whether a child who does not fully understand consequences, or an adult who feels immune to them, the vast realm of digital anonymity allows for greater ethical extremes. The Web becomes a treacherous minefield of which we have many recent examples to examine.

Ronson’s (2015) article offers multiple real occasions of mistakes turning into career ending events. These really struck me. If I could not see myself making every error made in the piece, I could certainly see one or two as in the realm of possibility. I do not often post on Facebook. And for the most part when I do, it is only to share photos of trips after I have already returned home. I intentionally stay clear of in-the-moment updates, controversial topics and/or tirades. However, after reading the Ronson (2015) piece, I shared it on my Facebook page, along with a comment “mob mentality, alive and well.” I quoted a sentence from the article that compared ye old village square to the Internet: “I did find plenty of people from centuries past bemoaning the outsize cruelty of [public shaming], warning that well-meaning people, in a crowd, often take punishment too far.” I thought long and hard about posting the piece or saying anything at all. Digital makes possible larger, even more faceless mobs. And by no means did I receive an outsized response or was I remotely bullied with the one comment I did get. However, receiving a counter-comment was enough to make me back away from anything further. In an ideal world, the thoughtful conversation my commenter (and friend) was seeking to have would have proceeded to take place. However, having just finished reading the article in question, there was no way I was going to engage. That feels unfortunate.

Examples of cyberbullying range from the basic to extreme, from mere name-calling to life threatening. I have seen my friends and family get into outrageous disagreements online they would rarely, if ever, escalate to in person. I watched a report on an amazing argument concerning the actual number of days in a week (Bois, 2016). There was the spontaneous, short story writer, who got turned into a hateful meme for taking his typewriter to a park (Hermelin, 2013). A new show on Syfy is dedicated to various cautionary tales of how “the Internet ruined my life,” including the tale of a woman who questioned the use of ethnic slurs even when making a satirical point. Death threats and doxxing sent her into hiding (Watercutter, 2016). And there is the most tragic of all scenarios, illustrated in the documentary Audrie & Daisy (2016), where cyberbullying led to a teenage girl taking her own life.

I referenced this elsewhere in a blog comment online, but Goodman’s (2015) description of what an early days bullying example looks like in modern light was poignant. Taking what Monica Lewinsky endured in 1998 and essentially rebroadcasting it for consumption and reaction in 2015 demonstrated how very amplified bullying becomes in the digital sphere. However, the article also offered a note of hope. In attempting to apply ethical parameters to the Monica-hate-pile in progress, showing as the author puts it “what is and is not acceptable,” the tone began to change. Applying this kind of moderation to the worldwide Web seems infeasible. Yet, it is somewhat affirming to see an example of positivity spreading in much the same manner the trolling spread. Cybernetics founder Wiener said in the 1940s that the world would one day encounter a digital age fraught with “enormous potential for good and for evil” (Bynum, 2015). We are long there.


Bois, J. (2016, February 18). Pretty Good, episode 6: The Dumbest Boy Alive. SBNation. Retrieved from

Bynum, T. (2015, October 26). Computer and information ethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from

Dosa, S., & Berge, R. (Producers) & Cohen, B., & Shenk, J. (Directors). (2016) Audrie & Daisy [Documentary]. United States: Netflix

Goodman, N. (2015, March 27). This is what happened when we posted Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk. TED. Retrieved from

Hermelin, C. D. (2013, September 18). I am an object of Internet ridicule, ask me anything. The Awl. Retrieved from

Leonhard, G. (2014, December 6). Digital ethics and the future of humans in a connected world. TEDx Talks. Retrieved from

Ronson, J. (2015, February 12). How one stupid Tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from

Watercutter, A. (2016, February 22). Here’s what happened to the woman who started #CancelColbert. Wired. Retrieved from

Networked workers work it

Week five

Networked workers, much like networked computers, bring both opportunities and challenges to an organization. Consider the below list of advantages for a networked computer system (futureofworkingadmin, 2016).

  • Connectivity and communication
  • Resource sharing
  • Cost and storage efficiencies
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity

Let us now apply these to the networked worker space.

Connectivity and communication are highly relevant whether talking about computers or people. A network makes it far easier for workers remote from each other to connect. It is easier to diffuse innovation and build collective knowledge. Communication channels abound and offer the opportunity for a speedier response. My role today for my organization would not function without the network. We have approximately 500 communications professionals across the country, which operate on behalf of a region (like I do) or a line of business. There are teams within teams. For example, there are about 100 regional communicators. Within that subgroup, I am on a more intimate subgroup of seven. Physically, I work completely alone, with the next nearest of my communications colleagues operating out of Colorado. It was a different environment when my organization was not so large or designed as it is today, more of a wirearchy than hierarchy (Husband, 2017).

Resources can be more easily shared through the network. Whether leveraging the same tool or information, the network allows for multiple team members to have access at the same time. This may be a Web based story publishing system, or it could be a knowledge base located on a SharePoint. It could even be access to people as resources if a particular diversity dimension is missing from one’s immediate environment. This all leads to cost and storage efficiencies as relates to overhead and also the human mind. Data shows the network can save tremendous amounts of money with regard to office space, software, and other business tangibles (Bednarz, 2013). From a storage perspective, the networked worker need not keep everything she or he would need to know locally or internally. A leader need only know where to find knowledge versus hold it natively (Ibarra & Hunter, 2007). A good leader will both provide the networked space, as well as leverage it.

A network is flexible in nature in that it may involve a few or many or change instantly from two to infinitely more. There is also opportunity for creativity. Networked workers can capitalize on the various strengths unique to individuals for the benefit of the organization in addition to receiving personal benefit (Ibarra & Hunter, 2007). Networking, in the more traditional sense, is about building relationships and creating value through those connections. Providing a platform by which workers are networked helps facilitate this relationship building in addition to ideation. Jarche (2013) commented that “networks are the new companies,” as connected people cost less, require less supervision, and flip the manager-employee paradigm, where contributors are perhaps more important than coordinators.

We now consider a list of disadvantages for the networked computer, which are also challenges for the networked human.

  • Dependency
  • Security risks
  • Viruses and malware
  • Can lead to negative acts
  • Requires knowledgeable users

Much as people may become dependent on a computer increasingly to perform tasks they might once have been able to do, networked humans may become dependent on each other in a negative sense. This can lead to a lack of personal responsibility, when operating as part of a networked group. For example, consider “groupthink” and NASA’s Challenger disaster. Schwartz and Wald (2003) commented, “…smart people working collectively can be dumber than the sum of their brains,” which was the case both before the disaster and during the investigation that followed. And if groupthink may occur in the physical space, it is certainly possible to see it transpire in the digital space, with broader ramifications through the multiplying power of connection. Perhaps also there is a tendency to feel less responsible when speaking through a network, or even, as Bednarz (2013) suggested, find it easier to lie. It is certainly more difficult to champion an opinion when looking an opponent in the face.

There are security risks. These exist both due to the spread of information over multiple, networked sources, requiring that each of those have necessary access rights and follow confidentiality requirements. Also considering the ease of which a network may be infected by a single connected computer being hit with a virus, the toxic team member, as a parallel, can infect a human network just as easily.

Finally, a network can enable negative acts and requires knowledge to run and operate within it. While slackers certainly exist in the physical space, they arguably have an easier time shirking work in the less monitored digital world. Also, a question frequently asked lately regards the preparation of team members to navigate digital waters. Both in the job hunting and in job performance, it is unclear whether adequate training is being given or is always available. Even with a generation of “digital natives” on the rise, the digital world continues to evolve. The learning curve is perhaps not as steep for this younger generation, but still, a growing and changing system of networked workers begs the question, will today’s knowledge of effective networking suffice tomorrow or the day after (Smith, 2015).


Bednarz, A. (2013, February 28). Is Yahoo’s telework ban shortsighted or savvy? Data says both. NetworkWorld. Retrieved from–data-says-both.html

futureofworkingadmin (2016, February 26). 8 advantages and disadvantages of computer networking. futureofworking. Retrieved from

Jarche, H. (2013, November 5). Networks are the new companies. Harold Jarche. Retrieved from

Husband, J. (2017). What is wierarchy? Wirearchy. Retrieved from

Ibarra, H., & Hunter, M. L. (2007, January). How leaders create and use networks. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Schwartz, J., & Wald, M. (2003, March 9). The nation: NASA’s curse?; ‘Groupthink’ is 30 years old, and still going strong. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Smith, A. (2015, November 19). Searching for work in the digital era. PewResearchCenter. Retrieved from

Power of one connected to many

Week four

I ponder this week what the rise of the Internet has meant and will mean for the nature of work. The answer is both simple and complex. Yes, the Web is changing my work. No, it does not change work for everyone. It is changing the nature of leadership for some leaders, while there are fewer implications for others. There is a greater need to ensure communication is received as intended and acted on correctly, as dramatically demonstrated by the very low tech “telephone game.” In a fast moving, remotely connected, virtual environment, the opportunity for miscommunication is greater and has larger ramifications (Ark, 2013). At the same time, there are many benefits. There is great power in connection, whether physical or virtual. And the beauty of virtual is that it extends many aspects of the physical, while offering a few additional, unique strengths.

Husband’s (2017) wirearchy concept is specifically about the power of connection. The author made clear wirearchy should not be misconstrued as about technology. However, technology is at least a facilitating factor that supports open organizational design. Wirearchy visually depicts people as connections points in a web able to leverage each other, and Weinberger (2014) noted that the digital age has allowed “topics” themselves to reflect better their own nature as a web or network. Topics have become webulous. I possibly made up a word right there, combining web and nebulous, or as is more likely, 100 other people also coined it for the same or different reasons, and the Internet allows me to connect to that collective thought to mine value.

Hyperlinked thinking means that leaders may put greater energy into capitalizing on and expanding ideas. The earlier reality was trying to anticipate what might be important and possibly missing valuable concepts in the process (Weinberger, 2014). Where once leaders were “hacking the future,” or attempting to predict and act in advance, leaders now help filter forward versus filter out (Weinberger, 2011). Weinberger’s (2014) example of encyclopedias and libraries being forced to literally throw away information resonated. This winnowing was an “art based upon a limitation.” Space was limited, so they had to make cuts. From books to the simple one page resume, the digital environment allows us infinite access to infinite information, eliminating the urgency to anticipate, making for a broader future.

I feel fortunate to have a few points of comparison, considering how my work has changed with the rise of the Web. I began my career in communications in 2001. We certainly had access to the Internet and were already at that time bridging multiple locations to connect our team. However, this was more out of necessity than by design. For example, I worked on an account where the team was cobbled together between Portland and Seattle, and the clients were located in Seattle, Fargo, and Denmark due to various acquisitions. While one could argue that virtual is all I have known in terms of the working world, I nonetheless note differences between my work then and now. Back then, we were handed a reality, and we used the Internet and available tools to navigate it. Now, work and teams are built to function virtually. And if an Internet connection goes down, it now feels as though you can’t actually do your job (a perceived limitation). In the early days, this was just a nuisance.

Consider now a physically isolated location like Antarctica, with an entire population of workers. I was employed as a contractor there during the two austral summers between 2010-2012. It is a prime example of an environment that requires a good Knowledge Management system to function well. It benefits from Internet connection to function optimally. Leadership would be hard pressed to make decisions without access to knowledge, and management would find it difficult to run systems and processes given perpetual turnover, resulting in large part from the nature of a contract workforce. My time there was relatively short, making it difficult to note changes in the work itself. However, I can speak to how it was at my moment in time, working in the Vehicle Maintenance Facility, using very outdated DOS based programs. I existed in one of likely many transition periods. I had the luxury of software and Internet connection to facilitate my work. I could capture data, analyze it to a degree, and connect with full time employees in Denver to make additional sense of data. I know subsequent years brought in a newer, more dynamic software program, and where full time employees used to deploy as a requirement, this is happening less and less with connectivity. It is fair to say that in a place that was once completely cut off from the rest of the world, while you were there, connection has changed things.

My team today is entirely virtual and was designed so. My work is more about making connections and leveraging resources than it was 16 years ago. I utilize hyperlinked thinking often, where this would not have been possible at the beginning of my career. Once I might write a story, and it lived in isolation, whereas now I contribute to a web of stories. I can write a single piece and help make connections for my readers by linking related thoughts and ideas, often in the form of my own earlier published stories on their work that they may have long forgotten about. This helps get people thinking about the far-reaching impact that something they did years ago still has today. A volunteer effort, for example, that exists alone is great. But a volunteer effort that one can see occurring year over year, involving more team members, because the reader has hyperlinked access to the bigger picture becomes notable. There is power in something as simple as glancing at the Netvibes outlook that connects the various blogs in my doctoral class. Scanning everyone’s post headlines in one place offers a thought provoking snapshot.

After analyzing all of the above from my own perspective, I do pause. I realize how limited my view is as I catch sight of my husband walking by. He has worked in the fire sprinkler trade for approximately 20 years. Installing pipe requires a hands on approach that cannot be managed virtually and does not benefit much from digital connectivity. We came up short trying to brainstorm possibilities. Perhaps that is failed anticipation, but trying say to imagine someone carrying around a computer that has my husband video conferenced and aiming it toward installation points for instruction feels cumbersome and ineffective. Though the Internet can speed up aspects of his role, the nature of his work is unchanged and he feels unlikely to change. It can be made more convenient, but it cannot be made different. It is dependent on codes, with limited scope for creativity. It requires he physically go to a physical space and physically install the pipes.

So the long answer to a relatively short question is yes and no. The Internet has completely altered the work of some, while it has not much affected, if at all, the work of others. While some of us in some roles and some leaders may benefit from the shortening of long-form thinking, there is no real way around long-form for others (Weinberger, 2011). Predictions from analyst firms such as Gartner (2010) or reporters like Dishman (2016) neither fully help nor hurt. Predictions will never be applicable to everyone or capture everything (McCreary, 2008). They are an attempt to anticipate and narrow a future that may not come to pass. Yet this does not render the exercise of trending useless, there is some value in the opportunity to prepare for a possibility, but the future cannot be known and optimized until it becomes the present.


Dishman, L. (2016, December 15). These are the top 5 workplace trends we’ll see in 2017. Fast Company. Retrieved from

Goasduff, L. (2010, August 4). Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years. Gartner. Retrieved from

Husband, J. (2017). What is wierarchy? Wirearchy. Retrieved from

McCreary, L. (2008, March 10). How I missed the online revolution. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Ark, T. A. (2013, September 16). Leadership implications of the brave new blended world. Education Week. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room [Kindle version]. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (2014, October 22). David Weinberger and the power of the Internet. Retrieved from