Category Archives: Culture

Social Media – It’s Not the Tools

Friday, August 29, 2003

500 years ago the communications system in the west was owned by one organization – the church. If you wanted something in writing a monk transcribed it. Few knew how to read as a result of books being so expensive. Your network news was delivered from the pulpit. The system supported the status quo of the power of God’s elect, the King and his henchmen the aristocracy and above supported the most powerful multinational enterprise the world had yet seen the church itself. The church was the largest landowner in the west at a time when land was the basis of all wealth. The barriers to competition were impossibly high.

I am sure that when Gutenberg built his first press that there was a lot of chatter about font types, about gearing and pressure and inks and about the best type of paper – the kind of geek talk that is central to all new things. This is where so much of the discourse is today about blogging – RSS etc. But the true power of the printing press was something else that went way beyond how it worked. It was how it was used that was to be important.

Within a hundred years huge numbers of people could read. It was possible to run off broadsheets – personal publishing very cheaply. So what happened as a result of this use of the new technology?

The reformation in Europe, the dissolution of the monasteries in the England the the redistribution of all that wealth to secular hands, the civil war and the end of the idea of monarchy being God’s anointed. The modern world was created where new ideas based on observation – such as a new vision of the universe – could not be held back by the establishment in spite of persecution.

So this is what will happen with blogging. What blogging is, is an end run on the strangle hold of our conversation and on our mindset that the corporate and institutional world has established. Until now the costs of having a human voice were set impossibly high. Only Rupert Murdoch or a government could play. But now communication costs are ridiculously low compared to the mainstream media and communications in corporations and government. Not only are the costs low but the interactive element of blogging is so much more powerful than the broadcast technique owned by the institutions. Any one of us can have a voice and groups can have power.Institutions are frightened of this voice and will fight it because it means that they will die as a result.

As at the time of the reformation – the general adoption of blogging tools  will lead to the overthrow of the corporate and the institutional mind. In so doing it will release the vast treasure that it locked up in the costs of corporate and institutional  life. It will free men and women from being peons in a feudal state where they had to live as liege men and offer fealty to their overlords.

We are not only oppressed by those in power in institutional life, we, like medieval peasant, are complicit. We know of no other life. Knowing no other life, like those in Plato’s cave, we cannot imagine what freedom from institutional life might be like. We fear freedom because we see no alternative to bondage.

Even simple blogging can help here. It offers for the first time to each of us the potential to find our voice. At first maybe to tell the world what we had for breakfast or to recall some work idea. But I have found in myself a huge change in the last year in my inner voice and in the confidence as I discover that I am not alone in how I think.

Until now people who think as I do have struggled alone. We are by nature are not joiners. Fewer of us every day work in institutional life and cannot use that voice. What “organ” do we have to speak with a human voice? Blogging By finding so many of us out there, we grow in confidence and our voice becomes less hesitant. I feel wonder as I read new blogs every week and see how close our thinking is. This is how power is created

Technical talk is helpful. It leads to better tools. But let’s talk more about how we will use blogging to change our world. It is not about making the corporation better – this type of discussion would be the same as a group of monks talking about how printing was going to help the church. It is about how to we take the institution out of our lives.

(Thanks to Dave Pollard for getting me going this week)

New movements tend to stall when the “in group” want to keep the movement within the
“in group”

The same may be true for blogging. The number of people that know about what a blog is among my clients is very small.  Intuitively I would say less than 2%. What would put them off? Anything technical. Blogging has to be made really easy.

Why do I mention St Paul? At the outset of Christianity there was a huge debate. The “In Group” as lead by the surviving disciples of Jesus insisted that to be a Christian you had to be a Jew. This meant adult circumcision for the men and backseat behind a screen for the women. Quite a “technical” hurdle!!!. Paul argued that all men and women should be able to become Christians – guess who won? Pride in coping with the technical sides of blogging is a block for take-up.

The real opportunity is when a group of “Ingroup folks” maybe like “socialtext” really engage with organizational life and find the fit. Step 1 has to be”Easy does it” Easy does it demands that anyone who can type can set up a good blog and that there are a number of great templates. We are exploring Typepad to see if we can make it even easier.

Step two has to be finding the immediate felt benefit. This is more challenging and I think demands that we find parts of an organization where building a community will help – maybe in the entire support area. This is where the whole KM issue rears its head. The idea of content management is an exceptionally stupid idea that flies in the face of how we understand knowledge. Only a small fraction of knowledge is explicit – the vast bulk is implicit – ie it is ten times better to talk to someone about an issue than to try and find what he has written about it. Who wants a manual when you can be walked through? BP has been a leader here in seeing that their key system issues is to find a way of connecting people with questions to people with answers. Each employee has a personal website that amongst other things has a lot of info about what they know. The deal at BP is that if you have question you search for the person.

Why should we care anyway? Blogging is our path back to being human at work. Blogging reveals who we are to not only others but more importantly to ourselves. For the first time mankind – the great tool maker – who has used tool making ingenuity to make the world and himself into a tool, or a thing, has created a tool that renews and brings back what it is to be human.

So like Paul – we are faced with an historic choice. We can relegate blogging to geekiness and tool making or we can work to change our relationships back from machine to human.

What do I mean by this bold statement? We can change democracy by making it essential for politicians to be real and to listen to us. We can get the issues that make sense on the table other than spin. We can make management of organizations transparent and give organizations a human Cluetrain voice. We can change how we learn – from each other rather than from institutions. We can change healthcare by empowering fellow sufferers to help each other rather than to rely on the priests of medicine. We so change the world as Paul did.

Are Universities too business like?

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I am doing some OD work for a university. One of the issues confronting all universities today is a quantum increase in organizational complexity. My ingoing sense is that the mechanism’s for managing complexity are poorly understood and that as maths changed at the turn of the century to take complexity into account, so we have to look for novel ways of managing complexity at universities.

My thesis is that we manage today as if cause and effect were our universe. Our systems are too complex for this midset and if we remain in cause and effect, conflict will be the only result. Some type of systems tool is required. A start may be some type of council that brings all partiers to the table – but I get ahead of myself.

Let’s look at the world of 1969 when I went up to Oxford and then at the world of 2003 for a modern urban university in Canada

When I went to Oxford 35 years ago, my college, Christchurch was mainly an undergraduate college attached to a cathedral. The Dean ran both. He and the Dons ran the college with a handful of secretaries and a lot of servants and he and the Canons ran the Chapter again with a few secretaries and a lot of servants. Christ Church was part of a Coop called the University where a few Dons sat on committees and set policy. That was the University – a few committees.

Our world was really the college. Small and compact. 90% of the teaching was in the college. We all lived in college. Each college had a its own funding. Christ Church was immensely wealthy with large endowments of land that had accrued over hundreds of years. There were few of us. All of us that went paid fees and it cost me then about L1,000 a year in fees and I spent about another L1,000 on having a good time. We were heavily subsidized by the college but it also lived well within its means. Our accommodation, though splendid, was also spartan as only an all male place of the time could have been. In my quad, the only toilet was on the ground-floor, and the building was 6 stories high. We used the sink for most things! The only baths were in the basement in one corner of the quad. When this was pointed out to the dean who built the quad, his reply was that ” they are only here for 8 weeks at a time”. I think I only had a handful of baths in the 3 years that I was there. I would go home on the weekends for a clean up.

Again my point – a simple set up with not much money flowing either way and almost no government involvement. The world was the college and the faculties. Being small there was little managerial complexity. All who were not faculty were in effect servants or students. There were no money problems and, apart from maintenance, little need for capital investment. The money fit inside the capital envelope of the college. The university ran a few libraries and exams. The simple college was our world where everyone knew everyone perhaps better than they wanted too.

I use Oxford as an example because it was the model for many other universities. But now what is the university world?

Money and social engineering are compelling drivers. The state has entered the game in most countries and has funded a huge increase in enrollment which has driven a huge increase in the capital requirement. Coed is the norm and modern plumbing has entered the male preserve at great cost. Equipping my college with toilets and bathrooms on every floor cost over L20 million! Imagine the plumbing issues in 16 -1 19th century buildings.

So what are the issues in many Canadian Universities today. They have a president whose job is to fund-raise and to deal with governments. His job is mainly a business role. He has to get the budget and make the money work. He has to compete for capital donors and he has to lobby government for more research and operating funds. He is supported by a staff that would not be out of place in any large commercial enterprise. But he has no power to tell the faculty what to do. The Product end of the university has not changed much since I was an undergraduate or indeed since the middle ages. The faculty is divided into separate disciplines who jealously guard their turf. Now usually unionized, my Tutor Charles Stuart must be turning in his grave, they hold back the online world as they know that this will destroy how they work. They do not want to teach because they move up the tenure track and in status by publishing. So they employ armies of servants, TA’s to you and I, to teach and mark in their name. In my day all the dons in every discipline met every night over dinner in hall. Today they all go home to their SOS’s and children. So the linkages between them are poor. All the fertile research ground has been tilled and new entrants scrap for weeds deep in the mud.of their field. There is little sense of collegiality.

They fear that the president will make their university into a BUSINESS – horror of horrors! They sense that undergraduates already pay too much but that is the President’s problem. They sort of know that demography will send fewer young their way – but that is the president’s problem. After all they don’t want to teach them anyway. . They reject any idea of using technology to teach differently – they fear that their precious IP will be lost if they make what they do accessible. So reducing the cost of teaching is the-President’s problem. They have their heads firmly in the sand but will not give an inch of thie power up to help.

Governments want every one to have access to university. They have set up a loan sharking business to facilitate this. The average debt for  BA is about $30,000. The theory is that BA’s get high paying jobs and will easily pay this off. Not so. Most are caught and flip hamburgers or some double up and go onto graduate work. Students will find new ways of getting what they want and will turn away from the traditional delivery and costs – they have no choice.

While the students are finding university too expensive. 50% of the faculty will be in the retirement zone in the next 10 years. Already a bidding war for the new talent is happening. In key areas, new hires are earning more than the old guard. resentment is building and costs are going up.A classic squeeze play is emerging. Costs are too high and rising. Each party balmes the other.

Universities have become huge. They now have armies of Administrators and Technicians who are still treated like servants by the faculty. They are unionized as well and have a deep sense of bitterness and entitlement.

So who would want to be a University President?

How can universities reduce this complexity. Maybe they can take a lead from our Provincial Politicians. They are recommending the formation of a council where the premiers meet as a matter of course with the Prime Minister. The underlying idea is that there is no process other than confrontation to meet the complex needs of a diverse set of groups who live under one hat, Canada. So maybe for universities.  Currently each powerful group has to attack the others. The poor President is stuck in the middle.

Maybe this is true for all organizations? Management and the rest was OK for simpler times. The 3 body problem demands a more sophisticated process. It recognizes that once there are more than two parties, then using cause and effect as the metaphor leads to conflict and failure. Most organizations are more complex than two body systems now. Understanding complexity and chaos will become essential tools for managment. More later

Blogging and Friendship

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Dina often provokes me to think more deeply. In her recent series on corporate blogging I started to think about the friendships that arise from Blogging.

I wonder – are we seeing a new basis for friendship? In the past, we have made our friends through a combination of place, interest and values.

EG – Until maybe 30 years ago on PEI, you married a girl who was no more than a day’s buggy ride. Your friends came from the small community you lived in and were cultivated in the pressure cooker of the local school. If you were Catholic, you could only associate with other Catholics. Good Catholic girls until 30 years ago did not even ride in cars with Prots. Then religion was the dividing line for one key set of values. Everyone farmed or earned their living connected to agriculture so all shared an interest in farming and all shared the same set of pioneer values that come with being yeoman farmers.

You can laugh at this narrow world but stop for a minute – where did your friends come from? Place interest and values. I bet place wa important.

My close friends still come from my time at university. I have given up all my school friends but for 2. I see now that they were a product of place. At school we all had such a narrow choice. So we all made do with the small pool of possible friends that a house of 65 and a school of  700 could provide. Once I entered a large enough world, Oxford, where there were many more choices, I focused on those where I had a closer match in interests & values. At the time we all shared a common set of values about ourselves and the world – we were all enamoured by the corporate world and all joined it willingly and did well financially from it. These friendships have endured. One reason is that we have all given the corporate world up. It is weird coincidence that this group are all now self employed and could never work back in the system again. We must have sensed intuitively all those years ago that we would make the shift in values from group to self. In addition we had another link. An interest that we all shared was our children. I am godfather to 7 and this precious human link to the future of my friends has kept our friendship alive.

This tells me that, today that for me shared values and a shared interest seem more important and enduring than a shared space in connecting friends.

But for many people place is I think still the main driver for friendship. Especially if you do not move around much and where your old friends who were cultivated in early life live close to you. I have moved more times than I can recall. All these moves have I seen in retrospect broken any place-related links except the ones where the interests and values are in still in synch. All my corporate friends who are still very corporate have largely fallen off. The exception are those that I feel are trembling themselves at the edge of the line.

What is true for friendship is true for love. The troubadours tell us that love enters through the eye. But even in love the requirement for place is eroding. I think that the key is that in cyberspace you can be heard. To hear someone is a gift, To hear them is to know them. Paradoxically being heard is a challenge in the early days of a face to face relationship when each person’s need to speak can stop their ability to listen. Being yourself  can be hard in face to face where “projection” plays such a large role and where we seek to please. We so often “see” who we want to see rather than the real person who is there. With blogging, it seems to be hard to hide the real you. The real you may take time to emerge but emerge it does. The irony is that in not seeking to please, we are more attractive to others.

The issue seems voice. After a while of blogging our real voice comes to us. For the first time maybe, we say to the world –  “here I am warts and all” Where Robert Scoble has to admit that it is hard to reconcile how work and his marriage. My reaction – Scoble is a real person and not just a techno scribe. Where Dave Winer cannot help but feel like a parent to RSS and sounds off he becomes a man and not just a commentator and developer. Paradoxically, the more real we are- the more frail – the more attractive we are. Conversely, corporate voices do not lose their temper or have doubts. Corporate voices are like Dolores Umbridge’s from the Ministry for Magic: they use soft language for terrible things such as final solution or “right sizing”. As Cluetrain tells us – the corporate voice is becoming the great lie that we cannot hear anymore. But I get ahead of myself. Back to friendship.

My question. Is blogging changing the rules for friendship and maybe for love? With blogging, you can get to “know” someone in a deeper way than after many candlelight dinners, many years at school and many barbeque’s with neighbours. We hear how the other person thinks. We hear what really interests them. We experience their values. In return, we can gently link up so that over time they too can know us too. Projection is more confined as we do not rely on the visual cues for our norms of what is attractive on the surface before we know what is attractive below the skin. Everyone is at choice – you can make the connection or not. I don’t know the sound of your voice and in many cases don’t know what you look like. In most cases we are separated not only by distance but by culture and by different Gods but if we speak the same values and we are interested in the same things, then the link is made.

The values that I am talking about are the great divide between those that are externally motivated and those that are on the path to a self motivated world.

There is a huge gulf between these two sets of values. Those that have crossed this line know that there is no going back and that it is dangerous to speak out too clearly to those that remain in the “group” mind. They too have acute sensitivity to heresy and there is no heresy quite like not having to belong to the group anymore. This shift in values is what is really going on today. In the centre is the progress/corporate hegemony. In revolt on the right are the fundamentalists who long for a mythic past where women know their place and God speaks for us. This group is firmly in the group set of values and are outstanding in forming groups – hence their power. On the left is a new group that is not really a group. We are the Cultural Creatives, the Free Agents. We don’t like groups and have not until now found a mechanism for getting together that fits our self driven mindset. Until now. Until blogging. We have no power as isolated individuals. Until now. Until blogging.

For the irony is that for those of us that have crossed the line, it is lonely. While our motivation is based on self, we are still primates and human and we crave brotherhood and sisterhood. Blogging appears to be a tool that enables non joiners to find a mechanism to join safely with others like them. A club for non clubbers!

For me the potential in blogging is less corporate than social. It will create a new business model rather than support the old. What do I mean by this?

I have hopes for corporate blogging but they are dim. Why am I so depressed about this? Because of the values clash. The essence of the corporate state is that it is a collective where the group identity is paramount. Such a values set is like anti matter for those who are self motivated. Corporations claim that they want initiative and creativity but they need obedience more. Obedience is the core piece of DNA in the Ford model.

Where blogging will help most is in creating social and economic networks of individuals who share common goals and values – look at Matt and Paolo. Or look at how the community of bloggers is coalescing on PEI around Peter Rukavina. Look at how a whole group of doctors is forming around Marc Pierson Look at the influence that Ross Mayfield is having on all of us that think about social software or that Critt Jarvis is having on the election. This is the world I think that I, Dave Pollard and Dina are looking for.

Look at what happens when those who have developed relationships via blogging meet in person!

This is surely a revolution? Place and Face are no longer the initiating drivers for human relationships. The blogosphere is becoming the safe place for creative people to connect in. Just as eBay made it possible to trade safely outside your local area, so blogging makes it possible to access a global network of friends and lovers safely.

My First Post on Family and Tribe

Friday, March 28, 2003
I have been working on a research proposal to study the family and had this aha at least an aha for me today. Does the family exist anymore? So here are my musings
If we really look at the data for North America (WASPS) the family as we think of it is already dead! What I mean by the “family” is a two parent unit with at least one grandparent so that there are three generations involved all providing value to each other as a social unit in a rough world. We think that this is the family and I suspect that we think that we should hold this up as a model. Little knowing of course that for more than 4 million years we raised our children and did our work in a small 30-5 person unit that combined work and society called a tribe. Little knowing that all primates except us still use this arrangement. My aha was maybe that .our search for June Cleaver is getting in the way of the fact that June is dead and was never a good model anyway I wonder if looking for June obscures a possible return to the tribe and the deinstitutionalization at last of our western society?

What are the remnants of June today? What is the reality today? Most WASP families ( Most immigrant families still adhere to the larger extended model – by the way look at how much better their kids are doing at school) have only one parent – female (why are boys in trouble?) Very few have a grandparent in the mix and most grandparents are often not even in the same city. Elderly parents are also increasingly institutionalized.I fear that our society is becoming a society of one who interacts only with institutions and not with real people.

Children our greatest asset have become for most of us a huge economic drain. In their younger years they go to expensive daycare, they demand fashion and toys and have a closer connection to TV than to any other influence. As teens they need even more economic support: on PEI every teen has to have a car. If they go onto university the drain is even greater. Then after a few years on their own they often return home – sometime as single parents – and seek to be looked after all over again!!!! When do our children grow into adults? No wonder our wasp birthrate is below replacement. That itself is a sign of a powerful set of forces.

Tell that I am exaggerating. What do the stats tell us?

So long as we assume that the June Cleaver Family is alive, we think that we can and should go back to it. We feel guilt but we know that we cannot go back.  So long as I feel that I should be somehow living my grandparent’s life, I am stuck. Here is the aspiration aspect – We want to strive for a better social unit. We can see a new model in business – the Wal- Mart response model. Can we see the new family emerging????? It must be but so long as we think that the old family is it, we won’t be able to see the new one.

Be assured that a new unit is emerging and will emerge. If we can describe it, it will become real for many people very quickly – they will aspirationally jump to a model that works. The prize is a big one for us as people, for business and for our nation.

This may then end the idea that we are only a disconnected individual whose only relationships are at work, whose children are in daycare and whose parents are in a home and whose protector is the state. For I sense that it is our growing dependence on institutions that has played a major role in why the 1950’s family has collapsed – it may also be worth studying these trends as well. It is surely important to know why we have come to this.
Putnam blames work and TV. He sees TV as a relationship blocker and as a community influence that drives a world of things over relationships and a world of passivity over exploration. I include for blame our school system where we teach the institutional Cartesian model as the main curriculum and where we deny all that we know about primate learning process. Kids who don’t fit are drugged. (30%?) I blame Daycare where we rely on a few strangers to park our small children at the most important learning period of their lives. Most of all we need to ask ourselves about the pull of the workplace out of the home where work has replaced most other relationships and has broken the bond of parent child and in many cases between spouses. Why have we put away all other relationships for those at work?

I bet that we are going to find that the tribe (a combined social and economic unit) is emerging again. You see this is the idea of Free Agent Nation where up to 50 million North Americans have left the traditional workplace and work for themselves mainly at home and who have set up networks of support for both work and social issues such as their kids and parents. I feel this among many of blogging out there who have built working relationships out of personal relationships. I have been touched at the help that I have received from many of you and I feel good that I can reach out in a way that is not possible in the traditional work place. I sense that blogging will itself create little tribes of co workers who also really care for each other. The more we work at home, the more we interact in a tribal way with our kids. I work with my son – it is my greatest joy. mainly he teaches me.
Daniel Pink I think provides us with a model for finding the new family. Pink himself went around America and discovered this group, saw its common elements and gave it a label. All of us who live like this suddenly understood what we were  doing and how to do this better. We have a model and with a model we have power.

His book is having a profound impact as it enables individuals who thought that they were alone to see that theory make up a pattern. I suspect that the new family is located in this group who have healed the breach between work and life and who aspire to a living and not a paycheck. These people reject all institutions as do most of our kids. I wonder if we looked with fresh eyes that we might see that for many of us  – a new family based on the tribe is emerging and that it is something that if we talk about more, will become more clear and more helpful

My Reading List on the Emerging Networked World – Jan 2003

Rob’s Booklist Jan 2003

This annotated bibliography will provide you with a list of source documents and books that represent the leading thinking in a new field � Organizations designed around a natural model or Networks. The linked web addresses will take you to a synopsis of the works in question.

The material is divided into two sections. A – Deep Context focuses on the scientific underpinnings for the Networked Economy. B- The Business Context shows you how these principles have been applied.

A. Deep Context � How the New Science underpins the Network Model

1. The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra ( This is the best overall introduction that I know of that provides the complete overview of the underpinning ideas of the new science that themselves will underpin our new approach to organization.

�During the past 25 years, a new language for understanding the complexity of living systems – that is, of organisms, social systems, and ecosystems – has been developed at the forefront of science. You may have heard about some of the key concepts of this new way of understanding complex systems – chaos, attractors, fractals, dissipative structures, self-organization, autopoietic networks.

What is now emerging at the forefront of science is a coherent scientific theory that offers, for the first time, a unified view of mind, matter, and life.

Since industrial society has been dominated by the Cartesian split between mind and matter and by the ensuing mechanistic paradigm for the past three hundred years, this new vision that finally overcomes the Cartesian split will have not only important scientific and philosophical consequences, but will also have tremendous practical implications. It will change the way we relate to each other and to our living natural environment, the way we deal with our health, the way we perceive our business organizations, our educational systems, and many other social and political institutions.

In particular, the new vision of life will help us build and nurture sustainable communities – the great challenge of our time – because it will help us understand how nature’s communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms – the ecosystems – have organized themselves so as so maximize their ecological sustainability. We have much to learn from this wisdom of nature, and to do so we need to become ecologically literate. We need to understand the basic principles of ecology, the language of nature. The new framework I present in my book shows that these principles of ecology are also the basic principles of organization of all living systems. I believe therefore that The Web of Life provides a solid basis for ecological thought and practice�

2. The Global Brain �The Evolution of the Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century by Howard K Bloom

( The leading book available today on how to understand living or �complex adaptive systems�. Bloom describes the rules for learning organisms and shows how humans, with the added issue of culture, adapt as groups to shifts in the environment. Don�t be put off this is compelling reading.

�Very very few books actually need to be read word for word, beginning with the bibliography and ending with the footnotes. This is one of those books..

I like this book and recommend it to everyone concerned with day to day thinking and information operations. I like it because it off-sets the current fascination with the world-wide web and electronic connectivity, and provides a historical and biologically based foundation for thinking about what Kevin Kelly and Stuart Brand set forth in the 1970’s through the 1990’s: the rise of neo-biological civilization and the concepts of co-evolution.�

3. Out of Control : The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World by Kevin Kelly

( ) This was the first book to explore from an organizational sense how the new science will be applied. It is not a book to read with a loved one. You will be constantly regaling them with nuggets of information and ideas that will take your breath away.

�It is in the realm of technology that Kelly, executive editor of Wired magazine, has something to add. In dozens of interviews with academics and corporate researchers, tinkerer- artists in industrial lofts and even beekeepers, Kelly has uncovered a growing subculture that is systematically exploiting the complex forces of the hive mind, evolution and other self-organizing systems�

4. Leadership and the New Science: Learning About Organization from an Orderly Universe by Margaret Wheatley.

( ) This was the breakthrough book that linked the New Science directly to the managerial world. A crossover book that is both a science book and a management tool. Written with passion and insight.

�Wheatley does a fine job of explaining the implications for organizations and management philosophy of the shift away from the mechanistic worldview that grew out of Newtonian physics. She does a good job of explaining how quantum physics and chaos theory together demolished all the assumptions of the mechanistic worldview. This mechanistic view fostered the idea that organizations are impersonal machines. It also gave credence to the nonsensical idea of the commodity theory of labor applied to the people hired to fill the “job-parts” of those machines. The mechanistic view excludes concepts such as esprit de corps or team spirit. It ignores the communal loyalty that goes with team spirit that helps foster cooperative self-motivated teamwork so vital in achieving top performance.

The new (postmodern) worldview is organic rather than mechanistic, is holistic rather than parts centered, is participatory rather than impersonal and manages much more via networks than through top down hierarchies. As Capra points out in his book, The Web of Life, all living systems are mainly coordinated by networks, not hierarchies. All this fits well with the new postmodern management philosophy that stress empowerment of employees on the local level, self managed teams, and organic systems. And as Wheatley points out the reality of such new thinking lies in the relationships that arise from them�

5. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

( ) This is an important book to read if you are interested in how to make large scale, timely changes in a short time with limited resources. Gladwell writes with enormous zest. If we are to change the mindset of a nation and of how to deliver service, then this book will become our primer.

�There are few books that introduce a new idea that can be applied to multiple disciplines. This book contains more than an idea: it introduces a new way of understanding what often seems like major changes that appear to come from little or often unknown effort. Why do teenagers increase their rate of smoking in spite of the huge expense to convince them otherwise? Why did crime suddenly fall so drastically so fast in New York? What caused the sudden increase in sexually transmitted diseases in Baltimore? How did the sales of Hush Puppies more than quadruple with little or no conscience advertising effort?

Understanding these changes allows a minimal effort to effect huge results. It is difficult to see this in advance using our normal viewpoints. In fact the impact of these changes seems difficult to comprehend even in retrospect but it does open your mind for some creative analysis. For instance at Yale what was needed to get better student participation in a tetanus shot program was not more and more information on the medical need for the shots, but a better map showing locations and times available. What may be needed to reduce the long term addiction from teen smoking is not more ads on the dangers of smoking, but cigarettes with lower nicotine, below the tipping point of 5 milligrams of nicotine a day. A nurse named Georgia Sadler, trying to increase the awareness of diabetes and breast cancer in the black community found that the best avenue was not the churches or community centers but….. beauty salons.

Within this new tool is hope. Big problems seem less overwhelming. Big Changes become possible�

B. Business Context � How Networks evolved and why they are so different from the Traditional Organization

1. The Story of Visa International The Chaordic Organization by Dee Hock This Article by Mitch Waldrup will provide you with a brief but complete understanding of how Dee Hock embedded the ideas of nature into an organizationn that we are very familiar with, Visa. It describes not only Hock�s thinking, but the genesis of the new organization and the now established principles for organizations made up of competitors. If you want more, Mr. Hock has recently published a book called the �Birth of the Chaordic Age.

�Birth of the Chaordic Age is a compelling manifesto for the future, embedded within the intriguing story of a personal odyssey. An engaging narrator, Dee Hock is the man who first conceived of a global system for the electronic exchange of value, becoming the founder and CEO of VISA International. He looks critically at today’s environment of command-and-control institutions and sees organizations that are falling apart, failing to achieve their own purposes let alone addressing the diversity and complexity of society as a whole. The solution, Hock claims, lies in transforming our notion of organization; in embracing the belief that the chaos of competition and the order of cooperation can and do coexist, succeed, even thrive; and in welcoming in the chaordic age.

The underlying tenets of Hock’s ideas are well illustrated by the incredible story of the birth of VISA International, an organization formed on chaordic principles that now links in excess of 20,000 financial institutions, 14 million merchants, and 600 million consumers in 220 countries. Hock deplores an age where ingenuity and effort are wasted on circumventing the rules and regulations of insular, hierarchical bureaucracies. In a bold-type subtext interspersed throughout the book, he examines how this situation is stunting our potential as individuals and communities and contemplates what can be changed. This rumination is propelled onward by “Old Monkey Mind” (Hock’s own thoughts). Though the technique allows the reader to engage in stimulating mental discovery along with the author, its New Age spiritual tone is sometimes a bit saccharine. His insights, however, are clear and provocative. In the Chaordic Age, he contends, “success will depend less on rote and more on reason; less on the authority of the few and more on the judgment of many; less on compulsion and more on motivation; less on external control of people and more on internal discipline.”

What is a Chaord? By Chaord, I mean any self�organizing, adaptive, nonlinear, complex system, whether physical, biological, or social, the behavior of which exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos or, loosely translated to business terminology, cooperation and competition.�

2. The Age of Access: The new culture of Hypercapitalism where all of life is a paid for experience by Jeremy Rifkin

( ) The best introduction that I know of to the implications of networks.

�This is a book for those who feel a deep urge to achieve a better understanding of the epoch-making transformations affecting our planet at the start of the 21st century. On reading many of the pages of Rifkin’s work I have found myself enlightened, as if my vision and perception of our present world had gained a new touch of insight. But it is quite typical that when you are submerged by an experience you are not in the best condition to judge it objectively, to inventory, classify and minutely describe its processes: you look rather being ‘lived’ by than actually living the thing yourself! Just this happens today when everybody is speaking about globalization, often following a sort of faddish inclination to appear up-to-date at least as far as words are concerned: but if you are really to develop an informed awareness of what you are talking about books like Rifkin’s set a milestone in understanding.�

3. Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy by Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster.

( ) This is the best book so far that explains how the internet ends the paradox of richness and reach. In the traditional world if you wanted to reach a large market you had to end up with an information poor and impersonal offering. The challenge for the public service is that to offer richness and reach you have to �deconstruct� the traditional organization. With web you can have both intimacy, tons of information and a reach everyone at a price that you can afford. Fast paced and full of great examples.

�Well, the explosion of connectivity and the subsequent adoption of common standards have created an information medium that can better accommodate the interests of consumers (and of firms as well for that matter, since it connects them to a global potential market). The Internet allows the separation of the economics of information from the economics of things, and also significantly reduces the trade-off between the reach and richness of information (whether this trade-off is blown up altogether is debatable). The authors make a thorough study of both richness and reach as potential sources of competitive advantage for firms. And, since consumers (as human beings) still act with bounded rationality, a new business function emerges in order to help them manage through the newly created choice-reach+richness-cacophony: navigation. This too can be a source of competitive advantage, and it is characterized by how closely it represents the interests of consumers, or on the contrary, firms. Messrs. Evans and Wurster call this affiliation.

The Internet impacts both value chains within firms and supply chains within industries. It leads to deconstruction and disinter mediation, and exposes firms’ weaknesses; by leaving them aggressively competing only on their core competencies, it might eventually lead to the establishment of (gulp!) monopolies – the winner-take-all economy. Once a firm reaches what the authors call critical mass, challenging firms in effect do not stand a chance of overtaking the leader. This is a very thought-provoking possibility, as the Internet was also supposed to empower consumers.�

4. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken & Amory and Hunter Lovins

( ) The best book available that describes how the new economy will operate. It describes a decentralized world that is itself increasingly networked and a new bias for technology which will borrow ideas directly from nature. Full of enthralling ideas which are here today. A business context for those who have to plan for the future.

�I first encountered Paul Hawken’s writing in ‘Growing a Business’. The clear-sighted practicality of that book is evident in this work. Combining thorough research, excellent analysis and insights, Hawken and the Lovinses put forward a vision, and mark out the path to that vision. A host of examples illustrate their arguments brilliantly, and leave one restless, wanting to put their recommendations for a environmentally sustainable world into immediate effect. Moreover, the chapters and arguments are set out so as to appeal to people in many industries and professions – MBAs, engineers, architects, town planners, farmers, scientists

This book cuts through the usual gloss and fluff of other “earth friendly eco-supporting books” by providing solid compelling data ( backed up with extensive detailed references)on our current (mis)use of natural resources and the eventual conclusion that soon we will see that capitalism and proper use of our natural resources can be combined and achieve financial success. This book will be seen as the precursor for refreshing change and a new understanding of what we need to do in the future. Buy it ! Read it ! Live it ! �

5. The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil

( ) A Frightening book that describes the implication of the exponential growth that we are experiencing in technology. Who would have thought that the internet which was only a hobby only 6 years ago would be the force that it is today? Kurzweil, the inventor of OCR, speech to text and many other devices, is the leading practical investigator and applier of the power of patterns and neural nets ( network intelligence) See his article on the web that extends these ideas digs deeply into the topic of accelerating returns. The point is that there will be no technological barrier to what we want to do. ( )

�Kurzweil’s forecasts for super-exponential growth in computing technology and his investigation of the results will seem outlandish to many readers. But Kurzweil’s vision is backed by a history of successful predictions and businesses and a roster of substantial inventions (from a reading machine for the blind, to voice recognition technology, to the first digital music synthesizer). He also backs his forecasts with plenty of data. Agree or not, this highly stimulating book helps stretch your imagination to see the possible full extent of the IT revolution. If Kurzweil is anywhere near correct, we’ve only just begun the revolution�

6. Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers

( ) This is the bible for understanding change and many of the theories so brilliantly described by Gladwell are supported by the research and the science in this book � Hard slogging though.

�Dr. Rogers is a brilliant sage whose lifelong quest for understanding how and why people adopt or deny innovation began, he tells me, on his family’s farm in Iowa as a boy. At a young age he observed that some farmers were quick to adopt the latest innovations while many others were slower or even resistant to change. He also noticed that adoption didn’t always equal success, nor did the refusal to change. So whether your gig is plowshares or computers or languages or healthcare or just about anything, you will find this book fascinating and illuminating. The book takes an “innovation” tour around the globe and through history with poignant examples of how new ways are diffused into societies. INC. magazine recently named this book as one of the 25 most important books written for understanding commerce�

7. The Cluetrain Manifesto by many folks

( )) This important site has spawned a book by the same name. Its thesis is that in the new economy, the market is now a �conversation� and that we had better get the new language right. Out with bureau speak and in with real speak. Don�t understand me? Read the article.

�Markets are conversations. Trade routes pave the storylines. Across the millennia in between, the human voice is the music we have always listened for, and still best understand.

So what went wrong? From the perspective of corporations, many of which by the twentieth century had become bigger and far more powerful than ancient city-states, nothing went wrong. But things did change.

Commerce is a natural part of human life, but it has become increasingly unnatural over the intervening centuries, incrementally divorcing itself from the people on whom it most depends, whether workers or customers. While this change is in many ways understandable � huge factories took the place of village shops; the marketplace moved from the center of the town and came to depend on far-flung mercantile trade � the result has been to interpose a vast chasm between buyers and sellers.

By our own lifetimes, mass production and mass media had totally transformed this relationship, which came to be characterized by alienation and mystery. Exactly what relationship did producers and markets have to each other anymore? In attempting to answer this blind-man’s-bluff question, market research became a billion-dollar industry.

Once an intrinsic part of the local community, commerce has evolved to become the primary force shaping the community of nations on a global scale. But because of its increasing divorce from the day-to-day concerns of real people, commerce has come to ignore the natural conversation that defines communities as human.

The slow pace of this historic change has made it seem unsurprising to many that people are now valued primarily for their capacity to consume, as targets for product pitches, as demographic abstractions. Few living in the so-called civilized world today can envision commerce as ever having been anything different. But much of the change happened in the century just passed.�

8. Surfing the Edge of Chaos by Pascale and others Is the main page for this book.

Quite the best book I have read so far on the rules of the natural economy plus a host of excellent examples of how others have succeeded or failed to put these rules into practice. My favorite quote � �To repeat , living systems is not a metaphor. It is the way it is.�

The web site gives you an entire set of tools to use to support the book and a set of summaries that will enable the most time pressed to get the guts of the book ion minutes. BUT please invest in the book itself: it�s worth it! One of the key examples is the US Army � not a frivolous organization. For more on how the US Army has become the exemplar of how to make the shift to a �Natural Model� see the next book on the list.

The Amazon link to this book is:

Surfing the Edge of Chaos does a marvellous job of taking many of the ideas being developed in complexity theory and applying them to the business world. In contrast say to Garrett Ralls who tried to do much the same thing, this book succeeds. I found myself continually thinking about not only the examples they provide, but also on my own work experiences and other companies that I have analyzed.

The authors do an excellent job of contrasting their approach (adaptive leadership) with more traditional reorganization (operational leadership). But refreshingly, they also acknowledge that in some cases, the more traditional approach might be more appropriate. There are many interesting concepts being developed by complexity theorists and this book manages to capture many, if not most, of them.

They show repeatedly the need to increase the stress on an organization in order to break past patterns of behaviour. Their use of fitness landscapes (the idea that a successful company rests on a peak, and that in order to reach a new higher peak, often you must go down into the valley) is very powerful and at least partially explains why so many successful companies subsequently struggle, or fail, to adapt. Importantly though, the authors also spend a great deal of time talking about the unintended (or second and third order) effects of change. The point is not that you will be able to predict all of them (which is what chaos theory explicitly says you cannot do), but rather that you must be flexible enough to roll with those unanticipated consequences.

Does that mean that every idea in this book is new? Of course not, but to be successful, a new theory often must combine the old with the new. And this book does a masterful of applying the ideas of Chaos/Complexity theory to business, of providing a new framework to think about both old and new problems. You may not agree with everything that appears in this book, but you will certainly come away with much food for thought.�

�Wonderful case studies. Normally I tend to gloss over case studies, but those in this book are important, in part because assumed successes later deteriorated and returned to poor results of the past. This awareness alone makes the book worth reading; no organization can assume whatever it is doing right is sustainable. Gains can be reversed much faster than the time it took to get the initial gains.

In my view, this book reflects a whole new paradigm gaining momentum of how to best create organizations capable of adapting to the fast changing new economy. It make take a number of years before the wisdom becomes commonplace in practice, and then we move on to the next level of sophistication. One day we will likely be looking back and marvelling how, as we do today with Fredrick Taylor, we could have for generations tapped human talent by deploying the command-and-control techniques that still dominate the corporate landscape. I cannot imagine the concepts in these books being one day written as another fad that died.�

9. �Hope is not a Method�  by General Gordon Sullivan & Michael Harper

This is the dramatic story of how the US Army revitalised itself from the ashes of the Vietnam war. I found it quite humbling to discover that an organization that I had always sneered at, had within its ranks, a nucleus of fine men who in spite of every possible roadblock, worked to create what is arguably the finest organization in the world today. All of us who know that we have work to do to renew our organizations can draw on this book

In recent years, the U.S. Army has been modified and modernized more extensively than almost any private business. Leading the charge on this front were General Gordon R. Sullivan, chief of staff from 1991-95, and one of his key strategic planners, Colonel Michael V. Harper. In Hope Is Not a Method, these two explain just how an organization with 1.5 million employees and a $63-billion annual budget was successfully reengineered–and how those in the corporate world can learn from the experience. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author
Gordon R. Sullivan was chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1995, culminating a distinguished military career. Professor of strategic leadership and chair of the CEO Forum of the School of Management at Boston University, he lives in Washington, D.C. Michael V. Harper was director of the Army’s Strategic Planning Group from 1991 to 1995. He now runs The Harper Group, a business consulting firm. He lives in Springfield, Virginia.

Although the resources available to the US Army have diminished since the Cold War’s end, it remains an estimable institution with nearly 1.5 million employees, annual revenues of about $63 billion, and facilities in over 100 countries. Sullivan (who recently retired as the army’s chief of staff) offers a detailed briefing on how the army has remained an effective, flexible, well-trained force to be reckoned with despite the budget cuts, downsizing, and restructuring that occurred on his watch (199195).

� the author and his collaborator (a retired colonel who headed the army’s strategic planning group) provide a comparatively conventional governance manual; as a practical matter, moreover, the text’s down-to-earth advisories are broadly applicable to great or small organizations of virtually any kind. In their can-do canvas of guiding principles for capitalizing on convulsive change, they stress the importance of shared values, identifying objectives, challenging the status quo, empowering subordinates, and visionary leadership.

Covered as well are the putatively handsome returns obtainable from investing in people, benchmarking the future, reinforcing an outfit’s collective commitment, encouraging constructive dissent, and keeping all hands abreast (if not ahead) of the learning curve. Sound counsel for aspiring and incumbent executives from old soldiers who appreciate the difference between leadership and management.

10. A Series of books that discuss culture and values and their link to creativity

Culture and Organizations � Software of the mind by Geer Hofstede McGraw Hill

This is the best model that I have found to explain the dynamics of differing world views as held by different racial and cultural groups

Hofstede defines culture as the “software of the mind” that guides us in our daily interactions. Here are some paragraphs from the introduction to his book:

Every person carries within him or herself patterns of thinking; feeling; and potential acting which were learned throughout their lifetime. Much of it has been acquired in early childhood, because at that time a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilating. As soon as certain patterns of thinking; feeling and acting have established themselves within a person�s mind; (s)he must unlearn these before being able to learn something different; and unlearning is more difficult than learning for the first time.

Using the analogy of the way in which computers are programmed; this book will call such patterns of thinking; feeling; and acting mental programs; or; as the sub-title goes: “software of the mind”. This does not mean; of course; that people are programmed the way computers are. A person�s behavior is only partially predetermined by her or his mental programs: (s)he has a basic ability to deviate from them, and to react in was which are new, creative, destructive, unexpected.

Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned. It is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Not a silly book

The Cultural Creatives

When I first saw the book and its cover, I was concerned that this was a “silly’ book. I define silly as the type of book that always uses personal examples – you know the “Jane Smith revelation” to give the reader a personal look at the underlying idea in the book. But while there are some of these, the big idea is well defined pulled together and reserached.

The authors help us see the cultural dynamics of how two groups are rebelling against the “modern” world view. Not only do they help us understand PLU’s (In England PLU’s are defined as “people like us”) but also the meaning of Fundementalism – the other polar reaction to the modern world.

When I read Free Agent Nation, the Rise of the Creative Class and The Cutlural Creatives, I wonder if we will come together soon as a real force.
50 Million “Cultural Creatives” Influencing U.S. Agenda, October 5, 2000
Reviewer: John (see more about me) from
Los Angeles, CA
Every decade or so a book captures the social zeitgeist, the essence of the times, reflecting us as we are and revealing who we are becoming. In the 1980s, books by Alvin Toffler (Future Shock and The Third Wave) and John Naisbitt (Megatrends) took America by storm as they presented leading edge thinking and technology, and foretold how we would live as the millennium ended.

Now, a book for the 21st Century, Ray and Anderson’s The Cultural Creatives, is poised to have the greatest impact on Americans’ understanding of themselves – and shaping of their future – since Megatrends. “The Cultural Creatives” is already joining the national lexicon as the name of the substantial American sub-culture – 50 million adults – that the authors identified after more than 100,000 questionnaires, 500 focus groups and scores of personal interviews.

The Cultural Creatives, who transcend normal demographic boundaries, are characterized by their values. They tend to: love nature and are concerned about its destruction; hold a holistic perspective; value relationships, psychological and spiritual development; support women’s and children’s issues; be optimistic about the future; be unhappy with both the left and right in politics and seek a new way that’s not the “mushy middle.” The authors present 18 “values statements” that tend to define the population.

The Cultural Creatives is not only an immensely important work on American culture at this critical time — with implications for marketing, politics and most aspects of American life — it is also a fascinating, easy and accessible read. The authors present complete profiles of America’s three sub-cultures — The Cultural Creatives, The Moderns and The Traditionals — along with historical context for all the groups and a collection of personal stories of cultural creatives from all walks of life … and how they found their way into this group that’s intent on generating “a future that works for everyone.”

Not to be missed by anyone interested in the personal and social transformation emerging worldwide.

Free Agent Nation
On your own . . ., April 22, 2002
Reviewer: mtchalice (see more about me) from Dana Point, CA USA
This book is all about how America’s new independent workers are transforming the way we live and the economy in which we work. This book was recommended by a new friend and mentor and it has been timely indeed. The work that Daniel Pink has done to document the new business model sweeping America will undoubtedly have detractors and naysayers. Yet it fits with my own experience in the high technology market in which I have spent more than thirty years.

Mr. Pink points out that the largest employer in the U.S. is Milwaukee’s Manpower, Inc. and that two out of three workers in California do not hold traditional jobs. These facts, combined with the aging of the American Workforce, the need for more family friendly schedules, and advancing technology makes for a powerful prediction that more and more American workers will be Free Agents in the next century.

This book is full of interesting factoids, anecdotal data, and documented trends that not only make the point for Free Agency, but is convincing for the predictions made. The format of the book is also useful in that each chapter ends with “The Box.”  This summary includes “The Crux,” which is the salient point of the chapter; “The Factoid,” which is a major and usually surprising fact that supports the crux of the chapter; “The Quote,” which is also lifted out of the chapter and serves to support the conclusions; and “The Word,” which is usually a new word or phrase that Mr. Pink believes can be moved into the lexicon of the Free Agent.

A timely and useful book and one that all managers (who are toast according to Mr. Pink) and employees alike must take the time to read. Whether or not you are or plan to be a Free Agent, this book will prove extremely useful in understanding our workplace and the emerging economy.
10:05:44 PM   comment [ // 0]

The Role of Place in Creativity

The Creative Class need to Live in the Right Place

Richard Florida’s new book “The Rise of the Creative Class” is much more than an analyisis of what type of place is best to support creativity – though this idea is percpetive and powerful. No the book is much more than that and gave me the best overall insight into the forces that are driving the emergence of creativity and those that live by it as the driver of the new economy.

The Creativity Index (Guide to Charts)

“The key to economic growth lies not just in the ability to attract the creative class, but to translate that underlying advantage into creative economic outcomes in the form of new ideas, new high-tech businesses and regional growth. To better gauge these capabilities, I developed a new measure called the Creativity Index (column 1). The Creativity Index is a mix of four equally weighted factors: the creative class share of the workforce (column 2 shows the percentage; column 3 ranks cities accordingly); high-tech industry, using the Milken Institute’s widely accepted Tech Pole Index, which I refer to as the High-Tech Index (column 4); innovation, measured as patents per capita (column 5); and diversity, measured by the Gay Index, a reasonable proxy for an area’s openness to different kinds of people and ideas (column 6). This composite indicator is a better measure of a region’s underlying creative capabilities than the simple measure of the creative class, because it reflects the joint effects of its concentration and of innovative economic outcomes. The Creativity Index is thus my baseline indicator of a region’s overall standing in the creative economy and I offer it as a barometer of a region’s longer run economic potential. The following tables present my creativity index ranking for the top 10 and bottom 10 metropolitan areas, grouped into three size categories (large, medium-sized and small cities/regions)”.–Richard Florida
9:53:13 PM   comment [ // 0]

The Tipping Point

Gladwell’s the Man

Nearly everything that Malcolm Gladwell writes is worth reading. So far hie most important book is The Tipping Point which explores how ideas and culture really work.

For me the big aha is that we only have to find and change the few signs that govern a system to change a major culture. What does this imply? That we can change bureaucracies into more attractive cultures.

What is The Tipping Point about?

It’s a book about change. In particular, it’s a book that presents a new way of understanding why change so often happens as quickly and as unexpectedly as it does. For example, why did crime drop so dramatically in New York City in the mid-1990’s? How does a novel written by an unknown author end up as national bestseller? Why do teens smoke in greater and greater numbers, when every single person in the country knows that cigarettes kill? Why is word-of-mouth so powerful? What makes TV shows like Sesame Street so good at teaching kids how to read? I think the answer to all those questions is the same. It’s that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us.
9:46:31 PM   comment [ // 0]

Malcolm Gladwell meets Jane Jacobs

Here is an excellent article written by Malcom Gladwell ( The Tipping Point) on how Jane Jacobs ideas of the optimal urban environment need to be installed in the workplace.

Clear to him that the egg of social culture precedes the chicken of creativity and collaboration:

“The point of the new offices is to compel us to behave and socialize in ways that we otherwise would not–to overcome our initial inclination to be office suburbanites. But, in all the studies of the new workplaces, the reservations that employees have about a more social environment tend to diminish once they try it. Human behavior, after all, is shaped by context, but how it is shaped–and whether we’ll be happy with the result–we can understand only with experience. Jane Jacobs knew the virtues of the West Village because she lived there. What she couldn’t know was that her ideas about community would ultimately make more sense in the workplace. From time to time, social critics have bemoaned the falling rates of community participation in American life, but they have made the same mistake. The reason Americans are content to bowl alone (or, for that matter, not bowl at all) is that, increasingly, they receive all the social support they need–all the serendipitous interactions that serve to make them happy and productive–from nine to five.”

A Review of The Death and Life of Great American Cities

A reader , October 11, 1996
The classic exposition of how cities work. A must-read.
Even 35 years after it was written, The Death and Life of Great American Cities remains the classic book on how cities work and how urban planners and others have naively destroyed functioning cities. It is widely known for its incisive treatment of those who would tear down functioning neighborhoods and destroy the lives and livelihoods of people for the sake of a groundless but intellectually appealing daydream.

But although many see it as a polemic against urban planning, the best parts of it, the parts that have endeared it to many who love cities, are quite different. Death and Life is, first of all, a work of observation. The illustrations are all around us, she says, and we must go and look. She shows us parts of the city that are alive — the streets, she says, are the city that we see, and it is the streets and sidewalks that carry the most weight — and find the patterns that help us not merely see but understand. She shows us the city as an ecology — a system of interactions that is more than merely the laying out of buildings as if they were a child’s wooden blocks.

But observation can mean simply the noting of objects. Ms. Jacobs writes beautifully, lovingly, of New York City and other urban places. Her piece “The Ballet of Hudson Street” is both an observation of events on the Greenwich Village street where she lived and a prose poem describing the comings and goings of the people, the rhythms of the shopkeepers and the commuters and others who use the street.

In this day when “inner city” is a synonym for poverty and hopelessness, it is important to be reminded that cities are literally the centers of civilization, of business, of culture. This is just as true today as it was in the early 1960s when this was written. We in North America owe Jane Jacobs a great debt for her insight and her eloquence.

11. Books on Leadership

Saturday, August 03, 2002
Level 5 Leadership?

Level 5 Leadership

Jim Collins new book “Good to Great” goes beyond stating the obvious that performance is driven by people – he insists that you need the “Right” people.

“In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline — first the people, then the direction — no matter how dire the circumstances. Take David Maxwell’s bus ride. When he became CEO of Fannie Mae in 1981, the company was losing $1 million every business day, with $56 billion worth of mortgage loans under water. The board desperately wanted to know what Maxwell was going to do to rescue the company.

Maxwell responded to the “what” question the same way that all good-to-great leaders do: He told them, That’s the wrong first question. To decide where to drive the bus before you have the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, is absolutely the wrong approach.

Maxwell told his management team that there would only be seats on the bus for A-level people who were willing to put out A-plus effort. He interviewed every member of the team. He told them all the same thing: It was going to be a tough ride, a very demanding trip. If they didn’t want to go, fine; just say so. Now’s the time to get off the bus, he said. No questions asked, no recriminations. In all, 14 of 26 executives got off the bus. They were replaced by some of the best, smartest, and hardest-working executives in the world of finance.

With the right people on the bus, in the right seats, Maxwell then turned his full attention to the “what” question. He and his team took Fannie Mae from losing $1 million a day at the start of his tenure to earning $4 million a day at the end. Even after Maxwell left in 1991, his great team continued to drive the flywheel — turn upon turn — and Fannie Mae generated cumulative stock returns nearly eight times better than the general market from 1984 to 1999.

When it comes to getting started, good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world. If people get on your bus because of where they think it’s going, you’ll be in trouble when you get 10 miles down the road and discover that you need to change direction because the world has changed. But if people board the bus principally because of all the other great people on the bus, you’ll be much faster and smarter in responding to changing conditions. Second, if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being a part of a team that is expected to produce great results. And third, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won’t achieve greatness. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.”

He calls these people Level 5 leaders – those whose ego needs are not personal ( heroic – look at me me me!) but which are embedded in the future of the work and the organization.

Here is a great list of what the qualities of a level 5 leader might be

Thanks to David Gurteen and Marc Pierson who picked up on this work by Carolyn Turkovitch

12. Collaboration

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Collaboration: Culture/Technology � Chicken/Egg?

Collaboration: Culture/Technology � Chicken/Egg?

The guys at BP have arguably more experience in doing this right than most – here is their view

�One of the most difficult things to do in today�s business environment appears to be to request help. People fear that requesting help is an acknowledgment that the requestor is not up to the task.

Setting the environment up so that it is OK to ask for some assistance from Peers is key.

Inside BP, there is no doubt that one big enabler was to create an infrastructure of common machines and versions of software across the globe. This offered the potential to share, but did not guarantee the delivery of the business results. Getting the right processes in place and  accessing the people with the right behaviors was the key to delivery�

From Learning to Fly by Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell

Book Description
Learning to Fly shows exactly how to put theory into practice, sharing the tools used and the experience and insights gained by two leading knowledge management practitioners. In Learning to Fly, Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell share their experiences from BP, one of the world’s leading knowledge organisations. It is a practical, pragmatic workbook packed with hints and tips to help managers put knowledge management into action immediately.

Great book on KM and especially After Action Reviews., May 6, 2001
Reviewer: David Gurteen (see more about me) from Fleet, Hampshire, United Kingdom
This must be one of the best books on KM I’ve seen for a long time. What I love about it – is its lack of focus on technology. Yes – BP are using technology in a big way – but it is just the enabler. The book focuses on the people side – building learning into an
10:52:58 AM   comment [ // 0]

© Copyright 2003 Robert Paterson.
Last update: 14/01/2003; 7:57:45 AM.

Geert Hofstede on Culture – the Science of Relationships

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Culture – Geert Hofstede’s Model

Geert Hofstede�s Model

(based on his 1991 book: Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York, NYM McGraw-Hill.)

Hofstede defines culture as the “software of the mind” that guides us in our daily interactions. Here are some paragraphs from the introduction to his book:

Every person carries within him or herself patterns of thinking; feeling; and potential acting which were learned throughout their lifetime. Much of it has been acquired in early childhood, because at that time a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilating. As soon as certain patterns of thinking; feeling and acting have established themselves within a person�s mind; (s)he must unlearn these before being able to learn something different; and unlearning is more difficult than learning for the first time.

Using the analogy of the way in which computers are programmed; this book will call such patterns of thinking; feeling; and acting mental programs; or; as the sub-title goes: “software of the mind”. This does not mean; of course; that people are programmed the way computers are. A person�s behavior is only partially predetermined by her or his mental programs: (s)he has a basic ability to deviate from them, and to react in was which are new, creative, destructive, unexpected.

Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned. It is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Hostede, Geert (1991) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Based on his IBM study in 72 different countries, Hofstede identifies five of these differences in mental programming, which he calls five dimensions: 1. Power distance

Power distance measures how subordinates respond to power and authority. In high-power distance countries (Latin America, France, Spain, most Asian and African countries), subordinates tend to be afraid of their bosses, and bosses tend to be paternalistic and autocratic. In low-power distance countries (the US, Britain, most of the rest of Europe), subordinates are more likely to challenge bosses and bosses tend to use a consultative management style.

2. Collectivism versus Individualism

In individualistic countries (France, Germany, South Africa, Canada, etc.), people are expected to look out for themselves. Solidarity is organic (all contribute to a common goal, but with little mutual pressure) rather than mechanical. Typical values are personal time, freedom, and challenge.

In collectivist cultures (Japan, Mexico, Korea, Greece) individuals are bounded through strong personal and protective ties based on loyalty to the group during one�s lifetime and often beyond (mirrored on family ties). Values include training, physical condition, the use of skills. See Appendix 2 for comments on differences between American and Chinese society on this dimension.

Note: In their book, An Introduction to Intercultural Communication, Condon and Yousef make a distinction between individualism, prevalent in the United States, and individuality, which is different and prevalent in many other parts of the world:

What makes individualism in the United States is not so much the peculiar characteristics of each person but the sense each person has of having a separate but equal place in society…. This fusion of individualism and equality is so valued and so basic that many Americans find it most difficult to relate to contrasting values in other cultures where interdependence, complementary relationships, and valued differences in age and sex greatly determine a person’s sense of self.

Individuality is different and appears to be much more the norm in the world than United States-style individualism is. Individuality refers to the person’s freedom to act differently within the limits set by the social structure. Compared to the United States, many other cultures appear to be much more tolerant of “eccentrics” and “local characters.” This confusion of one kind of individualism with individuality at first appears paradoxical: We might suppose that a society which promises apparently great personal freedoms would produce the greatest number of obviously unique, even peculiar people, and yet for more than a century visitors to the United States have been struck by a kind of “sameness” or standardization. As one writer interpreted it, U.S. freedom allows everybody to be like everybody else…. While the individual (glorified as “the rugged individualist”) is praised, historically individuals in the United States have made their achievements in loose groupings. What is different here is that the independent U.S. self must never feel bound to a particular group; he must always be free to change his alliances or, if necessary, to move on…. Cultures better characterized by values of individuality are likely to lack this kind of independence from the group, as well as individual mobility. Thus it may be that such cultures allow for greater diversity in personal behavior in order to give balance to the individual vis-à-vis the group, whereas the United States, characterized by loose groupings and high mobility, does not.

3. Femininity versus Masculinity

Hofstede�s study suggested that men�s goals were significantly different from women�s goals and could therefore be expressed on a masculine and a feminine pole.

Where feminine values are more important (Sweden; France, Israel, Denmark, Indonesia), people tend to value a good working relationship with their supervisors; working with people who cooperate well with one another, living in an area desirable to themselves and to their families, and having the security that they will be able to work for their company as long as they want.

Where the masculine index is high (US, Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Italy, Great Britain), people tend to value having a high opportunity for earnings, getting the recognition they deserve when doing a good job, having an opportunity for advancement to a higher-level job, and having challenging work to do to derive a sense of accomplishment.

(adapted from Hoft, Nancy (1995) International Technical Communication. New York: John Wiley and Sons)

4. Uncertainty avoidance

When uncertainty avoidance is strong, a culture tends to perceive unknown situations as threatening so that people tend to avoid them. Examples include South Korea, Japan, and Latin America.
In countries where uncertainty avoidance is weak (the US; the Netherlands; Singapore; Hong Kong, Britain) people feel less threatened by unknown situations. Therefore, they tend to be more open to innovations, risk, etc.

5. Long-term versus Short-term orientation

A long term orientation is characterized by persistence and perseverance, a respect for a hierarchy of the status of relationships, thrift, and a sense of shame. Countries include China; Hong Kong; Taiwan, Japan and India
A short-term orientation is marked by a sense of security and stability, a protection of one�s reputation, a respect for tradition, and a reciprocation of greetings; favors and gifts. Countries include: Britain, Canada, the Philippines; Germany, Australia