Chief of Confusion

A visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, John Seely Brown calls himself the Chief of Confusion, in that he helps people ask the right questions.

Prior to his current position, he was another kind of Chief, the Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation, and the director of its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). While head of PARC, Brown expanded the role of corporate research to include such topics as organizational learning, knowledge management, and complex adaptive systems. He was a cofounder of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). In a world of these acronyms, he's known as JSB.

With Paul Duguid he co-authored the acclaimed book The Social Life of Information and with John Hagel he co-authored the book The Only Sustainable Edge which is about new forms of collaborative innovation.

Brown (a Brown graduate) describes himself as "part scientist, part artist and part strategist."

His new book, written with Hagel and and Lang Davison, is The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. It helps us to understand that pull is far more than search or accessing media on demand. Pull can be more systematically used to shape serendipity. The authors provide a guide to connecting with personal passion and finally turning stress into success.

JSB and Hagel are co-founders of Deloitte's Center for the Edge and recently were interviewed for Nokia's IdeasProject about their notion of "creation spaces," which they describe as:
online and in-person experiences designed to draw out what Hagel refers to as tacit knowledge — "Valuable knowledge that we have a really hard time expressing to each other." This process allows people to bring out the knowledge by coming together over extended periods of time to jointly problem solve and learn from each other in the process.
From the video transcript:
How do you get people to come together over extended periods of time, working together, contributing different perspectives, different experiences and skill sets, to jointly problem solve over an extended period, and learn from each other in the process and scaffold towards new sets of knowledge that just are not available today?
For more, see JSB, Hagel and Davison's manifesto,The Power of Passionate Creative -- an inspiring call to action.

(On a related topic, see The Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation's excellent Places of Invention.)

Selected Reading