Category Archives: Karl Weick

Teaching Cartoon: Situational Awareness

GL-Race

bonus:

The following is from a ConEdison safety publication:

booklets-big

I have use of the information that that which I see, the images, or that which I feel as pain, the prick of a pin, or the ache of a tired muscle.., that all this is neither objective truth nor is it hallucination. There is a combining or marriage between an objectivity that is passive to the outside world and a creative subjectivity, neither pure solipsism nor its opposite. Consider for a moment the phrase, the opposite of solipsism. In solipsism, you are ultimately isolated and alone, isolated by the premise “I make it all up”. But at the other extreme, the opposite of solipsism, you would cease to exist, becom- ing nothing but a metaphoric feather blown by the winds of external “reality”… Somewhere between these two is a region where you are partly blown by the winds of reality and partly an artist creating a composite out of the inner and outer events. (Gregory Bateson, afterword, About Bateson)

Classic paper (really a cornerstone paper of Dr. Weick)
Karl Weick: The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations The Mann Gulch Disaster

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Wondering and Wandering

Meta-Cognitive Wandering This is an inscrutable picture. I like it.

The backstory for this post contains several slices. My friend, Linda Kahn, the great dancer and choreographer sent me a article, from which I’ve extracted the following.

Of course, eventually wondering must cede place to positively-intentioned action, but the more deeply we engage in the preliminary stage of ‘wondering’, the better able we are to reach the positive intention stage. And we can be positively-intentioned about wondering and letting the unconscious mind do its thing.

At its heart, the process of wondering is hypnotic, and that is why it is so powerful. This is why it’s so valuable to develop the skills of wondering alongside the more recognized skills of more obviously strategic and sequential thought. And it can make life so much more interesting! How to use the power of wondering – by Mark Tyrrell, Uncommon Knowledge

Karl Weick, one of the main thinker/wanderers in the background of my own outlook, in a different context, coined the term, ‘galumphing.’ This means to walk around and not pay so much attention that other stuff is missed. The point of Taoist walking meditation and what I term ecological, (or Batesonian,) observation differently emphasize wandering/wondering through the at-hand environment in a manner in which the observing context is subservient, or serves, the observed environment.

As a researcher and student/scholar of fortuity, random and pseudo-random social-cognitive interpersonal processes, and, chance construction, it’s simple enough to note the speculative, loosened, wondering divergent sensibility may be more efficacious in a strategic sense then intentionally convergent strategic thought.

Well, wonder about and wander around this if you wish–I know I do.


I go trawling in close to completely serendipitous ways for intriguing graphics using Google and Bing and other image search engines. One way to do this is to tack on +diagram to any other kind of search. The results are often surprising and edifying.

Dualistic-Monistic

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The Da Wilber Code

Barry, a psychologist, has on his blog created a fantasy about a conversation between new age gurus Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen.

It’s short and strikes the bullseye, and, is very very funny. Great timing too because Barry’s parody is in the context of up-and-coming performances like this one, Conversations With the Masters. The answers to important questions such as:

* Would you like to learn the critically essential keys to human growth?

will be explored. The event is free, but bring your checkbook.

Daniel Gustav Anderson on his for-the-turnstiles blog declares:

For the purposes of scholarship and making knowledge, it is over for Ken Wilber.

This is hard to argue with after the travesty provided by Wilber’s book, Integral Spirituality, with its appalling instantiation of integral mathematics.

What jumps out for me, aside from the evidence found in Wilber’s recent books, is how completely disinterested Wilber is in the integral-like scholarship that has followed from psychological and anthropological and post-modern turns in a number of fields—over forty+ years.

Three of which, among many, are: organizational development, semiotics, and anthropology. Karl Weick has for years surveyed and analyzed the organization by galumphing through the quadrants, except his important work isn’t unfolding in integral terms or from an integral framework.

Earlier this year a colleague turned me onto the semiotician Paul J. Thibault’s Brain, Mind And the Signifying Body: An Ecosocial Semiotic Theory. It’s not technically a work based in wilberianism’s model, but it fits the bill for an integral scholarship in the superior terms offered outside of Wilber’s badly aging model.

Just sayin’.


See article about Dr. Weick, Karl Weick and the Aesthetics of Contigency (pdf) – Eisenberg, E. (2006). Organization Studies, 27(11).

Weick is author of three essential books in organizational studies: Sensemaking In Organizations; The Social Psychology of Organizing; Making Sense of the Organization: The Impermanent Organization.

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LOVES ME SOME ICE CREAM

Hard-headed realists take pride in asserting that organizations are concerned with real things like profit and loss. To label profit a thing is to miss much of what is interesting about it. Profit is one way of labeling and making sense of the world; it is variable in a cause map, it can be an enacted environment, and it can be a symbol. It is one form of sensibleness that can be imposed on an organization¹s stream of experience but it is only one form of sensibleness, and it is an arbitrary one at that.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing,
McGraw-Hill, 1979

Love and power are not opponents; it is our ideas that have constructed them so. — The resolution of this tiresome conflict between power and love requires but one simple test, a move from the singular to the plural. Just add an s. The world is not one world, power is not a single idea, and love, which comes in thousands of varieties and even more disguises, is a generic commodity, unable to be owned by any single definition. So, too, business; just add an “s” to profit; profit not only for partners and shareholders. The monotheism of the profit motive can be loosened so that it makes places for other kinds of profitability; profitable for the long-term continuity of life and future generations, profitable to the pleasure and beauty of the common good, profitable to the spirit. The double bottom line of social and ecological responsibility extends profitability only part way. The idea of profitability itself needs pluralizing.

James Hillman
Kinds of Power,
Doubleday, 1995


True story: I was standing in line behind an attractive woman many years ago, and she ordered some vanilla ice cream, “I’d love some vanilla, a scoop!”

Tapping her on the shoulder, she half turned, and leaning over, I suggested, “Love is strong word for what you feel about ice cream, no?”

She gave me a weird look. But, it was enough of a line to entice her to sit down and spend a moment conversing and, well, checking each other out. And, I meant what I asked her earlier.

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NOVEL FLUX

Another carry over.

This Dionysian quality of spirit confronts and questions all human certainties. Human reality instead becomes a flux of images and constructions that need continuous reappraisal. His inherent qualities of good and bad, of creativity and destruction, of life and death challenge the edge of alertness in order to pursue life in its full dimension.

Mia Nijsmans
A Dionysian Way to Organizational Effectiveness, in Psyche At Work;
Chiron 1994

If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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HEROIC SENSEMAKING

A bit of synch yesterday: I’m listening to the audio book of Malcolm Galdwell’s Outliers and had reached the section in which the author digs underneath the tragic safety record of Korean Airlines for a spell of 10 years. His basic hypothesis is that cultural factors reinforced an overly deferential, hierarchical flight deck attitude. This in turn set up the potential for cascades of human error to impose fatal results on airliners.

One of Gladwell’s main points is concerned with behaviors on the flight deck which undermine real time judgment, communication between flight crew members, and, objectivity and interpretation of circumstances.

When I turned on the TV and happened upon the unfolding story of US Airways flight 1549, it became clear right away that the flight crew on the Airbus 320 were also outliers, having ditched a heavy airliner in the Hudson River without serious injuries.

At the same time I noted the gathering heroic interpretation of what was presumed to have happened in under four minutes between take-off and watery landing. The details of what actually happened will soon be known, but I’d like to highlight the role of flight engineer and co-pilot Jeff Skiles. I would be shocked to learn, especially after Gladwell’s account, that he didn’t play an equally saving role to that of the instantly legendary, pilot and air crew captain, Chesley Sully Sullenberger.

The work of Karl Weick, one of my main guys, comes to mind too. Sullenberger has a sideline company, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. On the about page is this:

Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM) was created to apply the latest advances in safety and high performance and high reliability processes to organizations in a variety of fields.

Many of these advances have their genesis in the ultra-safe world of commercial aviation. Others have been developed as a result of studies of high-risk, high performance environments such as aircraft carrier flight deck operations and the energy industry.

When these techniques are applied on an organizational and individual basis, they create a robust, error-trapping system that significantly benefits the bottom line.

Weick invented the discipline of sensemaking in social psychology. One of his books is titled, Managing the Unexpected. I’ll look forward to Dr. Weick’s weighing in on the elegant case of flight 1549. A lot had to go right and the management of all the vectors of event, sense, decision, and response, no doubt, was a two person affair in the cockpit, and a collaboration elsewhere on the jet as it came to a rest south of East 40th street.

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PINPOINT

An organization is a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work. [sic] Organizations keep people busy, occasionally entertain them, give them a variety of experiences, keep them off the streets, provide pretexts for story-telling, and allow socializing. They haven’t anything else to give.

Karl Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing

(“subversief denken!” Hat tip to Thomas Wirtemberg)

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DARING RICHNESS IN ORGANIZATIONS

Specifically, I would suggest that the effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, monstrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy.

Karl Weick
On Re-Punctuating the Problem
in New Perspectives on Organizational Effectiveness; Jossey-Bass 1977

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PROFIT(S)

Love and power are not opponents; it is our ideas that have constructed them so. — The resolution of this tiresome conflict between power and love requires but one simple test, a move from the singular to the plural. Just add an s. The world is not one world, power is not a single idea, and love, which comes in thousands of varieties and even more disguises, is a generic commodity, unable to be owned by any single definition. So, too, business; just add an “s” to profit; profit not only for partners and shareholders. The monotheism of the profit motive can be loosened so that it makes places for other kinds of profitability; profitable for the long-term continuity of life and future generations, profitable to the pleasure and beauty of the common good, profitable to the spirit. The double bottom line of social and ecological responsibility extends profitability only part way. The idea of profitability itself needs pluralizing.

James Hillman
Kinds of Power,
Doubleday, 1995

Hard-headed realists take pride in asserting that organizations are concerned with real things like profit and loss. To label profit a thing is to miss much of what is interesting about it. Profit is one way of labeling and making sense of the world; it is variable in a cause map, it can be an enacted environment, and it can be a symbol. It is one form of sensibleness that can be imposed on an organization¹s stream of experience but it is only one form of sensibleness, and it is an arbitrary one at that.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing,
McGraw-Hill, 1979

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NOVEL IMAGES

If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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NOVEL IMAGES

If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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SEA WORLD

Several captures from the old web site. Subject: organizational oceanography! Weick and Mintzberg are two of my main guys.

Specifically, I would suggest that the effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, monstrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy.

Karl Weick
On Re-Punctuating the Problem
in New Perspectives on Organizational Effectiveness; Jossey-Bass 1977

In fact, the real cause of this so-called turbulence may be planning itself, which by imposing formalized procedures on organizations has desensitized them and made them vulnerable to unexpected changes. — Put it more boldly, if your organization has formal plans but no vision, and if you then try to control your future so rigidly that you cannot adapt en route, then every unpredicted change you will encounter will make you feel as if the sky is falling.

Henry Mintzberg
That’s Not Turbulence, Chicken Little, It’s Really Opportunity
Planning Review; Nov-Dec.1994

Planning concerns man’s efforts to make the future in his own image. If he loses control of his own destiny, he fears being cast into the abyss. Alone and afraid, man is at the mercy of strange and unpredictable forces, so he takes whatever comfort he can by challenging the fates. He shouts his plans into the storms of life. Even if all he hears is his own voice, he is no longer alone. To abandon his faith in planning would unleash the terror locked in him.

A. Wildavsky
If Planning Is Everything, Maybe It¹s Nothing
Policy Science No. 4, 1973

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UNINTENDED NEOCONSEQUENCES

Karl Weick is one of my main guys. The Social Psychology of Organizing and Sensemaking In Organizations are deservedly classics but each of his books are terrific. Anyway…in the aftermath of the earlier MAZE THE COURSE post, the following excerpts from an interview Dr. Weick gave in 2003 are timely. Incidentally, he’s speaking here of what he calls the HRO, the High Reliability Organization.

The key difference between HROs and other organizations is the sensitivity or mindfulness with which people in most HROs react to even very weak signs that some kind of change or danger is approaching. In contrast to HROs, most companies today are hugely unprepared for the unpredictable. Managers are under the illusion that they know more or less what’s going to happen next or how other people are likely to act. That’s both arrogant and dangerous. Not only do those managers ignore the possibility that something unexpected will happen but they also forget that the decisions they do make can have unintended consequences.

//\\

Can organizations learn to be more mindful?
They can, by adopting some of the practices that high-reliability organizations use. For instance, besides being fixated on failure, HROs are also fiercely committed to resilience and sensitive to operations. Managers at these organizations keep their attention focused on the front line, where the work really gets done. For example, among wildland firefighters, the most successful incident commanders are those who listen best to the people out there actually fighting the fires. HROs also defer to expertise, and they refuse to simplify reality. This last point is particularly important because it has profound implications for executives. As I have often written, leaders must complicate themselves in order to keep their organizations in touch with the realities of the business world

//\\

he problem with defining and refining your hypotheses without testing them is that the world keeps changing, and your analyses get further and further behind. So you’ve got to constantly update your thinking while you’re sitting there and reflecting. And that’s why I’m such a proponent of what I call “sensemaking.” There are many definitions of sensemaking; for me it is the transformation of raw experience into intelligible world views. It’s a bit like what mapmakers do when they try to make sense of an unfamiliar place by capturing it on paper. But the crucial point in cartography is that there is no one best map of a particular terrain. Similarly, sensemaking lends itself to multiple, conflicting interpretations, all of which are plausible. If an organization finds itself unsure of where it’s going, or even where it’s been, then it ought to be wide open to a lot of different interpretations, all of which can lead to possible action. The action and its consequence then begin to edit the list of interpretations down to a more manageable size.

And this is the point I wish to underscore: Action, tempered by reflection, is the critical component in recovering from cosmology episodes. Once you start to act, you can flesh out your interpretations and rework them. But it’s the action itself that gets you moving again. That’s why I advise leaders to leap in order to look, or to leap while looking. There’s a beautiful example of this: Several years ago, a platoon of Hungarian soldiers got lost in the Alps. One of the soldiers found a map in his pocket, and the troops used it to get out safely. Subsequently, however, the soldiers discovered that the map they had used was, in fact, a drawing of another mountain range, the Pyrenees. I just love that story, because it illustrates that when you’re confused, almost any old strategic plan can help you discover what’s going on and what should be done next. In crises especially, leaders have to act in order to think – and not the other way around.

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KARL AND HENRY MAIN GUYS I.

In fleshing out the squareONE links page important thinkers on the periphery of experiential learning theory demand highlighting. Weick, who’s methodology of sensemaking is experiential remains a central influence to my own ‘galumphing,’ (a Weickian term for exploration). His book <The Social Psychology of Organizing> is an accessible, thought-provoking inquiry. As was the follow-up, <Sensemaking in Organizations>.

Henry Mintzberg stands a bit outside experiential theorizing, yet his work on strategy-making as a real-time activity tips the balance toward flexible designing and away from chilly planning. <Mintzberg On Management> and <Structure in Fives> and <The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning> are essential. Weick, Mintzberg and Peter Drucker, as I see it, are in a league of their own. (Okay, maybe Warren Bennis too.)

Karl Weick: | KW @business.com (links) | KW@veryard | KW @onepine |
Leadership When Events Don’t Play By the Rules
Henry Mintzberg:
henrymintzberg.com | HM @business.com |
5 Basic Parts of an Organization | HM @theworkingmanager |

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