Complex Adaptive Systems

Prediction markets and Oz Election 2010

On the eve of the 2010 Australian Federal Election, I can't help but jump on the bandagon of those predicting the result. But I'm going to take a slightly different approach.

Back in 2008, there was a flurry of interest in "the wisdom of crowds" and the power of predictive markets. Despite being skeptical about their efficacy, Dave Snowden nicely outlined the key properties of an effective prediction market:

1. You need diversity of opinion, each actor needs a private opinion,

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The new journalism

This is a bit of a diversion from my usual posts, but I think it's important. Jay Rosen recently wrote a ripper article dismantling many of the ways that political journalists tend to distort, rather than promote, quality political debate.

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Path dependent reform

The New Yorker has a fantastic article about the history of universal health coverage across the world.

Set in the context of Obama's health reform bill, of course, it makes the excellent point that where we have come from determines where we can go next:

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The new knowledge consensus

Knowledge Management is still a young discipline that often suffers from a lack of consensus about its meaning and goals. To avoid holy wars, much of KM focuses on the "what" and the "how" of KM (ie immediate activities to undertake) while being weak on the "why" (long term objectives). Without a strong "why" though, it has been easy for skeptics to dismiss the importance of KM.

But I'm beginning to sense a shift in the wind.

With an increased recognition of the complex nature of organisations, there is a turn away from command and control approaches to managing knowledge by demanding individual changes in behavior. Instead, people are embracing a more holistic and integrated view.

When organisational and community knowledge becomes indivisible, focus shifts from whether any individual "possesses" knowledge to how well patterns of organisational interaction act to enhance institutional learning and preserve institutional memory.

The success of institutional knowledge is measured like any other knowledge: by how well it helps the institution survive by enabling it to be adaptable, resilient and innovative.

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Organisational flow

There's a great story in The Boston Globe about work being done to improve a children's hospital's capacity to help people without a single additional dollar being spent.

The thing that really struck me was that I'm sure everyone in the hospital was genuinely trying to deliver the best service to their patients:

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Collaboration & workplace interruptions

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the impact of collaborative tools on workplace interruptions.

In the old days of computers, PCs could only work on one task at a time. This naturally discouraged task switching, since there was a cost of setting up and quitting the application. Instead, people completed the task they were on before moving on to the next one.

Not coincidentally, this habit also closely mirrored the traditional "in-tray" approach of business. Take the first piece of paper; deal with it; move on to the next. The only difference was that it encouraged "clumping" of tasks. Deal with all tasks requiring Application A, then move to all those requiring Application B.

Once multitasking became widespread with Windows 3.1, this approach no longer had to hold. People could partly complete one task; switch to another task on demand; and switch back. However, my memory of these early days is that multi-tasking was generally reserved for reference purposes. You might run multiple windows, but generally the new task supported the completion of the original, "master" task.

The advent of email and the internet changed all that.

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