A night at Ezard

This is the second in an intermittent collection of posts associated with visits to nice restaurants. This one tells the story of the visit of my wife and I to Ezard in Melbourne.

Disclaimer: I’m a philistine when it comes to food, but am attempting to improve my tastes and experience. I’m a clueless foodie.

In summary, fantastic. Fully recommend it. Service great. Food to die for. We’ll be going back again, whenever possible.

There are photos of my meals but the questionable wireless in the hotel lobby leaves a significant amount to be desired.

Appetizers

The meal started with some good crusty white bread, the house parmesan, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil (very nice) and some house spices (ranging from somewhat over-powering to the near sublime).

We were then presented with a mouthful of sashimi on a spoon, and that description doesn’t do it justice. A range of other spices, sauces and other bits and pieces that combined worked very well together. I am not a seafood/raw fish type of person and I enjoyed this greatly.

Sashimi

As you might be able to tell, I couldn’t remember the details nor find them on the Ezard menu (as I did with the following).

Starters

The missus started with

fried zucchini flowers, goat’s cheese, mascarpone, panzanella salad, balsamic syrup

and loved it.

I started with

five spiced korubuta pork belly with celeriac and apple remoulade and mustard sauce

Pork belly

As with all of the food, it was the combination of the ingredients that moved the overall experience to something greater than the sum of its parts.

Mains

The missus went with

seven score wagyu beef with sake roasted king brown mushrooms, garlic jam, black vinegar and shallot glaze

I beat her to the punch and got the duck

roast duck with green chilli and shallot sauce, stir fried silk melon garlic shoots and rice noodle rolls

Roast duck

Since we expected the food to be good, we went for a side as well

fried desiree potatoes with roasted garlic and rosemary

The waiter commented on how clean our plates were when he picked up the empties. There was good reason. Neither of us we’re going to leave any of the flavours on the plate.

Desserts

During the mains it became absolutely obvious that we would have to try dessert. The wife wanted the dessert tasting menu, I preferred to go with a single choice. To maximise pleasure.

The missus chose

romage frais cheesecake with butternut and black sesame crunch, spiced rhubarb jelly

I’m not much of a dessert person so went with the ice cream

honeycrunch icecream with toasted gingerbread and sugar swirl

Honey crunch ice-cream

The consensus between the wife and I was that I got the best end of the deal.

Wine

Again, I’m not a wine drinker, but the house reisling the wife had by the glass was good enough we went with a bottle of it. A 2005 donnhoffriesling from German.

Yes I do recognise the mismatch that exists between the wine and the food described above. But I did say I’m a clueless foodie and not a wine drinker. My palette lacks the education to shudder at the combination.

What are the conditions that are conducive to the creation of a variety of new ideas?

I’m currently working on the Process section of my thesis. As part of that I’m referring back to a book chapter (that was a conference paper) by Bo Carlsson (2004) titled “Public policy as a form of design”. This post is an attempt to summarise some of the points made in that chapter as they are connected to my new job.

What are the conditions that are conducive to the creation of a variety of new ideas?

Let’s start with this quote

Sometimes the first and most important policy objective is to remove obstacles to creativity and to foster entrepreneurship rather than to take new initiatives. The formation of new clusters can be facilitated but not directed. Planning cannot replace the imaginative spark that creates innovation.

He does make the point that once innovation clusters evolve, then it may be necessary for appropriate policy to develop.

Three types of facilitating policy stand out

  1. Increase absorptive capacity or receiver competence.
    i.e. the ability of folk to identify innovations and convert them into “business opportunities”. Such capacity is built through research and development, hiring of personnel, training of personnel and accumulation of experience.
  2. Increase connectivity.
    Increasing the quantity and quality of linkages within and outside of the system.
  3. Promote entrepreneurship and encourage variety.

    Given the risk and uncertainty associated with each link in teh chain, the greater the number of players, each with uncertain and divergent beliefs about the chances of success, the greater are the chances of successful outcomes. This is a game of effectiveness, not efficiency. Let the market (or the public), not bureaucrats, select the successful projects

Misc quotes

The higher the opportunity cost of entrepreneurship, the lower the qulity of entrepreneur because the process becomes driven by adverse selection. In the extreme, the only agents willing to undertake entrepreneurship are those who cannot do anything else.

Application to innovation within universities

Given the growing influence of managerialization within society and the increasing moves to standardisation and accountability within higher education it is not difficult to identify some tensions. Indeed, the tension between accountability and innovation and its negative ramifications within universities is the topic of Findlow (2008)

Limitations in academic staff development, the lack of perceived importance of learning and teaching, a focus on specific technologies and a range of other factors mean that the absorptive capacity of universities around e-learning is not great.

The connectivity is also somewhat limited due to the hierarchical structures that arise out of the same influences. The separation of academics into disciplinary sub-groups and the organisational distance between the academics and the IT and L&T folk all arise from these structures and its increasing reliance on teleological design.

The lack of connectivity and the increase in top-down approaches to decision-making is significantly reducing the variety of approaches. Obviously the pressure for standardisation and the fear of risk-taking impact upon this.

Now, there are activities that can work around this, however, the emphasis on top-down decision making will make this difficult. Unless of course someone senior can see the light.

References

Carlsson, B. (2004). Public policy as a form of design. Managing as Designing. R. Boland and F. Collopy. Standford, CA, Standford Business Books: 259-264.

Findlow, S. (2008). “Accountability and innovation in higher education: a disabling tension?” Studies in Higher Education 33(3): 313-329.

Teleological and ateleological processes

The following is an early section on the Process component of the Ps Framework and is intended as part of chapter 2 of my thesis. Still fairly rough, but somewhat cleaner than some of the thesis sections I’ve shared here.

Teleological and ateleological processes

Clegg (2002) suggests that one of the most pervasive debates in management has been between the “planning school” and the “learning school”. The planning/learning school continuum is mirrored in a range of literature describing different approaches to processes. Table 2.1 provides a summary of some of this literature. Table 2.1 and this thesis make use of the terminology introduced by Introna (1996) with respect to design processes: teleological and ateleological. This continuum covers the spectrum of different types of processes identified in the literature on and informing the practice of e-learning within universities.

Table 2.1 – Different authors and terms for the teleological/ateleological continuum
Author Teleological Ateleological
Mintzberg (1989) Deliberate strategy Emergent strategy
Brews and Hunt (1999)
Clegg (2002)
Planning school Learning school
Seely Brown and Hagel (2005) Push systems Pull systems
Kutz and Snowden (2007) Idealistic Naturalistic
Hutchins (1991) Supervisory reflection and intervention Local adjustment
Truex, Baskerville and Klein (1999) Traditional information systems design Emergent information systems design
March (1991) Exploitation Exploration
Boehm and Turner (2003) Plan-driven Agile

Introna (1996) identified eight attributes of a design process and uses them to distinguish between the two extremes: teleological (planning school) and ateleological (learning school). The eight attributes of a design processes are used by Introna (1996) to highlight the differences between the two extremes. This work is summarised in Table 2.2 and will be expanded in the following sections.

Table 2.2 – Attributes of teleological and ateleological design processes (adapted from Introna, 1996)
Attributes of the design process Teleological development Ateleological development
Ultimate purpose Goal/purpose Wholeness/harmony

Intermediate goals

Effectiveness/efficiency Equilibrium/homeostasis
Design focus Ends/result Means/process
Designers Explicit designer Member/part
Design scope Part Whole
Design process Creative problem solving Local adaptation, reflection and learning

Design problems

Complexity and conflict Time
Design management Centralized Decentralized
Design control Direct intervention in line with a master plan Indirect via rules and regulators

The information systems discipline has seen fairly widespread domination by teleological thinking and ateleological design taking on a subservient position (Introna 1996). A position reinforced by the labels used by Truex et al (Truex, Baskerville et al. 1999) where teleological design was described as traditional information systems design while ateleological design is labeled emergent information systems design. Introna (1996) suggests that most, if not all, of what happens within modern organizations is teleological. Teleological processes dominate the training and practice of information systems development (Baskerville, Travis et al. 1992). Many, if not most, universities follow, or at least profess to follow, a purpose driven approach – a teleological approach – to setting strategic directions (McConachie, Danaher et al. 2005).

There are risky extremes inherent in both approaches that must be avoided if organizations and systems are to be functional rather than dysfunctional (Jones, Luck et al. 2005). An extreme pre-occupation for either exploration or exploitation can trap organizations in unproductive states (March 1991). A purely deliberative strategy suggests no learning, while a purely emergent strategy suggests no control (Mintzberg 1994). A synthesis of the most productive elements of both teleological and ateleological approaches is crucial to addressing the plethora of issues competing for the attention of university decision-makers (Jones, Luck et al. 2005). The aim of this section is to offer a brief explanation of the two ends of the process continuum and the relevant weaknesses and strengths of the two extremes. The following section (Section 2.1.2) examines the literature around the processes used in universities and, in particular, for e-learning.

References

Baskerville, R., J. Travis, et al. (1992). Systems without method: the impact of new technologies on information systems development projects. The Impact of Computer Supported Technologies on Information Systems Development. K. E. Kendall. Amsterdam, North-Holland: 241-251.

Boehm, B. and R. Turner (2003). "Using risk to balance agile and plan-driven methods." Computer 36(6): 57-66.

Brews, P. and M. Hunt (1999). "Leanring to plan and planning to learn: Resolving the planning school/learning school debate." Strategic Management 20(10): 889-913.

Clegg, S. (2002). Management and organization paradoxes. Philadelphia, PA, John Benjamins Publishing.

Hutchins, E. (1991). "Organizing work by adaptation." Organization Science 2(1): 14-39.

Introna, L. (1996). "Notes on ateleological information systems development." Information Technology & People 9(4): 20-39.

Jones, D., J. Luck, et al. (2005). The teleological brake on ICTs in open and distance learning. Conference of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia’2005, Adelaide.

Kurtz, C. and D. Snowden (2007). Bramble Bushes in a Thicket: Narrative and the intangiables of learning networks. Strategic Networks: Learning to Compete. Gibbert, Michel, Durand and Thomas, Blackwell.

March, J. (1991). "Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning." Organization Science 2(1): 71-87.

McConachie, J., P. Danaher, et al. (2005) "Central Queensland University’s Course Management Systems: Accelerator or brake in engaging change?" International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning Volume,  DOI:

Mintzberg, H. (1994). The rise and fall of strategic planning: Reconceiving roles for planning, plans, planners. New York, Free Press.

Seely-Brown, J. and J. Hagel (2005) "From push to pull: The next frontier of innovation." The McKinsey Quarterly Volume,  DOI:

Truex, D., R. Baskerville, et al. (1999). "Growing systems in emergent organizations." Communications of the ACM 42(8): 117-123.

Continuing to bash the consultant model

I’m currently on a bit of a wave with bashing the consultant model of change, i.e. a model by which an “expert” from outside comes into a context performs or directs the performance of some analysis and evaluation of the context and then, drawing on their vast knowledge, recommends some ways forward. I started my “bashing wave” in a post comparing this model with the “fat smoker” problem (telling them what they already know isn’t sufficient to create change) and then continued with this inspiration from Dilbert.

Aside – Dilbert’s latest contribution

Dilbert.com

Which reminds more of the SNAFU principle.

Back to the consultants

The real reason for this post was to save this quote for later purposes. It’s talking about professional development around ICTs in education and the facilitators (i.e. consultants)

Facilitators however can pay
too much attention to analysis and recommendations and not enough to the complexity of translating these into actions. (Watson, 2006)

The quote is part of a section title “The problematic of the teacher” which resides in a broader section titled “Enduring issues”. The other enduring issues are: understanding learning; learning about or learning with; and, a technocentric enthusiasm.

Some other quotes from the section on those problematic teachers

Beynon and Mackay (1992, 1993) reflect that introducing ICTs into teaching create a number of tensions that professional development does not necessarily resolve. I have myself noted the dichotomy of purpose in rationales for using technology that leaves teachers unconvinced (Watson, 2001); and that those who don’t use ICT do so because it resonates with their personal beliefs and professional philosophy of teaching (Watson, 1993). And yet much professional development for using ICT in education leaves the participants feeling that training has been done to them rather than with them (Burstow, 2006)

And there is the following one, which really resonates with the local context and some recent discussions

Research such as that reported by Gross, Giacquinta, and Berstein (1971) indicated that there was no resistance to planned change on the part of teachers. On the contrary, they were receptive to educational innovation, but the strategies for implementation were deficient in two respects—failure to identify and bring into the open various difficulties teachers were liable to encounter in their implementation effects, and failure to establish and use feedback mechanisms to uncover barriers that arose during the period of attempted implementation. (Watson, 2006)

Note the date on that reference 1971. That’s 38 years ago, and yet I would suggest that there are still institutions that have implementation strategies that have these same two deficiencies. I would go further to suggest that those same organisations, when questioned about these deficiencies, respond with typical model 1 behaviours and defensive routines.

Especially when those implementation strategies rely on specialised project managers to manage the implementation. Such project managers suffer exactly the same flaws as consultants and MBAs – emphasis on objectified knowledge and processes over context. An emphasis that leads to the above deficiencies, an increased tendency to see the participants in the change as recalcitrant and lead to feelings from the participants of change being done to them, rather than with them.

References

Gross, N., Giacquinta, J. B., & Berstein, M. (1971). Implementing organisational innovations: A sociological analysis of planned educational change. New York: Basic.

Watson, D. (2006). “Understanding the relationship between ICT and education means exploring innovation and change.” Education and Information Technologies 11(3-4): 199-216.

The problem with consultants/MBAs – Dilbert’s view

In recent post I eventually made some disparaging comments about consultants and what they do. Like many, I believe that the idea that they know the solution when they have little or no idea appreciation of the complexity of the context and believe that they can overcome this because their “special” knowledge is somehow universally applicable, is just plain silly and is the source of most of the problems they create.

I also believe that the practice of staff development, instructional design and associated professions around improving learning and teaching at Universities can suffer from exactly the same flaws. It’s become so obvious that some organisations are using the terms “consultant” or “consultation” to describe what these folk do.

This is all particularly good timing, because this week Dilbert has started a series of cartoons around MBAs. It makes many of the same points I’ve tired to make, only much more interestingly and effectively.

Dilbert.com

I particularly like this one

Dilbert.com

Phd Update #12 – some progress, but late

Number 12 of the weekly PhD updates and the first one that is late – this was meant to be done yesterday afternoon. Better late than never. This has been a fairly positive week, some progress made and more importantly I may have learned a small lessons (and put it into practice) about the size and amount of stuff I’m trying to put into these sections of Chapter 2.

I may not get a chance to apply this lessons a great deal in the coming week. Most of it will be spent on a holiday.

What I did

Last week I said the aim would be to

  • Have completed and posted the section on “Place”. – DONE
    The last section was put up fairly early in the week. I’m not all that happy with this section. But it might be close to “good enough”.
  • Be close to doing the same thing for “Purpose”. – DONE
    This was the major task this week that resulted in this post. It’s much shorter than the other sections. To some extent this is due to the nature of the component, but mostly my aim not to write another paper for each section.
  • Perhaps make some headway for another component of the Ps Framework – perhaps either People or Pedagogy. – started
    I ended up starting work on the Process component of the Ps Framework. It flowed nicely from Purpose (connection with plan/purpose driven design processes). I’ve written papers on the question of process, so I have 80+ pages of thoughts and quotes that I’m re-organising into a section. A start has been made.

There have been a few blog posts, somewhat related to the thesis but not worth recounting here.

What I’ll do next week

With most of next week consumed in a holiday, I don’t expect to make a great deal of progress. The aim will be to

  • Complete the process component, or as much as I can.

The perils of re-organisation – Gaius Petronius

While chasing down some work by Fullan on educational change I came across the following well-known quote that happens to, based on recent experience, have a fair bit of resonance.

We trained hard…but it seemed every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any situation by reorganising, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation. — Gaius Petronius, A.D. 66

Imagine my surprise when, via Wikipedia, I discover that the attribution given by Fullan is apparently incorrect.

No matter, the quote still resonates.