Engelbart’s Model of Continuous Improvement
Doug Engelbart, who was my friend and mentor, had a rich and deep understanding of how we can go about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to consciously improve how we work to solve problems together. I do not pretend to understand all aspects, even after many discussions with him, so please do not take my brief overview here as anything definitive–we would love to learn more when approached with differing interpretations.
ABC’s of Improvement
At the core of Doug Engelbart’s model of continuous improvement to improve our collective intelligence (which can be viewed as both meanings of the word) is his notion of ABC levels activity:
- A is the primary work activity, such as talking on the phone or sending emails.
- B is the improvement of A, such as developing a better email system or training for how to better speak on the phone.
- C is the activity of improving the improvement process and that is a level we need to invest in.
Symbol Manipulation & CODIAK
Our own work is focused around symbol manipulation, of which a large part is text, and the cycle of ingesting, processing and producing knowledge. Doug Engelbart had a model for this which he called CODIAK: The COncurrent Development, Integration and Application of Knowledge http://www.dougengelbart.org/content/view/116/#6 (notice that this link is to the CODIAK section of the ‘Toward High-Performance Organizations’ document. This is an example of high resolution addressing which allows augmented citations).
The document, which is worthwhile to read in full, outlines how, in an organization, each organisational unit is “continuously analyzing, digesting, integrating, collaborating, developing, applying, and re-using its knowledge, much of which is ingested from its external environment (which could be outside of, or within, the same organization).” This results in a continuous knowledge process with three main components:
- Dialog records
- Knowledge products
‘Intelligence’ is what we usually now refer to as sources, ‘dialogue records’ are unfortunately something more ephemeral, lost in the ether(net) and the ‘knowledge products’ are not often enough consciously enough optimized to be future sources for further work.
The Liquid Information Project works to augment the process of authoring documents which are as findable readable and citable as possible, which maps onto this perspective.