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Work as learning, meaning and interconnectedness

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Katri Saarikivi

on 16 January 2016

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Transcript of Work as learning, meaning and interconnectedness

How do work-related constructs and organizational structures support the experience of meaning and value creation through learning?
And work settings have changed
What kind of work creates value in today's society?
Work roles
Working hours
The work place
Position based authority highlights power and dominance, creating interpersonal settings that require obedience, not originality.
The traditional roles of employer and employee create an interpersonal setting of one-sided dependency.
Defining common working hours poses a problem because information intensive work, learning and creative thinking happen most efficiently at very individual rhythms.
The value created at work is not the time spent at the work place.
The hierarchical organization is totally regular. The thought behind it its that through
regularity, there will be minimal human error and efficiency in function.
Fair, A. ym, (2009). Functional Brain Networks Develop from a “Local to Distributed” Organization. PLoS Comput Biol.
When work only has instrumental value:
How in the heck could a person enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, brush teeth and hair and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

C. Bukowski
Culture (Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation")[1] is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator, Cicero: "cultura animi". The term "culture" appeared first in its current sense in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to connote a process of
cultivation or improvement
, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the 19th century, the term developed to refer first to the
betterment or refinement of the individual,
especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals.
How do our society and culture define work?
Business that focused on creating physical products was built during an era where behaviorism influenced work cultures, roles and practices. The main challenge for the work cultures of the future is to update the view on human behavior so that it contains current knowledge about learning, motivation and wellbeing.
Information is abundant, not scarce. You cannot wear information out.
The value of information products grows and is created in use.
Information products cannot be created separate of the consumer.
Value creation in information intensive business happens in interaction and requires learning.
Previously, individuals were required to gather around a machine, at a workplace. The machine was typically a large investment for the employer.
Today, the machinery we use for processing information is not as expensive - the capital tied to machinery is distributed.
Information intensive work is essentially a series of tasks that can be distributed through the digital world. This means that work can find people.
Wikimedia Commons
Youtube, plasticpals1
Youtube, olinerd
Youtube, furiousdriving
"Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs"
"Skilled Work, Without the Worker"
Adult neurogenesis happens in the hippocampus
Knoth et al., 2010
More new neurons are born if you lead a
Running increases the amount of new cells being born
Stress decreases the amount of new cells
Warner-Schmidt et al., 2006
As does even moderate alcohol consumption
Anderson et al., 2012
van Praag et al., 1999
can rescue new neurons
Shors ym., 2011
Without learning, the new cells do not survive.
You can think that there are two separate kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic
Monetary reward can decrease intrinsic motivation and voluntary action
Learning and the meaningfulness of the action produce intrinsic motivation
Lifelong learning can increase you brain's resistance to disease
Those who do sports more often have a smaller risk of getting Alzheimer's
Larson et al., 2006
Higher education levels are associated with fewer dementia-related changes in the brain
Brayne et al., 2010
Murayama et al., 2010
Liljeholm et al., 2012; Shohamy, 2011
What kind of information do concepts that stem from our culture contain?
The employee
The workplace
The superior
The subordinate
A job
A job is a regular activity performed in exchange
for payment.
One employed by another usually
for wages
and in a
position below
the executive level
One who is
above another
in rank, station, or office
to or controlled by authority
A place (as a
shop or factory
) where work is done
Whether we know it or not, the language we use directs our thinking, our actions and our emotions.
What kind of work culture do you want?
information society
, the enrichment and development of information are now a powerful process of value creation.
Work has always evolved with the development of society.
With technological development, we have been able to work less and less.
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Automation, robotics and AI can be used to efficiently handle repetitive tasks and solve clearly defined problems.
Technology can influence efficiency, but it also influences content of work.
Technological progress has created a situation where humans now create most value through applying creativity, feeling and learning capability, not through manual labor or repetitive tasks.
is a key process of value creation in information intensive business
Learning is most effective if the content is
personally meaningful
If work only has instrumental value, there can be no experience of meaning about the content.

Understanding the nature of connectedness will help relieve fear of emergence and self-organization.
Digital reality has helped concretize this phenomenon and make it evident e.g. through social media
The concept of the small world phenomenon dates back to the 1970's where it originally described how people are connected through only 5.2 "handshakes" within the US
Organizations of people follow the same semi-randomness and semi-regularity as other networks with small world characteristics. One part of the organization can't act without an influence on the whole network.
It is an intrinsic capability of neurons
We may be associated with a few but are
still connected with many.
Small worldness is decreased in severe disorders like schizophrenia
...and increased through working memory training.
If the organization wishes to be "organic" and allow natural connectivity between its members and natural efficiency, it should try to allow properties intrinsic to naturally occurring networks, including cliques and hubs.
Constant change and contextual thinking are
the only way to stay relevant. Self-organization
is the best way to be efficient.
Information products are however qualitatively very far from physical products.
What kinds of environments facilitate learning?
What is our current understanding and metaphor of humanity? Are we in the middle of a paradigm shift? What are the best models for today's organization?
"The life cycle of the dominant metaphor in a scientific theory demarcates the life cycle of the scientific paradigm itself and the adoption of new metaphors is said to be the signature of transitions between paradigms".
Daugman, J. (
Value creation in information intensive business requires learning that is thoroughly human. Soft values are the new hard values.
The concept of the work day may be 12000 years old, dating back to the advent of agriculture.
Microsoft Clip Art,
Microsoft Clip Art,
Duarte, M., Restuccia, D., 2010.
Have our work cultures responded to these differences and the special nature of information?
("If work is all about personal meaning and learning, will it lead to an organization full of self-interest, irresponsibility and indifference towards others?").
We are equipped with the capability to learn from others from birth - the human mirror neuron system may account for imitation capabilities understanding actions and intentions as well as even language.
Cooperative learning produces best results
Kyndt et al., 2013
Cooperative learning requires:
Positive interdependence
Individual accountability
Interpersonal skills
Johnson, D., Johnson, R., 2009
Photo: Flickr, Olis Olois
Lipina et al., 2013
Learning if most efficient with friends!
Everyone should have the right to learn at work. Learning
and experience of meaning are key ingredients of wellbeing and motivation at work.
Creating value
requires learning, and learning requires connectedness.


recognizing and creating optimal circumstances for learning, we can increase value creation in organizations.
New neurons appear throughout life
We are interconnected and interdependent.
If the metaphor for the human mind has evolved from the steam engine towards the network, what does this mean for our work cultures?
Learning as the core process of value creation means that
work has to be personally meaningful.
Work is not defined by place, time or job role but through the needs and actions of individuals who come together.
Does your work culture contain possibilities for "refinement of the individual"?
Where do you experience the least amount of stress and distraction?
Where can you meet people who can help you learn or discover new ideas?
So what are the implications of this metaphor, how can it be used in organizations?
Work is learning, meaning and interconnectedness.
A "vicious" circle of self-motivated learning can be born, if not interfered with by attempts at external motivation.
Work organizations embrace contextuality. People can freely organize in the digital world to respond to changing business needs and be connected to relevant people.
The boundaries between the firm and the customer become blurry when value of work is created in interaction.
For the individual, work is continuous learning and research into personally meaningful topics together with others who share the interest.
Work becomes human centric. The contents of work serve the learning of individuals and the creation of meaningful relationships.
Work is a series of tasks that require human intelligence and learning.
Katri Saarikivi
twitter: katrisaarikivi
When learning becomes the main process of work, the boundaries between educational and business organizations may become fuzzy.

"The crisis in higher education"

"The most important education technology in 200 years"
"Massive Open Online Courses - A Threat Or Opportunity To Universities?"
"The Year of the MOOC"

"Show me your badge"
Khan Academy
New ways of sharing information, organizing teaching and proving acquired skills.
"The end of the university as we know it"
When information and education are available for the masses, they are no longer a scarce resource.

Teaching is no longer a skill of only teachers.

The student has global selection of the best education to choose from.
(Joint learning with familiar mouse enhanced episodic memory and corrected cognitive abilities in autistic-like mice.)
How should we redefine work-related concepts
so that our language creates the kind of work culture
we need?
Huberman & Minns, 2007
A car frame constructed in 80 seconds. Definitely something humans can't do.
Even animal labor can be automatized :)
Where do we draw the line? Is artistic expression, for example in music, exclusively a human feat?
Wikimedia Commons
Small world characteristics are found in a large number of
different kinds of networks. Small worldness leads to efficient and fast transfer of information.
Organizations of people will naturally
network in the most efficient manner.
It seems that the first organizations to understand the implications of the abundance of information are educational.
Of course this does not mean that you could increase intrinsic motivation with poor pay. Unfortunately, this is the conclusion to which some people have arrived...
By author / Wikimedia Commons / Flickr with CC licence
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