OMD MPII/Surprises

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Randy Fisher's Masters Project II

MA, Organization Management and Development, Fielding Graduate University, California (April 2009)

Surprises, Critique, Conclusions

Given Barclay's feedback, that I am likely farther behind than I thought I was ahead, I will focus on the surprises I have found thus far, with a sprinkling of critique and conclusions. No doubt, I will incorporate these in the final draft of my paper, and there will continue to be new surprises, critiques and conclusions along the way.

In developing this paper, I was surprised by the following:

  • the importance of the project numbers - they allowed me to see patterns that were previously hidden, and deepen my thinking around what might motivate an educational institution to consider using a wiki as a collaboration platform for its educators.
  • a missing critical ingredient - contextual information about complexity theory and self-organizaing behavior in an open evolving ecosystem / wiki space. Educators are making individual choices to behave in very individual ways, and collectively that is emerging into patterns of behavior that are unforeseen.
  • using metaphors to understand behaviour in the wiki, and then compare and contrast this, with different metaphors in traditional education settings. For example, in the wiki, the self-organizing behaviour is reflected by a metaphor of an open adaptive learning system, whereas in some educational organizations, the metaphor is Organization as Political System (Morgan, 2006) with its own hierarchy, and limits to freedom. It then becomes much easier to identify where and when culture clashes, cultural resistance and power relations will present themselves, simply by recognizing the different metaphors.
  • recognizing the role of WE's organizational and technical history in mitigating wiki use and adoption on the one hand, and because of this, the 'burden' of support falling to the larger community, to develop workarounds when the technology doesn't work
  • the importance of WE's Core Group (Kleiner, 2003) in getting the project off the ground, and the importance of a core group within an educational institution to support wiki use and adoption, or give the signal to resist
  • how important and influential a project leader could be within the wiki / open system, and in using scenario planning to chart a future that doesn't yet exist
  • the vital tension & tradeoffs between open and closed systems - they actually learn and benefit from each other's existence

Distinctions between Communications and Content

1. Communications as defined by: decisions, thoughts, threaded communications

  • in traditional organizations: communications are privileged, rigidly structured, norms, roles, depends where you are in the organizational hierarchy
  • in the wiki, it's different (depends on personal reputation, credibility within the project); there's greater 'freedom' against an organization's rules (yet sometimes, this freedom mitigates against greater use and adoption -
  • Rules have a positive side, - they are also in place to 'protect' people
  • in the wiki, users are forced to communicate to find content (even though all content and decisions are in the open)
  • in traditional organizational structures users have access to content and the communication channels are restricted to certain levels
    • in traditional organizations, the more you push for freedom, the more that management creates (business) processes, and tries to centralize control.

2. Content - no pre-imposed hierarchy / structure & low-value (initially)

  • the user needs to consider how s/he will organize content, in a way that makes sense to him / her (i.e., this is the tradeoff for extreme flexibility)
  • "content" is of low value (initially) - before it is updated, revised and localized (often with the help of other members in the community
  • gaps in content development (on wiki)...reminsicent of content silos


  • Educators collaborate on the basis of their Need for Power motivation - the ability to "do", to contribute...
  • An open wiki results in better communication, as users are forced to communicate to find the content!
  • Collaborative projects drive productive output (i.e., content development is faster, less money)
  • Communities of Practice - support Participatory Learning and Engagement, satisfy motivational needs for affiliation; and mitigate cultural resistance, by offering a forum for dialogue and information sharing
  • Cultural resistance / power relations challenges are predictable - the self-organizing wiki in the context of an educational institution) - and can be mitigated
  • individuals and the system itself adapts, through double / multiple loop learning
  • Magic number of five (5) people using a wiki at same time, to enable high productivity (i.e., using 'buckets' to store content until needed), building individual capacity for peer collaboration and competence

Different stakeholders derive different benefits:

  • Open Systems / Open Communications
    • no delay in feedback - to help revise / update content; peedy revision / updating cycle (30%+ performance improvement)
    • ability to sense emerging patterns by tuning into sub-sonic frequencies (i.e., as animals are able to sense things that humans cannot
    • enables quicker reaction times
    • feelings of power, empowerment
    • critical role of communities of practice around content / projects
  • Closed Systems / Closed Communications
    • delay in feedback, closed (bureaucratic) structure,
    • gaps / silos in communication

Paper Development, Process

  • how quickly my own content loses its freshness and staying power; the emergence, organic evolution (and integration) of new ideas over time
  • the cycle / ebb and flow of confusion and clarity
  • the craft of 'research' - researching the research (that is grounded in empirical/ proven evidence (which is valid and reliable, and creates a solid foundation upon which to conduct a thought experiment
  • assembling the Annotated TOC as a check against progress, assumptions and direction (valuable exercise)


Kleiner, A. (2003). Who Really Matters. New York: New York. Currency Books. [A division of Doubleday.], ISBN 0-385-48448-8

Mclelland, David C. And Michael Burnham (1976). Power is the Great Motivator, Best of Harvard Business Review: Motivating People (2003).

Morgan, Gareth (2006). Images of Organization. Updated edition. Sage Publications.

Reminders for this Course

I know y’all have a lot on your plate these final weeks. So it might help to keep in mind these Fieldkits:

Kit # 71 (Final paper format)

Kit # 72 (Project synopsis) — FINAL VERSION OF SYNOPSIS (to be posted at Topic 17, along with your final draft, in Week 12).

Kit #73 Research Findings Table

Kit #74 Checklist for editing

23:14, 23 March 2009 (UTC) And of course, the usual suspects: Randy Fisher 23:14, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

Kit # 03 Good citations

Kit #12 Owl Rules for writing

Kit #15 Map rules

Kit #17 The one truest thing

Now, this is a heavy dose of reminders, given that you’re also in the midst of writing. But the assumption is, this is simply a quick scan of principles that you’ve seen more than once before. Right? (No need to answer that.)