Once upon a time neuroscientists believed that our memories are stored inside the brain in a very well organized “engrams,” each located in a dedicated area. This idea has been long discarded and replaced by the view that memories are distributed all over the brain and linked together into a network. This is how Daniel Schacter, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University describes it:
“Connectionist or neural network models are based on the principle that the brain stores (memory networks) by increasing the strength of connections between different neutrons that participate in encoding an experience.”
He uses the term “engram” to describe memory networks. Our brain “connects” engrams, and adds to already existing experiences rather than building up memories from scratch.
The connections between engrams are known as pathways. Any number of pathways can lead to a single memory. Rather then looking at a completed entry, we have an ever growing and changing network linking together memories that are somehow related. The relation doesn’t need to be direct. In most cases, the connection is distant, yet by following the pathways, we can recall an event, a feeling, a state of mind or even a dream.
This model explains how sometimes why, when day dreaming, you can find yourself far, far away from the original thoughts. Most of these pathways are established without our conscious knowledge. It surprises us how the odddest things can evoke certain memories. A smell or a song can instantly take you to an experience from your past.
Each time a pathway is used, it becomes more important. The paths most often followed will became major routes connecting experiences that matter the most. Connections that were once very popular can decline and fade away in time.
The TeamFit data model, the Skill Graph, is based in a similar principle. Connections between skills, roles, people and projects are more important than stand alone skills. The more skills are used together, the stronger the connecting path between them. (Technically, we use a Bayesian network to do this.) The more experiences are connected to a skill, the stronger the evidence the person can apply this skill. Complementary and Associated skills add possibilities to extend the Skill Graph and let’s us present a more detailed Skill Map. The more variety in the supporting evidence the greater our confidence in the level of expertise on a certain skill. We are working on a light version model allowing the user to update their skill record in a simple conversation, so the changes to their Skill Graph instantly reflect new capabilities and aspirations.
When I visualize the Skill Graph, I often think about a hologram-based display. A display you can walk into and explore from within. Since architecture uses now almost always CAD programs, it is possible with a basic headset and an app downloaded to your phone to invite people for a 3D virtual tour of your skills, expertise and how these connect you to other people. Imagine inviting someone to visit your Skill Map and they enter a space where you can share the experience. My inspiration here is Modelo. The ability to “enter the design” changes how architects communicate with their clients. The ability to enter the Skill Graph will change how we come to understand and collaborate with others.
For TeamFit, the Skill Graph becomes a city with all the main roads and smaller paths connecting all the key elements of your professional life. There are many ways to represent this. It can be as simple as a tag cloud that shows your skills and their relative importance to an immersive 3D collaboration. In the same way as with our brain, pathways that are not used will fade away, taken over by a set of new and powerful experiences that dominate certain period in our live. But the fact that some memories are distant doesn’t mean they are gone. They are still there, ready to resurface and get connected to new experiences and capabilites. Skills used long ago may age and fade away (drop to the bottom of the table or even be downgraded) but all your capabilities contribute to your personality. Every skill matters, every connection matters, every person and every role you played in the past shape the possibility of your future. TeamFit helps you not only to maintain a record, but keep this record current.
Understanding the skills you have and the skills you need shouldn’t be so hard.
TeamFit can quickly and precisely give you the skill insights you have always wanted.
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