Weblog Entries for January 2009
January 29, 2009
Who influences who?
In a networked world, lots of people are looking for ways to exert more influence. Viral marketers, lobbyists and others are competing to identify and pull the supposed “levers of power”. But are we inadvertently bringing some very old world assumptions to a system that works in complex and unexpected ways?The gig starts with breakfast at 8.30am and ends with lunch at 12.15. It will be very interactive. There is little risk of death by powerpoint but considerable danger of interludes of fun. And it's completely free. So book now while stocks last.
In this morning workshop, we’ll explore a different view of how networks operate and how influence really works.
We think this will be of interest to anyone involved in marketing, public policy making or collaborative innovation.
January 22, 2009
Pot, meet kettle?
I'm fond of Gandhi's suggestion: "be the change you want to see in the world" but perhaps the folks at Keep Britain Tidy aren't.
This is the ad they're putting on bus shelters across London. To me it says: litter is caused by male teenagers and they are pigs.
Even more delightfully, their site allows you to upload a friend's image and turn them into a pig too.
And this campaign is intended to promote community-mindedness?
I don't know how many people sat around a table thinking this was a good idea, but I wonder if they'd have done better to go outside for an hour and pick up some litter instead?
Fab little video giving the headsup on Social Innovation Camp. What a great event.
Hat tip: Rohan at NESTA
There are few things I enjoy more than heady conversations about disintermediation. And the disintermediation of the banking industry has a special appeal.
So last night's gig at NESTA, a launch event for an initiative called Webank, was very stimulating. (Twitter stream here.) It was good to see the folks from Zopa doing their best not to laugh out loud at the turn of events in the banking industry that makes their peer-to-peer model look even more attractive. James Gardner did a terrific job of representing conventional banks with good humour and honesty.
One of the founders of upcoming KuberaMoney told us how they plan to create an online platform for Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs) - a form of peer-to-peer finance that I'd not heard of before.
Todd from Midpoint and Transfer outlined his idea for cutting out the spread on Foreign Exchange, which seemed to trigger an outbreak of Dragon's Den style interrogation by some audience members.
It was also good to hear from some of the Zopa customers in the room who made the excellent point that they like Zopa because it's interesting and - heavens - fun, and not just to make money. A point Mark covers in his blog of the event. (I was not asleep, despite his photographic suggestion to the contrary)
UPDATE: Rohan's post links to lots of event bloggage.
January 21, 2009
The joys of interactivity
Chrysler says 'Thank you, America'... and America tells them where to shove it.
January 13, 2009
A tweet from Rob Paterson pointed me to John Robb's post, Industrial Education. I've thought for a long time that our current university system has become prohibitively expensive and vulnerable to the kind of shake up the music business is experiencing. John explores the issues in more depth.
January 12, 2009
Rohan Gunatillake has a good post challening the label of "retreat" to describe what people do when they form communities for silent reflection.
As anyone who has gone to sit a meditation retreat with any level of sincerity knows all too well, a retreat is anything but. For where is there to hide from the mind as the heart rests back into the silence? Our minds and our lives follow us to the cushion, chase us up and down the walking paths and all the rest.He goes on to quote Ethan Nichtern:
…the view of meditation as a retreat from life is not helpful at all. The reason for meditation is to systematically and progressively bring the practitioner to a place where she or he is more and more able to live in the world.I think this cultural bias can be seen in the frequent championing of "action" over "reflection", the pooh-poohing of the "touchy feely" and the sneaky labelling as "soft" of any skills related to relationships. Rather like Rohan, I don't think these practices deserve to be stereotyped as if they're easy options and escapes from "reality".
January 9, 2009
"It's unacceptable not to share what you know"
Very interesting post by Mark Brady.
It contains this diagram. I usually hate this kind of thing but found this one quite engaging. It explores how we respond to shocks; I'm intrigued by the parallel paths of responding to both good news and bad. It comes from this paper.
January 6, 2009
There is never nothing happening
That's a line from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. I was reminded of it by this post by Dominic Campbell, reflecting on his facilitation of an event last month (with long, flattering reference to me in there, shucks.)
Dom discusses my view that efforts to make meetings productive sometimes have the opposite effect.
I’ve discussed this point with Johnnie a fair amount recently, and the challenge remains how you resist trying to make something more ‘useful’ from the session, be it action plans or whatever.Actually I'm all for useful things happening but it raises good questions about what "useful" is. An ill-mannered, fiery debate in which nothing is resolved on the day may turn out be a very useful step on a longer journey.
And there is never nothing happening. There's always a lot going on if we make the effort to see it. That's what Chris Corrigan means by "harvesting".
Dom quotes Seth Godin's advice:
“Lean in, back off, but don’t do nothingbut then try this: find a partner, sit facing each other and spend 60 seconds trying to not influence each other. More and more lately, I'm saying to myself notice more, change less as a rough and ready reminder to myself to be more present to life and less desperate to be in control.
Abstract demands for action and angry labelling of meetings as "unproductive" may also have their place in a complex world. But behind these voices there may be a desire not so much for action, but more for an end to the discomfort of uncertainty - or a badly concealed need to be in control. Can't resist reposting this Python classic.
January 5, 2009
Graham Wilson has a provocative piece on the pitfalls of Spiral Dynamics. I liked his general comments about the dodginess of models applied to people and organisations.
There's usually three clues that they are little more than marketing hype for one consultant or another - a conveniently packaged way of trying to differentiate themselves:I'm generally wary of these three steps/seven secrets/twelve levels approaches. They feel like after-the-event tidying up of things that emerge in complex ways, a rewriting of history and a set of filters through which to (mis)understand the present.
- The first is that effort has gone into visual design - as if nature would have based itself on a model that needed CAD skills.
- Second is that they always have a fixed number of stages, levels, steps, or phases of which there are two schools of thought - either keep it few so people can hope to remember them, or make it many so people are impressed by the complexity.
- Thirdly, stick on a TM, (R), or (C) as a little suffix.
I wonder how many Nobel Prize winning theories had "12 steps", were printed in colour with neatly overlapping pyramids or circles, and had a TM appended to their name? [ed: The answer is none.]
Hat tip: Dave Snowden
The experience of dialogue
Good post by Chris Corrigan: Our experience of dialogue.
This clip is interesting: interviews with screenwriters who point out the function of dialogue in a television show. One of the high points of writing dialogue, it turns out, is that it will never be effective if people are actually seen talking to each other. So it’s no surprise that bringing these forms of conversation into the real world creates all sorts of dysfunctional social situations.
Behind the mask
I'm going to a workshop at the end of this month led by Shawn Kinley and Steve Jarand, who are coming over from the Loose Moose improv company in Canada. The theme is Mask and Improvisation (pdf) and I think it will be fascinating. Shawn is that rare combination of awesome performer and teacher. I also remember taking a short mask workshop before and being blown away by the experience. As the blurb says:
Our minds are conditioned to seek out and create powerful emotional responses to faces.There are still places available if you want to join me.
The use of masks is extensive with their use in rituals and occurs throughout the world reaching into our pre history. Masks today are used by skilled practitioners in theatre technique and organisations for deep self discovery and expression.