Monday, February 19, 2024

AI-Augmented Insight Mapping

''AI-Augmented Insight Mapping'' is an advanced application of technology in the field of knowledge management and decision support, leveraging artificial intelligence to enhance the process of creating, visualizing, and analyzing complex relationships and insights within data.  As far as I know, I am the first person to use that term.  Insight mapping isn't a common term to begin with.

You would need:

1. ''Machine Learning (ML)'': AI algorithms can analyze data, learn from patterns, and make predictions or recommendations. In insight mapping, ML can identify significant connections and trends that might not be evident through manual analysis.

2. ''Natural Language Processing (NLP)'': This involves the analysis of text to extract meaningful data. NLP can be used to interpret and categorize insights from unstructured data sources, such as academic papers, news articles, and social media posts.

3. ''Data Visualization'': Advanced visualization tools powered by AI can represent complex datasets in intuitive and interactive insight maps. These maps can help users explore and understand the intricacies of the data more effectively.

Right now I am just experimenting with and learning about Knowledge Graphs within the context of my own Personal Knowledge Management system, but the bigger picture of how all these rapidly evolving tools could be combined is quite exciting. The idea is that if I can have a deep understanding of how it works with data (especially unstructured data) that I am intimately familiar with, then I can figure out how it can be scaled to broader, organizational settings.

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[Here is an example of a tenuous connection which would make me consider moving the next few lines to a different post.  For the sake of the post's clarity, I should stick to one key message.  For the sake of exploring broader connections and working on developing better articulations of these connections, I should keep it here.  Since I am more interested in exploring connections and complexity than delivering a simple message, the next paragraph stays].

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This idea of exploring new concepts and tools at the individual level (within a PKM system) is connected (somehow) to another argument I have been making:  Individual knowledge workers need some foundational knowledge in Personal Knowledge Management before they are asked to engage in and contribute to corporate Knowledge Management. I think the KM profession missed the opportunity to make that connection more obvious and to leverage individual incentives as a prerequisite for corporate efforts to "manage" knowledge. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Cognitive Processes (Cont'd)

We are often not fully aware of how our experiences shape how we approach new problems.  Would an increased awareness of how our experiences shapes our cognitive schema enhance our ability to problems solve?

Cognitive Schemas

Our cognitive schemas—mental frameworks helping us organize and interpret information—are intricately woven from our experiences. They play a pivotal role in how we perceive new situations, tackle problems, and make decisions. I don't spend a lot of time analyzing my own mental frameworks but once in a while, I become aware of the connection between a recent insight and a prior experience.  

The trigger for this post was one such insight.  I was exploring a specific aspect of the knowledge graph I am building, and I had one of those little Haha! moment when a new idea or concept emerges.  These little learning moments deserve more attention than they tend to get.  In the excitement of writing down the idea or exploring it further, it can be challenging to pause and ask "Where did this insight come from? What is the source?" The idea is that if I understood more about the cognitive processes that lead to an insight, I would "simply" create the conditions and environment for more insights to emerge.  In fact, building a knowledge graph from my notes is an experiment to see whether and how it will facilitate "insight mapping". 

Here are some ways our cognitive schema impact how we approach problem solving:

Pattern Recognition

Our brains are wired to recognize patterns based on past experiences. When faced with new problems, we subconsciously search our memory for similar situations or outcomes. This can lead to faster problem-solving but also biases our approach to what has worked or not worked in the past.  I keep a digital folder for ideas that failed because you never know when they might need to be resurfaced for a second try under new and different conditions.  Many are probably ideas whose time hasn't come yet and it would be a shame to dismiss them.

Expectations and Predictions

Experiences influence our expectations and predictions about future events. If past experiences have been positive, we might approach new challenges with optimism and confidence. Conversely, negative experiences could lead to apprehension or pessimism, affecting our willingness to take risks or try new solutions. By consciously shifting my perspective, I've learned to approach problems with renewed vigor, informed by the past but not shackled by it (or move on and totally unshackle myself).

Heuristics and Biases

Heuristics are mental shortcuts we use to make decisions quickly. While they can be efficient, they are also prone to biases shaped by our experiences. For example, the availability heuristic makes us overestimate the importance of information that comes to mind easily, often based on recent experiences or emotionally charged events. The advice to "sleep on it" resonates with me as a reminder of the emotional undercurrents that often drive our decisions. Giving ourselves time to detach and reflect can unearth patterns and solutions previously clouded by immediate reactions.

Creative Thinking and Innovation

Diverse experiences can enrich our cognitive schemas, making us more adaptable and creative in problem-solving. Being exposed to varied situations and learning from them can broaden our perspective, allowing us to draw on a wider range of solutions when faced with new challenges.  What if we more consciously asked ourselves simple questions like, "Where and when have I encountered a similar challenge?" "How is the similar to or different from this prior experience?"  I was reminded of this in the recent podcast I did with Enterprise Knowledge, during which Zach noted that I had acquired over my career, a great diversity of experiences around KM. That is very and deeply informs my approach to KM -- it may also inform why I am often frustrated with small-scale efforts that touch on a very narrow KM scope. 

Learning and Adaptation

Our ability to learn from past experiences and adapt our schemas accordingly is crucial. Reflecting on what has worked or failed in the past and why can help us approach new problems more effectively, avoiding previous mistakes and being open to novel solutions.  The challenge is that while learning from past experience is key, we often don't do it well and unless we are more conscientious about our approach to learning, we don't necessarily learn the right lessons, or we generalize too much and miss the point that most lessons are very contextual.  When they are not context specific, they are common-sense and of limited value. 

Our experiences are invaluable, yet without mindfulness, they can narrow our vision and stifle creativity. Recognizing and reflecting on the myriad ways our past influences our present can empower us to face new challenges with a balanced and open mindset, ready to draw from the past but eager to forge new paths.

It reminds me of... (cognitive processes)

When I get into a writing routine, even if what I am writing are insignificant notes and random blog posts, I become more aware of the cognitive processes involved. It's almost as if the brain is breathing in and out, expanding to seek out and acquire ideas, and then contracting to synthesize, clarify, and transform into a series of words. In the last couple of days, I have become particularly aware of instances when something I read or a thought related to what I am reading will remind me of something either quite distant or immediately feel connected to a very recent event or activity.

Here are two examples to illustrate:

Yesterday, as I was writing the blog post about "Mindset is everything", I was reminded of a book I read decades ago and haven't opened since.  Today, as I read a blog post online about digital hygiene, it immediately connected with the book I started reading yesterday, Your Time To Thrive, by Marina Khidekel.  I happened to be reading the chapter on unplugging from digital gadgets.  

In the first example, there is something happening in the brain that makes a connection to a deeply buried memory.  The initial connection is a connection to the idea, the main argument of the book. Then I remember the book that makes that argument (I am not super confident that my recollection of the sequence of thoughts is accurate just like I know memory is fallible). I had absolutely no recollection of the author's name or what the cover of the book looked like.  In fact, I did not recollect the book's title correctly.  

In the second example, it is likely that having started Your Time to Thrive and having just completed the chapter on unplugging, my mind was attracted to a blog post on digital hygiene which I might have completely bypassed a week ago. Trying to retrace my steps, or more precisely my thoughts, it seems I scanned through the blog post precisely to see if it was related to what I had just read about unplugging.  I determined that it was related but adjacent, complementary, not addressing the topic from the same angle, which was interesting in itself.  

It may sound paradoxical, but in the era of rapidly advancing AI, I have a feeling  (Is it a feeling or an insight?) that understanding our own human brains will become more important than ever.  I don't mean that we all need to become neuroscientists but rather that critical thinking skills and learning how we learn and how we think and process information will become ever more important because of the rapid changes in our access to tools that can accelerate and augment our own cognitive capabilities.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

"Mindset is everything" (or not)

I started the day with this Ross Dawson post LinkedIn post.

Here is the blurb that I decided to unpack:

­čî▒Mindset is everything.
Constant change is a reality you need to accept and learn to love. We need to be resilient, to respond, to adapt ourselves. Those that embrace rapid shifts will see opportunities others don’t, create far greater value, help their organizations to evolve, and be in a position to savor rather than be worn down by today’s extraordinary shifts. 

This reminded me of a book I read in college or grad school:  Underdevelopment is a State of Mind: The Latin American Case, by Lawrence E. Harrison, published in 1985.  I haven't opened it in decades, but I found my copy in the basement. The argument was that Latin America was underdeveloped because of certain cultural attitudes and values prevalent in the region and that the resulting attitudes towards work, the role of women, the importance of education, time perception, and the value place on innovation and authority all play a critical role in hindering economic progress and development.  

On a more personal level, it sounds like a "change your mind to change your life" slogan, an argument about how limiting beliefs are stopping you from being the best version of yourself, etc., and there is an entire literature around that. 

Let's start by taking some of the text apart:

1. Mindset is everything (?).  Probably not. That is too strong of a statement.  There are lots of external factors that impact an individual's ability to adapt and thrive.

2. Change fatigue is a real thing.  Constant change doesn't automatically lead to better outcomes. It can lead to decreased productivity and engagement, erosion of trust, and it can contribute to a negative organizational culture, where cynicism and resistance to change become the norm. 

3. Not all change is progressive.  Change is not always happening in the right direction, so blindly accepting and embracing change sounds like poor advice.  There are lots of historical examples of change that were initially perceived as positive and later recognized as harmful. 

4. Stability and routine are crucial to psychological health and well-being.  We should appreciate the benefits that some level of predictability brings to individuals and organizations. 

This is where change management should be engaged, but I'm not sure change management is adapting fast enough.  When constant change is applied to antiquated ways of working and traditional organizational structures, it creates a lot of pain.  Individuals would find it easier to adjust their mindset if the organizational infrastructure was changing in a way that aligned with the required individual adjustments.  This is going back to the fact that many external factors impact an individual's ability to rapidly shift gears and adjust to the changing winds. 

And yes, we all need to build up our resilience and accept change as a constant.  I don't think we should accept all change blindly.  It's not resistance to change, it's critical thinking.