In Need of Empathy


I read an article today by Harold Jarche called Innovation Means Learning at Work and for ID we are going to have a socratic seminar on this piece tomorrow, so tonight we were all asked to reflect on what we thought and what questions arose for us.

I’m not going to lie, either maybe I didn’t get it, or I just really wasn’t a big fan of the article.

I felt kind of bad almost because just based on the title, it is the kind of article that would typically interest me a lot and therefore I wanted to like it. But this article instead just reminded me that even articles on topics you’re really interested in may not always be right for everyone.

From my understanding, the main goal of the article was to persuade readers on the concept that innovation takes a network of people rather than just a creative individual as myth may suggest. This is a good solid point, but then it felt like it just kind of went on to repeat the same stuff about needing social connections and conversations; “Social learning, developed through many conversations, enables this flow of implicit knowledge.” “Companies have to foster richer and deeper connections which can only be built over time through meaningful conversations.” “Supporting the creation of social networks can increase knowledge-sharing which can lead to more innovation, because chance favours the connected company.”

I get it, trust me I do, social networking is an important part of innovation because we gain new ideas and insights from the clashing of experiences and knowledge. I wonder though, what if not all members of a team participate in the social networking aspect of the company? How does the team create, support, and maintain these social networks that are so important?

Ironically, the article even talks about the importance of narrations and how avid bloggers can understand the powerful behavior shift that can come from “working out loud” as Jarche calls it. Again, I totally understand this concept, but it still just feels a tad repetitive to me talking even more about sharing your work with others… I would have preferred to heard some personal story about how blogging, or other forms of working out loud, has changed his life. What are the challenges with sharing narratives? If you’re working on a team, how do manage all of the different narratives? It seems like it would be a lot of information to read and sort through even if you have just a team of 5 and everyone is blogging weekly, so how can larger teams productively network and keep track of the important pieces of information and feedback?

I feel like overall the article was lacking at answering the question of “how?” It would pose all of these (repetitive) ideas, like about needing an open culture: “The one constant is that you have to be open to change and new points of view.”This requires a culture of openness: making sure that sharing is the default mode for all communications.” “In trusted networks, openness enables transparency, which in turn fosters a diversity of ideas.” “New ideas come from openness.” Even in the comments, Jarche talks about how, “Social networks are more open…” However, never once is the question of “How do you create an open culture in a business?” really answered.

Jarche mentions having trust, taking ownership, and having diversity on your team, but without more concrete ideas I feel more confused then motivated about open cultures. It’s great to want your team to be great, but it’s another to actually make it great. What are the action steps that you can take to create a great and open culture on a team?

In then end, Jarche goes right back to talking about network activity, and how all enterprises need “to nourish their knowledge networks”. While from other readings I know I agree with with his opinions, personally this repetitive article was too lacking in personal examples and action steps for me to really bye into his argument. Seeing first hand how concrete, descriptive examples, especially ones that lend themselves to gaining empathy from the reader, can really make or break a story, I wonder how we in ID can make a better point this year of sharing our story in well delivered ways?


2 thoughts on “In Need of Empathy

  1. Since you asked for it, here is how blogging changed my life (2012):

    Here is a longer story about how these sense-making practices have influenced me:

    Here is more on how to build an open culture:

    By the way, there are over 2,700 posts on my blog. One article cannot tell the whole story.


    1. Thank you for your comment, and for responding to my questions. I read these other articles of yours and I strongly agree with your messages. However, I value being honest with my audience, and therefore, I must say that with no intentions of being disrespectful, my opinion shown in this post remains the same after reading more.

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