An Invitation from Fernando Flores

My friend Fernando Flores (see here, here, and here, and, for readers of Spanish or those who know how to get a web page translated, see here) briefed me last week about his new venture. I asked him to send me something in writing about what he is doing, and I reprint below substantially all of what he sent me. I recommend you read his invitation and consider it carefully.

Dear Chauncey:

As we discussed, I am in the process of starting a new enterprise that takes the work that we have done together in the past to the “next frontier” if you will, by putting it in the center of what people need to cope and thrive in the reality of our world today.

I have no doubt that the work we did together in the past, at Action Technologies and Business Design Associates, was world class work. Among other things, we invented The Coordinator, we developed a theory of communication and conversation, we created a discipline for software design rooted in the claim that an enterprise is a network of commitments, and we created a discipline for process analysis and design rooted in the same claim. Many people have experienced the benefits of learning to be what we called “the observer of the observer” and of developing the capacity to design while fully engaged in action.

As you know, the central aspect of our work is the understanding that the world is not a fixed reality. Human beings are not passive Cartesian observers. We are intentional actors, inventors, ‘configurators’, and interpreters of the world.

However, we are not only intentional beings. We are also social and historical beings. We are receptors and inventors of traditions, religions, philosophies, institutions, laws and so forth. For everything, we depend on everyday coordination with others.

Paradoxically, people feel more and more isolated in the increasingly global, interconnected world. As our access to information and web-enabled networks grows, and our capacity to connect to other people expands, people are generally more lost as to how to articulate their identities, build a reputation, develop new offers. Many people realize that they don’t have the skills necessary to navigate in a constantly changing world, but don’t know what to do about it. Hence, many people live in fear and anxiety about the future, and lack confidence not only in their capacity to cope with the reality at hand, but with our leaders’ capacity as well. Over and over, despite the best of intentions, we see our politicians making things worse.

Yet, there are a few who are not lost. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are interesting case studies for us of people who have been able to successfully navigate the realities of the world today. None of these men have PhDs in management — two of them did not even finish college — yet, they were receptive to the world around them, knew how to resonate with situations they found themselves in, and they all invented themselves, and their companies accordingly. As Alan Kay once said: ” the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” But how were these people able to configure the world that they invented? Were they born with this capacity? Why aren’t there more examples of people like Gates, Jobs, Page and Brin?

A simple answer is that our schooling has been focused on the acquisition of knowledge and the application of concepts, but as knowledge becomes a commodity, it is increasingly evident that this is not what we need to cope and thrive in today’s world. Instead, we need new practices that are not trivial — practices that allow us to cope with an increasingly global, constantly changing world, where communication is instant, and our identities are examined and at risk at all times.

As you know very well, practices are new ways of being that evolve over time. To configure and master them requires biological transformation, social mastery and spiritual strength. In our work together, we had some important successes in configuring and bringing new practices to our clients. However, we were limited by the amount of time required to “cook.” Our experience showed that we could produce practical business results for clients, but we could not produce “embodied wisdom” for the individuals we worked with without a significant amount of reflection, a luxury that is not always available for people. On the other hand, reflection alone is not sufficient. If people only study and read about what we are talking about, they will not necessarily learn to act. In the end, learning happens in the body. A person is said to “know” once he or she is able to do something they were not able to do before. As such, immersion in a space where action is required is critical for embodied learning to take place.

Technology today, combined with the work that we have done in the past, opens up the possibility to move people quickly from theory to practice, allowing us to produce a significant breakthrough in the embodied learning of skills and practices that are critical for the 21st century. One of the tools that I have been using to teach people to navigate this new world, for example, is games — online social games. Using these games, we have been able to create virtual laboratories for embodied learning where people learn to:

  • work with others in teams;
  • work with other cultures;
  • work across distances;
  • create trust and intimacy with others, particularly with people from different cultures; and
  • develop “mastery of network orchestration,” a new term that I’ve coined to capture the idea of being able to mobilize many resources in a network, external to an individual or to the organization he or she belongs to.

I am leading a conference in San Francisco on February 11th – 13th on the work that I am doing. The price for the three day conference is $2500. (Depending on people’s circumstances in this economy, I am open to making certain discounts. )

I look forward to your thoughts and further conversation.

Best wishes for 2009.

Fernando

If you are interested in registering for the February conference Fernando is offering, fill out the contact form below and I will see that it gets to the right person.

For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Fernando Flores, a little introduction …

I met Flores 28 years ago, after he had been released from a Chilean jail through the combined efforts of the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Stanford University, and some others. Previously he had served as a Dean at the Catholic University School of Engineering and as the Minister of Finance for Chile (at a very young age). He currently serves as a Senator in Chile, having returned there in 1999-2000.

In my opinion, he is responsible for some of the most original and powerful contributions to the understanding of management, communications, computers, and education during our lifetimes. His books are taught in graduate schools, and some of his ideas have become the common sense of our times, but much of what he invented has not yet begun to reach a public audience.

Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, which he wrote with Terry Winograd (Addis0n Wesley Professional, 1987), is a classic in the field of Computer Science, and was selected by Byte Magazine as one of the 10 most important books in the first 5o years of the computer industry. His Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action, and the Cultivation of Solidarity, written with Charles Spinosa and Hubert Dreyfus (MIT Press, 1999), is a daring and deep dive into the question of how human beings take responsibility for the challenges we face, and invent new worlds.

He and his colleagues trained over 60,000 people in new ways of understanding the way that we human beings communicate and coordinate with each other. He pointed to the paradigmatic role of computers as communications devices in the 1970s, and the technology of personal communication still has not begun to catch up with much of what he invented in The Coordinator.

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11 thoughts on “An Invitation from Fernando Flores

  1. Hi Chauncey,
    Fergal alerted me to this FF conference. I would so love to go, but think coming over from London and the added cost of the conference is a bit prohibitive for me right now. The interest I would have in this is how communities develop in the networked, global world, and the identity people develop through that. It’s increasingly difficult in a global world, and feel it strongly personally which is why this topic interests me so. Being german and canadian, married to a mexican, living in UK (and maybe soon CH), it is a challenge to peg community on the traditional of heritage, particularly heritage of citizanship and what that means in terms of traditions one adopts and are transparent as a family. For us even defining the traditions of Christmas, and what that means in terms of traditions, practices, and narrative that we will pass on to our children is a challenge and constantly evolving! Also, this topic interests me as I find that woman are such a nuclear part of building social community for families… being a working mother that has little time for morning coffee time with other mothers makes building social communitee in our environment a further challenge. Is working motherhood a challenge to building a family communities, such a nucleus of our social fabric? Is this a downside of working motherhood? How does the truely international professional and mother build a sense of belonging and identity? The answer for me lies to a large extent in corporate community, but with such inanimate, meaningless corporate environments of these days (except for the Apple’s of this world), that is hard to come by. I crave meaning through work and for the family, but don’t find it easy and transparent to build. I’m still an anomoly as a career mother and being so international, it’s a tough one, and concerns me somewhat for our children and how we build a family community for them.

    This whole topic interests me greatly, do you know of any communities that I could become part of to explore this topic more? Will this be explored at the conference? I really should try to make it shouldn’t I?

    I hope all is well with you Chauncey. I’m at Monitor Group these days… a very interesting company to work for!

    Best,
    Silke

  2. Just curious, does anyone know someone who went to Fernando’s conference who could report on it for those of us who are interested in hearing more?

  3. I want to the conference and found it very useful as is any conversation with Fernando. The main question being explored is how we can create a way to train leaders in an efficient way that is not dependent on workshop attendance. I would be happy to talk more. Feel free to email me at efalkowitz@cox.net if you would like to speak about something specific.

    Regards,

    Ed Falkowitz

  4. Ed has suggested that I contact Gloria Flores to find out more about this workshop’s conversations. For the past half year I have been prototyping eLearning systems based on the Training Within Industry materials used so successfully during WWII to ramp up production in the U.S. and Britain and in the 1950s in Japan. If my request seems respectful and you have a way to facilitate such I’d be grateful.

    High regards,
    Jeff

  5. Chauncey! I just heard that Fernando is back or coming back! I would love to see ALL of you. Please let me know what’s going on! Would you please send me gloria’s email? Love, Patty

  6. Dear Chauncey:

    I found your blog, and I will stay around, following Fernado Flores’ invitation to a conference that I obviously missed since I read about only a couple of days ago and I was in Chile at the time.

    Following Mr. Flores’ open invitation, I am trying to get in touch with him to invite him back myself to a presentation of my own, and being a public figure this is quite a task.

    Since you introduced your self as his friend I have the right to believe that you can either share with me his personal email box or forward him my invitation included below.

    Being Mr. Flores’ friend you probably know some Spanish and therefore I forward my invitation to you….

    THANKS and Best Regards

    José Joaquín Pérez Krumenacker

    ———————————————-

    Estimado señor Flores:

    Sin duda nos ha tocado vivir una de las épocas más interesantes de la historia de la hunanidad tanto en lo econónomico, político, social y cultural; y si todavía no hemos sido “comprados por el sistema”, es sin duda porque hemos meditado y pensado por nosotros mismos, para tratar de entender y explicar por nuestra cuenta, la verdadera crisis (cultural) global de la que somos actores y testigos.

    La misma tecnología que ha facilitado nuestra vida, también la ha caotizado al aumentar la oferta y variedad de bienes y servicios tanto básicos como artificiales en forma desproporcionada en relación a nuestras necesidades y demanda reales.

    Por ya casi 30 años he trabajado en un Modelo 4D de lo Humano que derivó en algo nuevo a lo que llamo “Pensamiento Modélico”.

    También he incursionado a nivel de idea en múltiples aplicaciones prácticas tales como el Comunicador que quisiera presentarle.

    Como ex usuario del telex, de su Coordinador y ahora usuario del caotizante correo electrónico personal y corporativo, he aprendido lo suficiente como para proponer la racionalización de las comunicaciones oficiales, funcionales, sociales y personales al interior de las empresas y entre empresas.

    Lo invito a visitar mi blog Pensamiento Modélico (http://pensamientomodelico.blogspot.com/) y en especial mi Manifiesto del Pensamiento Modélico recorriendo el blog “en sentido contrario al tiempo” a partir del último post de Abril de 2010.

    Si le interesa una presentación personalizada del Comunicador, lo invito a elegir un lugar, fecha y hora en que pueda contar con media hora de su tiempo y atención.

    sin otro particular y esperando su acogida favorable a mi invitación le saluda atentamente

    José Joaquín Pérez Krumenacker

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