Knowledge is Inventory in the Learning Process, and behaves like a queue of committed options. Constrain KIP for faster learning.

This post is extending a metaphor that I haven’t completely thought through, but as a way of exploring my own understanding. Metaphors are useful, but of course, limited, as a very smart friend observed:

So please excuse the thinking out loud, and I’d really value feedback on the ideas and my way of using them.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a speed reader. Until buying a Kindle, I would take between 30cm and 50cm of books per week on a holiday and pretty much expect to finish them. When working away, I’d read over dinner, and could easily finish a book a week.

I take pride in how much I have read, am reading and have on my reading backlog. I self-identify as a voracious reader on my Lanyrd profile and speaker bio. On my Author Page here, I repeat the idea and extend it by listing my GoodReads throughput. And look, here it is again

Recently Read
Currently Reading
Reading Backlog

However, since arriving in Sweden, my reading rate has significantly slowed. And after I noticed it, I wondered why that might be.

And then: Insight

From one of the people I met last week at Booster Conference in Bergen.

And I realised: of course knowledge has a flow and a process. And in that, it’s very like the product development processes I work on every day. And obeys all the principles of product flow, from Little’s Law on. Not only that, but there’s also a parallel with Options Thinking, kindly illustrated by:

Building on this,

  1. spending time reading — and certainly at book length rather than tweet or blog post length — is very much committing to the option.
  2. committed options in a process act as a queue. Queue length is directly related to cycle time.
  3. Multitasking has impacts via task switching, spread focus, cognitive load and more.

Analysing My Situation

So, how does this new insight help me understand where I am and what my unconscious brain is trying to flag?

Right now, I’m having to learn a lot, very quickly, and put it into practise right away.

  1. I’m learning anew all the basics of how to operate as an adult in society because I’m in a new country, where many things work differently. I found this before when I was 20 and working in the US for a summer, but
    1. had lots of support structures round me (I was working on a summer camp)
    2. was only there for a limited time and had limited scope of engagement with society and officialdom (no schools for a start)
    3. had the movies as guidance
    4. spoke the language
  2. I’m also (as per the last point) learning an entirely new language with only a little German and Scots to help. It’s not like French where I can learn 10k words in a minute by noting all words ending in 'tion' are the same and frankly, the German is more misleading than helping.
  3. I’m working in a new business culture, and with a customer who is already at a maturity level that I’d only dreamed of in some previous situations. I can’t outknowledge them (and it wouldn’t help if I did), so I have to actually use those consulting skills much more strongly to be most helpful.

So right now, the most important thing is realising the value of knowledge options. Any new options I take on have to flow through the knowledge process super fast to value. I don’t have headspace for new ideas I’m not going to use almost immediately.

I cannot afford the inventory and delay of unrealised knowledge options. I am therefore constraining my KIP (Knowledge in Process) aggressively by exercising Just In Time Learning.

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Martin Burns

Transformation Consultant at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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