Literally, just three things I read, listened to, watched, or experienced over the last month that might be of use or interest to you too if you're a fellow culture-shaper, problem-solver, or change-maker. Plus, I try to share a snippet of wisdom and a new photo from my place-based explorations.
1. Podcast: Ear Hustle. There is a lot of media focused on true crime. And while there is increasingly more media dedicated to the experience of prison, it is still quite limited, and seldom is from the point of view of those who are currently serving sentences. Ear Hustle is about life inside California’s San Quentin State Penitentiary as told and produced by those living in it. The hosts and the folks they interview bring incredible honesty, hurt, humor, and a surprising amount of joy to these anthropological explorations of prison life. Just five episodes in, they’ve talked about the trials and tribulations of cellmates and caring for pets in prison. But, if you want to listen to what I consider the best episode thus far, I recommend checking out Episode 4: The SHU in which inmates talk about their experiences in solitary confinement. It’s riveting and haunting.
2. Article: Help Employees CreateKnowledge — Not Just Share It. John Hagel III and John Seely Brown (Harvard Business Review, August 15, 2017). In a past role, I had the pleasure of building what we called the “knowledge and impact” strategy at a philanthropic organization. When folks unfamiliar with the work would refer to the work as “knowledge management,” I’d sometimes bristle because our goal was to recognize what we were learning in as close to real time and make to share it across the organization and across the field. In this article, Hagel and Brown do a great job of describing the process and value of what they call “knowledge creation,” noting that, “Without diminishing the value of knowledge sharing, we would suggest that the most valuable form of learning today is actually creating new knowledge. Organizations are increasingly being confronted with new and unexpected situations that go beyond the textbooks and operating manuals and require leaders to improvise on the spot, coming up with new approaches that haven’t been tried before.”
3. Book: The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach to Solving our Most Complex Challenges by Zaid Hassan (Berrett-Koehler Publichers, Inc.: 2014). When the same book is mentioned to you in two different meetings, with people who don’t know eachother, then it seems to me, you have to look it up. Zaid Hassan’s “The Social Labs Revolution” came out in 2014, but it’s new to me, and I think that it’s well worth checking out. Hassan does a really effective job of describing how social problem-solving is stuck in a linear, cold-war era planning mindset of plan-implement-succeed or fail, and how given the complexity of our challenges there needs to be a new paradigm that is more experimental. I like a lot of what he describes and proposes in the book, though I do have my quibbles about three things. I’m not a fan of the term “labs” (it fails to recognize history, and power dynamics), I was surprised how relatively little discussion of trust among lab participants was talked about, and while Hassan notes that “The way the problem’s defined or constructed is usually unexamined. It may be inherited from other spheres…or may simply be a commonly accepted story,” he doesn’t focus on why those stories are the status quo, and how to dig into the alternatives. This work is not static though, there’s a Social Labs community online, so as I dig into that, I’ll share what I’ve discovered on these fronts.