High performance networks solve the problems

In his book: Informal Learning, Jay says:

... "to learn" is to optimize the quality of one's networks.

Networks are comprised of nodes and links. The quality depends on both. In our minds that includes what we know and how well we've have made sense of those things, tied them into other understandings and increased the power of our mental models to explain, diagnose and anticipate. In our social lives, nodes and links includes who we know and how well we relate, call upon others as resources and provide value to their pursuits.

Low performance networks (suboptimal, low quality) create problems and respond in problematic ways. The problems Tony has distilled from the responses to the LCB January Question reflect instructional designers who are imbedded in low performance networks. All these problems get alleviated by more learning as Jay defines it: "optimizing the quality of one's networks.

In a low performance network, speeding up production will result in a loss of quality. The rush job will drop out the quality controls, review processes and time to think of better ways to get the result. The product is getting created heroically, in isolation by experts who cannot trust or involve their customers, communities and critics. The minds which are focused on rapid production have been closed by fears, deadline pressures and distanced relationships. No one is to blame or responsible single-handedly. Birds of a feather flock together. It's a network.

In a high performance network, speeding up production will result in higher quality. "If you want something done well, give it to a busy person". Instead of functioning in isolation, the network gets involved in many different ways. The contributions make the product more responsive, useful and valuable in context. Usability is judged by the users, instead of being second-guessed by quality controls. There's greater ownership, buy-in and engagement because the network contributed to product development. (See The Politics of Quality)

This contrast between the effects of low and high performance networks also explains:

  1. Iterations degenerating into perfectionism, feature creep, and excessive sophistication -- OR -- iterations evolving into elegant solutions, more immersive experiences, and greater value in the eyes of the beholder.

  2. Design professionals becoming their own worst enemy, using their free reign to run rampant, and acting like prima donnas stuck on their own need to be right -- OR -- design professionals evolving into collaborators, using their freedom to relate, and optimizing their networks.

  3. Instructional designers getting compromised by "what the client wants", acting powerless in the face of opposition to quality, getting coerced to relinquish control to "SME's with Powerpoint slides" -- OR -- Instructional designers getting invited to consult the client on better strategies, bigger paybacks and wiser investments, acting powerful in the face of challenges to their preferred solution, and helping SME's author their own formal instruction.

There is no solution at the level of the presenting problem and the thinking that generated the symptoms. The solution emerges from optimizing the cognitive and social networks.

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