Warm data

It’s a Friday night, the eve of the Global Education and Skills Forum. I should be asleep, but I am snuggled on the sofa with my two beautiful dogs thinking about the future...and warm data.

At the February Learning Innovations Laboratory at Harvard, we had the opportunity to hear from Nora Bateson, Founder of the International Bateson Institute. Nora challenged us to think about the ways in which our contexts overlap and shape one another, to think about where we end (not at our skin) and where others begin.

Although I missed Nora’s warm data lab, I have spent some time this month thinking about the concept as I have been working through some discomfort with the idea of systems thinking.

According to the International Bateson Institute’s website, “‘Warm Data’ is information about the interrelationships that integrate elements of a complex system. It has found the qualitative dynamics and offers another dimension of understanding to what is learned through quantitative data, (cold data). Warm Data will provide leverage in our analysis of other streams of information. The implications for the uses of Warm Data are staggering, and may offer a whole new dimension to the tools of information science we have to work with at present.”

I know that systems matter. We can’t think about one aspect of a school system, say teachers or school leaders, without considering the systems in which they exist. Yet, while we know that systems are complex, we also need to understand that they are not static. And what matters most in a system may not be a snapshot of where elements connect, but a deep dive into the goo of the connections themselves.

So, after my run and a cup of coffee tomorrow morning, I will head over to the Atlantis for a day of immersion in the future of work, innovation, and technology. At the heart of this is foresight and the capacity for change.

True foresight can only occur when we let go of (or at least understand the blindspots of) our biases. And foresight will yield an impact when we deeply understand not just the desired future state, but the ever-moving who, why, and how of our current systems.