OMD/MPII/Assignments/Self Organization

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“Knowledge is like an iceberg, where 10 per cent is explicit and visible, and 90 per cent is tacit and invisible.” – John Seely Brown, The Social Life of Learning: How Can Continuing Education Be Reconfigured in the Future, 2002 -

If this quote is true ~ and I believe it is ~ then there’s far more to KT and SO than meets the eye, ear, heart, mind and soul. It’s a compelling thought as to why SO might occur ~ because no single person has the visible knowledge to know what’s truly happening. Moreover, there is no “a priori blueprint or constant centralized control, or even continuous streams of information…in a shared (but constantly shifting) environment, in the way that an ecology "runs itself" without a leader or top-down information.” – Fielding FieldKit #88, p. 4.

It’s a powerful realization for me: KT covers a territorial expanse deep and wide, visible and hidden, embedded and segregated and frequently discordant with traditional views. I am appreciating that each basis must be empirically tested to know for sure if X truly causes Y and Z and to what degree.

This week, I am taking a look at the specific characteristics of WikiEducator, in line with KT and self-organizing systems and Dee Hock’s Future Positive blog post, entitled “Leader Follower” -$173 While the article was published in 1999, I was quite surprised by how well it describes the dynamics of SO, particularly evidenced by WikiEducator.

“Leaders can only recognize and modify conditions that prevent it; perceive and articulate a sense of community, a vision of the future, a body of principle to which people can become passionately committed, then encourage and enable them to discover and bring forth the extraordinary capabilities that lie trapped in everyone struggling to get out.” — Dee Hock

If there ever was a paragraph that described the role of the founder, strategist, organizer, and chief-cheerleader behind WikiEducator, this is it. He is completely focused on collaboratively developing a free and open version of all levels of the educational curriculum by 2015. He knows that he cannot do it himself, or with a hierarchical organization — but rather with a welcoming workspace for others who believe in his vision and revel in the environment and opportunities they can create together.

In New Zealand in 1998, he began this project as a 30-something professor of e-learning (using precursor technologies to the wiki). Fast forward to 2008, he now serves as Advisory Board Member to the WikiMedia Foundation ~ the technology engine driving Wikipedia.)

In May 2006, he put his strategy into motion with the formal launch of the WikiEducator website (, supported by the Commonwealth of Learning ( in Vancouver, WikiEd has grown steadily, recently hailed as the Best Educational Wiki (Stephen Downes, December 2007 -

The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self, one's own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts.

In my observation and interactions with him, he has set an uncompromising standard of personal and professional behaviour (i.e., refusing to use commercial software) and an unyielding commitment to a values-based community within the wiki, as well as copyright standards (Creative Commons-By Attribution-Share Alike – a content license with minimal copyright restrictions). This has made some relationships impossible, but his unyielding stance ~ after much reflection I’m sure ~ has made other relationships and opportunities possible.

But WikiEd is more than just his project ~ it’s owned by anyone who wants to be involved. It uses a collaborative editing technology (called a wiki), and it’s been designed to be a free and open system where anyone (formal and non-formal educators) can join the community to create, innovate and share educational content for their own use. (The caveat is, that whatever is developed on WikiEducator will remain for others to use freely.) Values-based Community

In the process, he has helped to develop and shape an environment rooted in strong community values aligned to the Free Culture Movement – a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works using the Internet well as other media ( and Creative Commons; and achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. WikiEducator’s Community Values (from

“We believe:

  • In the social inclusion and participation of all people in our networked society (Access to ICTs is a fundamental right of knowledge citizens - not an excuse for using old technologies).
  • In the freedoms of all educators to teach with the technologies and contents of their choice, hence our commitment to Free/Libre and Open Source technology tools and free content.
  • That educational content is unique - and by working together we can improve the technologies we use as well as the reusability of digital learning resources.
  • In a forward-looking disposition working together to find appropriate and sustainable solutions for e-learning futures.”

Dynamic Growth, Energy

There is a palpable dynamism and energy to this self-organizing wiki-system. Erstwhile strangers from around the globe connect through shared interests (i.e., free educational content) and collaborate, dialogue and contribute to the wiki. In turn, they ‘believe’ in the community’s values and bring others on board to join in the co-creation.

“It comes down to both the individual and collective sense of where and how people choose to be led. In a very real sense, followers lead by choosing where to be led. Where a community will be led is inseparable from the conscious, shared values and beliefs of the individuals of which it is composed.” – Dee Hock

On WikiEd, leaders morph into followers, and followers morph into leaders on any given project. Every person has the opportunity to reach out to other individuals an communities who may be interested in sharing in the co-creative energies of developing free content…

While it’s impossible to predict where the next project or collaboration may occur, it’s clear that the community is growing. The WikiEd site currently generates over 7,500 unique visitors daily, and has 8,000 users from all over the world. Due to its global nature, it is on track to become a top website, with a view to doing for education what Wikipedia has done for information.

“Effective self-organization is supported by two critical elements: a clear sense of identity and freedom. In organizations, if people are free to make their own decisions, guided by a clear organizational identity for them to reference, the whole system develops greater coherence and strength.” — (Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, p. 87)