In the last century, we discovered vast amounts of knowledge and with advances of technology, the pace is accelerating. To demonstrate one's competence with a subject and to push the frontiers of knowledge to ever deeper levels, expertise was essential. This depth remains essential, and a complementary role is emerging that bridges between the silos of expertise and looks at the spaces-in-between as a boundary spanner** or knowmad, as Edward Harran's discussed in his TEDxBrisbane talk: Knowmads.
An ecosystem diplomat focuses on the learning edges of knowledge. Traveling between and among what is established and what is far off mainstream radars. Ecosystem diplomats learn with experts in their areas of unknown and bring humility, curiosity and credibility to encounters. As quick studies of diverse disciplines, an ecosystem diplomat can rapidly grasp the meta-aspects of a field or issue while also understanding the granular elements and challenges; she spots lateral applications, recognizes patterns and expands the expert's thinking by listening and infusing insights from completely different fields of study. Ecosystem diplomats do not pretend to be experts, rather their skillful questions invite an expert back to their beginner's mind and reveal to the expert a view of his/her problem from 'outside the discipline.' Because of their multi-disciplinary travels, ecosystem diplomats offer relevant ideas and dissonant approaches that stimulate, challenge and enrich the work of experts and expand domain/region specific knowledge.
As global travel is increasingly accessible, technology like smartphones and the internet enable a kind of proximity and multi-national corporations overtake the nation-state, the ecosystem diplomat becomes an agent of our global human interest that transcends geo-political boundaries. The nation-state serves an important function for managing societies on a local scale and traditional diplomats fulfill a vital role as conduits for connecting and bridging local interests with those of other nations. An ecosystem diplomat engages in this way around knowledge, and like traditional diplomats needs to have capacity to adapt in diverse situations, to be at ease in many cultures and to blend in with the ability to both be a part and to observe. An ecosystem diplomat is a road warrior, bridge builder and barricade buster. This work is rigorous, requires discipline and thrives from intrinsic motivation, a love of ideas, people and learning. It is hard work though personally rewarding and hopefully, the benefits to others is exponential.
Subsequent accounts of this learning journey will reveal concrete examples of this pollination of ideas and people across disciplines and geographies. It was my most frequent source of shared learning and tangible value. The irony is the absence of someone to sponsor and fund a vital role, like the ecosystem diplomat. While traditionally diplomats, academics and corporate business development professionals might fulfill this role, there were benefits of being an unaffiliated learner. There was no threat of competition or other economic and geo-political bases for hostility and fear. Removing the filter of a specific discipline, particular country/region, particular institution (academic or corporation) facilitated the ability to advance knowledge without the burden of conflicting interests. This open flow of knowledge allowed for deeper learning that enriched all sides. If we want to accelerate learning for global human benefit, the opportunity to formalize this role and fund this niche is essential.
What if there were an Ecosystem Diplomatic Corps: Who will fund the needs of the emerging global commons like an Ecosystem Diplomatic Corps? To whom would the Ecosystem Diplomatic Corps be accountable and how?
Stay tuned for more Field notes from the Ecosystem Diplomat, including:
- A Snapshot of the Ecosystem Diplomat in Action
- Tools for the Ecosystem Diplomatic Corps
- What Every Ecosystem Diplomat Can't Leave Home Without...
- and more field notes: What do you want to know more about?
Thought Contributors*** Edward Harran, Mushin Schilling, Alban Leveau-Vallier, Jay Standish, Christine Egger, Lee Ryan, Seb Paquet, and many others (please ping me if I missed you).
*Hat tip to Edward Harran from whom I discovered the term "ecosystem diplomat." Please consider being a micro-patron for Eddie's next learning journey in San Francisco.
**Hat tip to Seb Paquet from whom I learned the term "boundary spanner"
***Thought Contributors have participated in the evolution of the ideas expressed in this post. I am prototyping a new method of attributing collectively crafted ideas. To learn more, see the post on Hacking Attribution: Thought Contributors.
#b03 Day 3: I am participating in a pledge to blog daily during March initiated by Steve Hopkins of the Squiggly Line blog. Follow the daily work of all participants on twitter under #b03