Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Teaching Innovation, Analytics, and Critical Thinking: A Concept Statement

Dr. David E. Martin 
Chairman M·CAM
Managing Partner, Purple Bridge Mangement
Head of Innovation & Transformation, Melbourne Polytechnic
Executive Director, Centre of Applied Innovation at Melbourne Polytechnic
CEO & Chairman, eSurface
Batten Fellow, Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia

On a blustery afternoon at Oyantatambu in Peru, a group of us stood next to the massive stones cut with inconceivable precision marveling at the megaliths left by civilizations past.  “How did they do it?” was the refrain echoing through each mind as we looked upon the complex geometry that stood before us.  A dutiful guide, certified by the Peruvian antiquities authorities, explained the Occidental method involving llama tendons and sand.  Most of the group nodded their head with a mix of incredulity and awe and moved on.  I stepped around one particular stone that, on its face, was rough cut.  On the back side of the stone was a partial cut.  It was highly irregular – clearly not the product of a drawn cord or saw.  In fact, upon closer inspection, it appeared that the grooves were melted in a pattern consistent with the crystalline structure of the stone.  There was no way that the cut I observed could have possibly been the work of a linear slicing mechanism.  If I had to guess, my immediate thought was that it was cut with light or heat.  A laser, possibly?

What’s the point of this story?  Our current education and social systems are oriented around explaining perspective, not critiquing it.  We “know” that the Inca didn’t have the tools we use to manipulate the world so we impose linear historicism on their experience assuming some lesser state.  While the prima facie evidence points to capacities to manipulate matter and energy in unimaginable ways, our narratives rely on modernity to be “more advanced” than some previous condition.  When the evidence through observed phenomenon clearly point to an alternative hypothesis, we come up with llama tendons.   We don’t teach the synthesis of observation and multi-factoral data.  We don’t teach for nonlinearity.  We don’t teach for complexity.  Our deductive processes have become increasingly reductive and, in so doing, we stifle our capacity to adapt and integrate transformative impulses.  We need to engage critical thinking with radical new modalities.

Occidental education has been thus labeled for its aspirational social quality.  From the earliest form of enculturation – the use of language to encipher and decipher social communication – the role of education has been largely focused on the establishment and maintenance of conformity and consensus.  Approved narratives, methods, and inquiries achieve their status based on their utility to efficiently produce surrogate dependency and indentured utility.  The former arising from the reification of “authoritative paradigms” and the latter celebrated as the employable, governable masses.  Punctuated throughout human history are a few radical inflections where, through cultural memetic collisions or through existential threat at scale (most typically war or conquest), the didactic mandate has been subjected to near paroxysmal alteration.  One can consider the Yongle Empire in China and its massive cultural navies that are thought to have played a role in the Renaissance in Europe; the Silk Road which intermingled Asian, Persian and Mediterranean cultures; the intrusive colonial impulse of the Industrial economy pitting immigrants against native cultures across the globe.  More recently, the modern academy was heavily influenced by Germanic institutions of industrial servitude.  Society offers the cognitive power of its youth and, in exchange, receives industrious citizens.  Scholarship often turns on the degree to which social memes are re-narrated with greater precision or conviction.  Regression – the hubris of sets of knowns operating at deterministic scales with the passing acknowledgement of Standard Error or Deviation – is the exclusive agency of sanctioned inquiry.

Digital or multi-variate serial regression produces marginal and incremental adaptations.  At best, we strive to remove unexplained variance from our powers of observation building ever greater confidence in our metrics and their application.  And while we train our mathematicians and statisticians in the assumptions underpinning our regression obsession, we quickly dismiss these as “unattainable” or “untestable” ideals and blithely proceed in the misapplication of our models.  In short, we avoid critical inquiry at all costs and then lament the “unexplained”, the “Black Swan”, the “unexpected”.  We reduce the creative and the innovative to the subtle alteration at the margins and pay no attention to possibility that radical alternative dimensions of inquiry exist outside the “expert” models of our times.  Genuine invention, innovation, and creativity are sacrificed to the inertia of consensus.  We shun non-linear dynamism in favor of linear, progressive historicism. 

How would we contemplate a different educational system in which Innovation and Critical Thinking underpinned the essential experience of the participant?  What attributes of the existing institution would remain and what would require radical transformation or transmutation?  What core technologies – both social and physical – would support this transformative model?  In the pages that follow, I am setting forth a proposal for M·CAM’s (and my) contribution to the School of Innovation, Analytics, and Critical Thinking.

Learning Re-contextualized

The capacity to engage in life-long constructive adaptation is inadequate in today’s educational paradigms.  From the post-World War II obsession with STEM competencies, scholarship has been bifurcated into two equally ineffective tracks.  Economic and social reinforcement for “research” is held to be the pinnacle of professional achievement at the modern academy.  Teaching and relevant application is subservient to research.  While many seek to emulate models of research and education practiced in the U.S. and German educational systems, limited explicit critique is given to these approaches.  The competencies demanded of the academy reinforce the centrality of research assumed to be relevant based on the capacity to have such research funded.  The mechanisms for such funding – largely peer-reviewed grant applications or corporate engagements – dictate the narrow fields of inquiry.  The alliance between State and Corporate patronage insures that only that which is aligned to a fundable objective advances.  If you are a researcher, your job is to advance the linear disciplinary track of consensus dogma.  If you’re a teacher, your job is to produce vocationally competent participants in the labor force.  In neither instance does the academy critique the context in which extant activities – both social nor technical – are operating and challenge context or student in a meaningful inquiry. 

Over the past two decades, M·CAM has pioneered a global initiative called Innovation Literacy.  Within this program, we have three sub-components.  The first is called Heritable Innovation Trust (HIT).  The HIT program was developed to allow students to have immersive, non-interrogatory experiences of living in Communities of Persistence (more conventionally called “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal”).  Living as members of these communities, engaging in their entire social fabric, students were required to live without questions.  “Where is the bathroom?”  “What time is dinner?”  “How do you catch the fish?”  All of these inquiries were explicitly forbidden in favor of allowing the communities’ practices entirely “teach” alternative modes of activity.  Observation and documentation – much like the Natural Philosophy disciplined observation of 150 years ago – are the only technologies introduced into the students’ experiences.  And these engaged only in moments of private reflection.  By teaching non-interrogatory engagement, pre-conditioned assumptions are set aside (that hygiene = bathroom; that time = meals; that humans sit atop natural systems; etc.) and alternative narratives are apprehended.  HIT serves as the foundation of our Innovation Literacy program.  It has been adapted to corporate internships, public policy apprenticeships and the like.  The key outcome of HIT is the power of Contextual Intelligence and Observational Adaptation.

The second Program is Global Innovation Commons (GIC).  GIC is the repository of over $2 trillion of funded research resulting in patents or publications covering fundamental human requirements of food & nutrition; infectious and tropical disease treatment; petroleum alternative energy; and, potable water management.  These patents and publications come from M·CAM’s unique global archive of innovation – the world’s largest – including patents and publications from over 168 countries from the 1700’s to the present.  This archive of human ingenuity serves as a fertile catalyst for relevant systems engineering training.  From practical engineering skills of replication of technologies across the centuries to synthesis training (putting together inter-disciplinary solutions to new contexts), the GIC provides the applied curricular basis for teaching fundamental STEM principles all done in immediate application and relevance.  Examining notions of efficiency, stability, reliability and utility as key learning objectives, with GIC, over 250,000 individuals, institutions and enterprises have repurposed human ingenuity for current commercial and social use.  This also radically alters the illusion that the future of the world is digital and data.  The analogue needs of humanity are brought back into centrality and you’re more likely to see a new water filter as you are to see an iPhone app.

Finally, the third component is Strategic Innovation (SI).  SI is the organization of over 88 million patent-protected expressions of human ingenuity on a platform called M·CAM DOORS®.  This system is built on the backbone of linguistic genomics – a dynamic intelligent machine learning system that uses genetic algorithms to surface explicit and tacit linkages between concepts and interventions.  Realizing that all systems are inter-disciplinary, SI affords instant heterogeneous contextualization of every human undertaking and archives the same across over two centuries.  Rather than imagining disciplines as ever more constricting specialization, SI explicitly shows network and node effects of interconnectedness well beyond conventional “interdisciplinary” constructs.

These three pillars of our Innovation Literacy program seek to achieve several core objectives:

1.       Explicit Contextual Intelligence – rather than training people in digital question / answer linear processing, Innovation Literacy provides immediate applicability of contextual intelligence.  By understanding responses to varying impulses towards ingenuity, relevant learning skills can be apprehended.
2.       Non-interrogatory Observation – critical thinking skills are inaccessible if “thinking” presupposes all “known” conditions and ontologies.  Immersive learning contexts engaged without pre-supposition teach powers of observation and synthesis.  Most of all they train the mind to adapt as an intelligent system in which all senses are explicitly conscripted.
3.       Network Activation – by seeing the omnipresence of ingenuity, the myth of the individual is set aside in favor of the intelligence of the network.  When one sees that a variety of interventions have been manifest by a heterogeneous set of “innovators”, the myth of unique and individuation is deconstructed in favor of collaborative models of synthetic application.

Integrative Assessment

For decades, we have used the technology of Integral Accounting as a means to explicitly measure the “all-in” consequence of human activities.  Rather than measuring the relevance of scholarship and research through the myopia of the “funded”, we adopt an approach that explicitly acknowledges all forms of value exchange.  What follows is an excerpt from the Integral Accounting practice document.

For the past two millennia, many of our consensus human systems have reified Dominion and Control as the basis for understanding our ecosystem.  In his 1776 opus, An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith buttressed the 1,000 year-old Christian rites embodied within the Doge of Serenissima’s Marriage of the Sea in which all nature – including human beings – are “resources” over which structures of power must exert dominion.  In the Bible account of Creation, the story records the stated hierarchy: “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that crawls upon the earth.”[1]  From these seemingly innocent threads, manacles of indenture have been woven (and worn) and are now strangling our umbilical to life.  Rather than bathing in the cosmic ocean of abundance, we have built systems that manage scarcity (time, resources, order, control, and money) while allowing our power to be transferred to surrogates who construct and maintain their position by the manufacture and perpetuation of fear.  The very word “livelihood” implies that without participation in the prostitution of human energy and effort, life itself would be impaired or impossible.

We can observe the unsustainable essence of domination and its agent of reinforcement, denomination.  We observe the frequent incapacitation of effort that is stymied by inadequacy projected on our impulses.  We would act but for lack of resources or access thereto.  We would adapt but for communal support or inspiration.  We would engage if we only knew how.  We would endeavor if we had the funding.  We would strive if we had the right tools.  We would passionately live if we felt better.  Is there an isomorphic system that would unleash our unfettered humanity in persistent, generative action?  May it be the case that we merely lack a coherent framework in which we can perceive, discern, and engage the abundance in which we’re enveloped and through which we could fully manifest our incarnate potential?  Integral Accounting and our experience in its application suggests that demonstrable, empirical, reproducible regeneration of the human condition is accessible, completely.

The Process:

In our experience, we often begin the process of Integral Accounting with a discussion of light and magnetism.  The Sun, the literal and precise metaphor for persistent, generative, energy and light is understood to be a massive nuclear reactor in which matter is converted into energy which is emitted for the sustenance of all the observable world.  This discussion provides a vital metaphor for our final process which we call “Fusion” inspired by our Sun, nuclear fusion and the work of Charles-Augustin de Coulomb[2].  To unleash a fusion reaction, charged particles in the context of a magnetic field are afforded the capacity to ‘overcome’ their individual charges – the natural forces that keep them in opposition.

To demonstrate the sentience derived from Source, we hold a bar magnet over iron filings.  Gradually, the bar magnet is lowered towards the iron filings until the first filings appear to animate, subtly standing on their ends moving towards the magnet.  Slowly, the magnet is then held at that altitude and passed over the filings to demonstrate that different filings respond variously to the positive and negative poles of the bar magnet.  This demonstration opens a dialogue into non-dual sentience.  Each particle, discerning the field elects to respond or not to the moving charge passing above it.  Then the magnet is lowered a bit closer to the iron filings demonstrating that each filing, at its own discernment, elects to attach to one or the other pole without judgment or symmetric bias. The shape of the filings’ attachment are described by the observers to open the discourse around charges serving an agnostic, sentient role in visibly discerning magnetic fields[3].

We use this demonstration to open a simple, wonderment-filled space for the beginning of the Integral Accounting Audit.

To begin the process, we recommend introducing the six dimensions of value [Commodity; Custom & Culture; Knowledge; Money; Technology; Well-being] using the written summaries that are available on-line.  They are summarized as: – elements present in communities which, through cultivation, production, or value-add, can be used to generate means of social or commercial engagement. Some examples of Commodities are potential energy, food, water and raw materials. & Culture - practices and expressions of individual or community held values and traditions which create a context for social interactions. Some examples of Custom and Culture are expressions of social values, gatherings, interactions, art, music, and ceremonies. - information and experiential awareness which can be transmitted through language, art, or other expressions. Some examples of knowledge are the transfer of information and the expansion of understanding through literacy, marketing, negotiation and stories. - a mode of transmitting and recognizing value exchange using physical or virtual surrogates including currency, systems of credit and barter and engaging any artifact constituting a consensus of recognized value exchange which, itself, is devoid of the value it represents. Some examples of money are currency, trade credits, debt, equity, futures, bonds, and contracts. - artifacts or schemes by which value-added experiences and production can be effectuated including any action, process, thing, or utility which allows for the manifestation of spatially and temporally defined tangible or intangible artifacts or event. Some examples of technology are appliances, tools, logistics, processing, communications, power, and infrastructure. Being - the capacity for any person or ecosystem to function at their optimal level where conditions are suitable for a person to be at liberty to fully engage in any activity or social enterprise entirely of their choosing as and when they so choose. Some examples of well-being are health, sanctuary, medicine, inalienable rights, equitable and gainful engagement, fellowship, and fun.

To begin the auditing process, we find it helpful to provide each participant six sheets of paper, one representing each of the six value attributes.  These become a helpful visual cue for the first organization of abundance impulses.

1.       Integral Accounting Audit:  Identifying Abundance sounds like it should be simple.  For most people, life has made this process subject to considerable filtering.  For the purpose of the Integral Accounting Audit, we encourage people to reflect on everything that they have in their field that exists in abundance.  Abundance is neutral.  A person may have a lot of money and friends, and, in the same instance have a lot of fear and sense of isolation.  All of these “abundances” are explicitly welcome.

Abundance is recorded in writing and is best manifest in an individual, reflective process.  Each thing, attribute, sense, or experience that comes to mind is written on the colored sheet of paper intuitively linked to the value dimension instantly recognized.  It is important not to over think this first classification.  If you think that ‘love’ or ‘computers’ are instantly recognized as ‘Well Being’ and ‘Technology’, respectively, follow the impulse.  The key thing is to write down everything.

Upon completion of the first attempt, stop and reflect on two common errors.  We tend to associate Abundance with ‘Good’ and Scarcity with ‘Bad’.  This binary classification is prone to fallacy.  Free from this judgment duality, invite a reconsideration of the audit to assess whether there are attributes or things that exist in life that are not on the page.  Put them on too.

2.       Polarizing the Optics:  The colors of the Integral Accounting system are intentional.  Each color assists in reflecting wavelengths of energy historically and esoterically associated with the elemental energy represented in each value.  Once filled with identified Abundance, each colored sheet is arranged in the order of the wheel: Yellow, Blue, Purple, Green, Grey, and Red.  Beginning with the Commodity (Yellow) list, each item assigned to that classification is now recast in each of the other dimensions.  A matrix is formed in which each Abundance is described as each other value unit.   In Figure 1 (below) you can see a simple example of the optical matrix which affords the ability to reflect on the energy of each Abundance and its capacity to manifest in other dimensions of value.  It is essential to stay unattached and non-judgmental in this phase too.  Nothing is ‘Good’, ‘Bad’, or any other attribute.  The invitation is to simply see Abundance diffracted through multiple perspectives.  Having done the full diffraction, you return to the first order classifier and offer gratitude for the pathway it illumined.

One can readily see that for maximum value, this experience is engaged over an extended period of time and thoughtful reflection. 

Figure 1.  Audit with Optical Polarization


Custom & Culture


Assembly point
Record of weather
Photosynthesis respirator
Aesthetic beauty

Corporate relations


Statistical modelling


Access to Credit




Meditation Koi pond

3.       Polarizing the Charges:  Once the matrix is fully populated, we move to the second type of polarization – polarizing the magnetic charges.  This is where we engage intuitive judgment in impulsive expression.  A positive (+) or negative (-) sign is placed next to each Abundance in each classification to create the ‘bar magnet’ field which allows choice and action to emerge.  This process begins to inform the perceived net energetic impact of each Abundance.  By allowing each charge to manifest without deep reflection, the intuitive and reflexive senses inform the audit without attempting to force social projections upon the process.

It is informative to spend some time considering any value dimensions in which excessive charges (either + or - ) manifest and allow the observation to open up consideration as to the roots of that hyperpolarization. 

4.       Activation:  Using the fully polarized (optical and magnetic) and charged field, you now have a map of First Order Action.  This First Order Action is the single dimension, abundance, or impulse when, if invited to change its ‘charge’ (positive to negative or vice versa), can unleash persistent, generative action.  Like the iron filing dancing into connection with the bar magnet, allow the field created by the audit (the iron filings) to respond to the field (your magnetism or the magnetism formed in collaboration with others) to unleash sentient action. 

Several graduate schools have now elected to adopt some or all of the Integral Accounting framework into their core curriculum as it addresses both the needs to increase the social responsibility of the academic pursuit as well as create context for applied STEM awareness.  Using the 6-D model of ecosystem engagement, students are given explicit tools to engage their endeavors holistically. 

[1] Genesis 1:26
[2] Coulomb (1785) "Premier mémoire sur l’électricité et le magnétisme," Histoire de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, pages 569-577
[3] A video of the magnet demonstration is helpful but, ideally is replicated with an actual magnet and iron filings.

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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave