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Current page elements: (1) Navigating unimagined futures (2) To know and not do (3) View point: ... big movies, other approaches (4) Life directions in complex systems (5) Questions lurking in the background

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Time-life navigation foundational terrain exploration

Our complex and often cruel situation—navigating unimagined futures

In each area (organization evolution etc.) and together (part of a synthesis) there are several time dimensions that themselves move in time.

Today, "tomorrow" and "day after tomorrow" will have these time dimensions, but their composition will be different—they move in time.

Time dimensions: At any point in time there is: 1) residue from the past (look around your city or town); 2) today's situation and it's opportunities for effectiveness; 3) the future that has already happened (events that have irrevocably taken place, but have not yet had full impact); 4) indications of what "should be"; and 5) the more distant future which contains all of the foregoing multiple times.

To add to this complexity, different areas (industries, knowledge areas, social tasks, local problems, government) may have different content in each dimension and different speeds. From a "strategic, strategic" standpoint there are no rigid industries, knowledge areas, social tasks, local problems or government. There is only people doing things for and to other people.

Frequently time seems to move slow, but experience shows that those in entrenched positions find it very hard to keep up and keep focused.

The last few paragraphs focus on part of what creates unimagined futures. Another part deals with the nature of mental patterns and our mental patterns (further down the page)

These unimagined futures are a source of genuine opportunities. This is explained and explored further on the time-life navigation page.

From an action standpoint, part of time-life navigation involves escaping or abandoning the past while preparing for unimagined futures—see illustration below.

Sidebar: In thinking about careers, it is most useful to think of jobs that fit career aspirations and careers that fit a life design. It may also be useful to think in terms of building one's life on the foundation of applying one's strengths to the current opportunities and tasks in society and economy. In a 2003 news story, it was reported that 85 percent of job seekers have to change industries to find work. Another 2003 article, based on a survey, indicated that 82% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs.

Examples of unimagined futures can be seen by scanning the news for organization crisis and innovation stories.

In the categories I track, I clip three or four stories a day. Three years later that's over 3,000 examples. These are almost never mom and pop stories—they aren't covered by the national news. The crisis stories mostly involve the Fortune 500 that employs tons of highly schooled and experienced people. Examples: Another reorganization, Sony lays off 20,000, Creating a killer product or the Fate of many new company founders funded by venture capital vs. friends and family. Other articles. Awareness of the terrain issues in these stories is part of informed navigation. These tactical stories reflect dimensions of the economic content and structure.

See <> for more stories.

These stories point to the concepts illustrated below.

The top half of this illustration reminds us of the dramatic changes that have taken place in human history in certain places. These particular images have special significance.

Even when people have been able to foresee major changes, very, very, very few anticipate how the changes will play out in tomorrow's society (which will be different) or the expectations they raise.

For simplicities sake, I have presented this as a single time line. Reality is much more complex. See knowledge system view.

The lower section of the illustration—brains in time—directs our attention to the formation of our mental patterns and raises the issue of time appropriateness. Who in 1900 had mental patterns appropriate to 1920? This question can be repeated at different points in time and shorter and shorter intervals to get a feel for the duration of appropriate mental patterns.

How long does a course of action last? How long is it valid? When should it be entered? When should it be abandoned? Do all courses of action work out equally well? Are they all worth doing?

Looking around at a particular point in time or relying on past experience gives almost no clues as to what is going the happen in multiple futures (remember those organization crisis stories).

Sidebar: Beware opinions, 99.99% are based on yesterday's mental patterns and are almost always inadequate without testing and further exploration. What's the real situation is a better starting point?

To state the obvious, the relentless shift in mental patterns isn't something we can permanently fix. We can only have a work approach! The arrow pointing to the knowledge system view suggests the nature and complexity of the challenge.

Sidebar—A note on our generational foundations and mental patterns: We can't look to many people in the older segments of the population and expect them to have even remotely appropriate mental patterns for this knowledge system. The large number of people returning from WWII who took advantage of the GI Bill (education) were the foundation of this knowledge system.

Obviously we don't have just one life line (birth to life expectancy). Every area of life could be illustrated with a different life line. I have a tennis life line, a career life line, a world exposure life line, a mountain biking life line, and many more. The knowledge system creates new and different life lines and consequently unimagined futures.

The title to this section mentioned cruel. It is cruel for the education system, employers, governmental policy to pretend that we live in a static one dimensional situation that only requires playing their game by their rules created by their mental patterns. Observe the millions of people who have been impacted by the massive restructurings that have taken place over the last 30 years. Who warned them that they needed to do something more or different? Who spelled out the nature of the challenge? Whose explanation fits reality and has been tested against what can be seen in the news?

It is also cruel to lead people to believe that their futures can be similar to the generations before them by emulating the actions and behaviors of their predecessors. It raises false expectations and it fails to prepare them for effective participation in the knowledge system. Go to college; get a job; live happily ever after.

The challenges we face today can't be solved by the government switching money from one pocket (taxing) to the other (transfer payments). This doesn't make the pie bigger. With knowledge workers becoming a larger and larger proportion of the productive system, it is the productivity of knowledge and knowledge workers that will matter.

The situation just described calls for some appropriate, systematic attention directing action.

To know and not do, is to not yet know

With almost everything we read its "in one ear and out the other" with little recognizable consequence. Part of the consequences (see daily news) of the subject here arise from the disjointed nature of the synthesis mentioned previously. Capitalizing on disjointedness requires substantial repeated preparation. Coping with disjointedness requires special recognition otherwise effort is directed backwards while the strategic world moves on—this misdirection is the typical reaction rather than the exception. It is the typical reaction because system appropriate mental preparation is missing—because it is built into the situation. Appropriate navigation capacities have not been developed. A part of navigation involves desirable destinations and appropriate paths to these destinations. The destinations considered on this site are unknown and unknowable many years in advance—non-linear, unimagined futures. The destinations are temporary—receding horizons. The shifting destinations put us in the position of having to bear the consequences of not knowing what we don't know. Even when we are aware we may not believe sufficiently to take the appropriate path …

View point: Big picture, big pictures, big movies, other approaches, Drucker foundation

Life long work approach: Part of the uniqueness of this site is its comprehensiveness, integration, and reality focus. It is not a magic bullet. Magic bullets are not part of reality. It is a life-long work approach based on a foundation of seeking to be informed. In a world where there are no permanent destinations or answers, a work approach that includes conscious attention shifting and some luck are needed to avoid becoming marooned in unattractive situations. Another part of being informed is the awareness that others may be trying similar things—cancellation of advantage, dilution, oversupply—so generic "destinations" are likely to lead to unexpected dead-ends. This needs to be taken into consideration in developing a blueprint. Although the functional distinctions between data, information, and knowledge are another part of being informed, the informedness that I'm referring to deals with "big movies."

Changing social and economic picture Big movies+: Another aspect of the site's uniqueness is its viewpoint—the point from which we view and part of being informed. It could be argued that the site concerns the "big picture," but "big movie" would be more appropriate—a series of big pictures. Even more appropriate would be "big movies" (multiple semi-simultaneous movies interlaced, evolving, re-scripted, abandoned—the reality thing again). Even "big movies" doesn't capture all of it. No words in any language (language is always history rather than future based) could capture the reality in which we are embedded.

Other approaches, other offerings: I am generally aware of what is being offered elsewhere and it is largely strategically inadequate—it is inadequate on the surface because it is convenient one-dimensionalism and doesn't deal with how our lives fit in this reality (health within a "system" plus the time factor and unimagined futures). After over 20 years of full-time exploration work ( [resource system] [regular reading and internet surfing] ), I haven't seen anything remotely similar. My suggestion is to do your homework (exploration, thinking, connecting) before spending substantial time or money and consider where something positions you (performance capability) in tomorrow's worlds. If it were possible to ingest every "self improvement" technique available today, it still wouldn't add up to the same thing (system heath in time). You could try Googling topic phrases (in quotation marks) to see what's available elsewhere. Also you could try exploring the Google or Yahoo directories for equivalent synthesis structure and matching categories. (Disjointed sidebar: in an area, think in terms optimize not maxiimize or perfection?)

There is course work (including continuing education) in the powerful knowledges such as chemistry, physics, engineering etc. and there is chemistry, physics, engineering applied in a dynamic world of humans where the external situation is "in control" or determining—not nearly the same. A prudent assumption: course work is disconnected from economic content, structure, and placement. Getting a quadruple Ph.D. in electronics doesn't make someone a major player in consumer electronics. Hiring 50 or 500 quadruple Ph.D.'s doesn't make an organization a healthy player in consumer electronics (present or future). Multi-disciplinary efforts based on course content may be necessary, but it is still predominantly sterile without integration into a genuinely managed, externally focused (the recipents of an organization's external offerings are only interested in what it does for them and not what it takes to do it) organization (make that organizations in time). These genuinely managed organizations are often informed by Peter Drucker. You might consider integrating "Knowledge: It Economics and Its Productivity" from Post-Capitalist Society and "learning to manage in situations where you don't have command authority" into your radar and work map (see image examples on this page).

Current strategic system: Thoughts, observations, and questions.

knowledge system viewDrucker foundation: One further semi-uniqueness is its Drucker foundation. I'm not referring to the non-profit organization—Drucker Foundation, renamed the Leader-to-Leader Institute. It is the exposure to Peter Drucker's work (beginning around 1970) that provides a foundation for this site. This site tries to integrate his perception and insights, the powerful knowledge specialties, and our lives moving in time (an individual repeatedly integrating themselves into a world of both busyness and real forward motion). This site provides a means of creating mental links and arranging these elements. In a sense, that makes this an integrated, action oriented, education implementation site rather than course oriented.

Peter Drucker's strategic influence: 1) An introduction. 2) A life overview (An Intellectual Journey—VCR tape available). 3) flashA look ahead. 4) Managing knowledge.flash This influence shapes the competitive envirnoment. Be sure to explore the knowledge system view diagram before 3 and 4. Superimpose the four previous conceptual resources on the knowledge system view. Consider industry composition, structure, health, and evolution. Ignorance of his work has substantial personal and system wide consequences—see organization crisis stories. Who else plays in his league? Warren Buffett uses the term 800 pound gorilla to refer to the heavy hitters in this world. You might find in useful to identify the 800 pound gorillas that define or shape your life—now and later. How visible are they? Are there any 1,000 pound gorillas?

After you've done some site exploration, I recommend getting a copy of Peter Drucker's The Essential Drucker (paperback Amazon approx. $17 total) (see overview). The introduction and chapter one should be read slowly and mentally implanted and superimposed on the knowledge system diagram above. In working with important concepts it is more useful to calendarize than memorize—Essential Drucker action identification mapping. The Essential Drucker is an introduction to management.

What about continuing education? Part of the answer can be seen in the knowledge system view and the Sony article. Topics and courses are just that. They don't address who, what, how, when, or where the "rubber meets the road" in the real functioning world except through a special interest group. When are obsolete courses withdrawn? Where is chemistry or physics in the real functioning world? Where in the functioning world were they 25 years ago? Where in the functioning world will they be 25 years from now? See Peter Drucker on adult continuing education

This site can also be used as part of an employee development program and in conjunction with: Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself <> A must read! Be sure to pass this on to people with substantial years of their work lives still ahead.

Consider creating some thinking canvases in the areas mentioned: People decision expectations, Strengths etc.

Visual thinking canvases: <> click on Gallery on the left menu or Inspiration software web site <>

Life directions in complex systems

Strategic direction and Work plan: This site provides the opportunity to spend time exploring and defining life directions (all five dimensions listed at the top of the page navigation bar plus the life management system) embedded in a complex knowledge system plus it provides a multi-generational implementation system. In other words, you can use this site yourself, but you can also use it to help other people in multiple ways.

From interest to action: Familiarity with a topic is not in the same league as right action on that topic (sequence: awareness > verbal capability > conceptual structure in time > action). There's wrong action and right action. Time almost always turns right action into wrong action! Time by itself rarely turns wrong action into right action, but sometimes it does. The right and wrong largely refer to the "system" in which we are embedded.

Already got a plan: I frequently hear that people already have a plan. One of the conceptual problem with this approach is that it ignores the reality that even the best plan will eventually become inappropriate. When this happens it is too late to undertake the approach I'm suggesting—the financial and constituent pressure will be too great! Another problem is that other people are cooking up ideas which results in canceling each other while potentially falling further behind on the general development time line.

Already got a planning process: This site doesn't present a basic planning process. It presents a process that recognizes the failure of typical planning processes. This failure can be seen in articles in the daily news. This failure is also partially the result of unimagined futures. Clue—Michael Kami's evolution: chief strategic planner for IBM and Xerox during their super-growth periods; Corporate Planning Manual; Trigger Points; Management Golf; Google "Michael Kami"

Strategic thinking: The time-life navigation that I'm referring to is not a subject or a tactical detail. It encompasses all subjects. It concerns conscious and informed navigation of the roads ahead (see next section and knowledge system view). It's not about how to do this or that right. It's not about the Martha Stewart trivial maximization pursuit mentality. Ten or twenty years from now how would that matter?

Three questions or issues may be lurking in the background

First, you may be satisfied with your current situation and have a long record of high performance, so how would something like this benefit you?

This question is addressed in multiple ways on this page and throughout the site. The answer largely comes from a person's informed developmental desires (their capabilities and their future standing in the knowledge system that has emerged since WWII or thereaboutssee above) in a world moving in time.

This knowledge system has no apparent respect for position (rung on an organization ladder), what individuals did yesterday, their IQ, their school, their degrees, their professionalism, their excellence, the depth of their pockets, their R&D spending, their current performance or their plans for tomorrow. None of these are basis for making informed investment decisions or how consumers make decisions. Evidence of this can be seen in the daily news—unimagined futures stories. The impact that inappropriate and inadequate preparation has on the individuals, their community, their associates (domino and downward spiral effect), and their families is often traumatic. See the introduction to Management Challenges for the 21st Century.

Sidebar: Also you might want to consider the typical human reaction to a life crisis. What does it say about the person's life up to that point? In the cosmic scheme of things, is it the right reaction?

Knowing what to do in the knowledge system that has emerged since WWII is not something that can come from experience. This knowledge system is without precedent and requires action that is not part of our experience base and therefore not part of our mental patterns.

A part of one's informed developmental desires may be working on the question: "What do I have to do so I don't misinform, mislead, mismanage my associates, friends, contacts, etc.?"

Sidebar: In the career evolution dimension, it may be useful (depending on age) to expect a radical flattening of the organization ladder—especially in a knowledge based organization. A work plan that focused on climbing the organization ladder rather than managing oneself would be a misdirection of effort—it doesn't build effective capabilities (note the number of organizations that have to bring in new management rather than looking inside).

A final reminder in this area, we can't get to tomorrow by piling up more todays (even by making adjustments)

The second question, Why this site? Where else can you find the opportunity to let your brain view, survey, and explore the strategic situation in which we're all embedded plus the tools to repeatedly integrate oneself into this dynamic situation. Of the thousands of things I read during a year, I almost never see any acknowledgement of a strategic view or dynamic system. The individual accounts of this or that change, problem, crisis, product, service or whatever is seen as an isolated exception rather than just part of a bigger strategic pattern. Time that is devoted to these tactical, one-dimensional conceptualizations is not only wasted time, but potentially a strategic diversion or misdirection.

The third question involves time. Surely we already have a busy life, so where do we find the time to add something else? This doesn't concern an add-on or life accessory. This is the core of long-term self-interest. Insights: 1) Who is Peter Drucker? [one] [two]; Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself; organization crisis stories in the news; What impact does his published work have on your life? 2) See chapter 16, "Know Your Time", The Essential Drucker 3) Chapter 3, "The Change Leader > Change Policies > Organized Abandonment" Management Challenges for the 21st Century by Peter Drucker then connect to the time discussion above.

Copyright © 2004 Bob Embry. All rights reserved.

TLN Keywords: tlnkwTLNfoundations

Knowledge system view


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving toward unimagined futures.

It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then figure out a coping plan for what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise. A site exploration starting point



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