An Exponential Future Is Accelerating Toward Us / by John Schlichter

by John Schlichter

Seven years ago this month, we held a symposium at Emory University, sponsored by the Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Research and Learning. It was described in an agenda titled "Knowledge Futures." An exponential future continues accelerating toward us, and projects, those temporary endeavors that create knowledge and deliver change, are the management paradigm for thriving in that future.

Here were the themes of the Knowledge Futures conference:

  • In this complex, volatile, and uncertain world, project teams form to meet changing needs. Teams are composed of personnel who span traditional corporate and agency boundaries as ephemeral networks.

  • Project teams span departments, business units, supply chains, and persons who may represent other organizations or themselves as individuals peer-to-peer.

  • The teams come together when a project starts and disperse when a project finishes, and while this has the advantage of endless adaptation it subsequently creates the problem of knowledge loss as team members depart.

  • Knowledge necessary for the problem solving inherent to projects must be captured, codified, and internalized as standards for networks of projects to implement strategy capably over time. The trick is learning how to develop those standards without creating fossilized bureaucracies and the inability to adapt to changing needs.

The conference described above was preceded in June 2010 by a small gathering I organized at the Mountain Quest Institute, summarized in the following video.