Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cisco Systems Bets on Group Collaboration for Increased Employee Productivity

Noteworthy piece in ZDNet from back in October (hat-tip--the social media groups in the Linked-In discusion forums!)

Cisco CEO John Chambers said the company’s two biggest risks are its bet that video will become critical to networks and trying to run his company on social networking.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium conference in Orlando, Chambers talked about how technology executives need to translate IT terms to productivity. The product risk to Cisco is obvious. Perhaps enterprises won’t bet big on video.

But the social networking comments were notable. We’ve heard through the grapevine that Cisco employees were struggling with Chambers’ penchant for running the company on a collaboration framework. Why is “running a company on social networking” such a risk. One big challenge is cultural. If a business leader is savvy on a social network could she become CIO? Sure, says Chambers.

“The thing that’s about to change for organization structures is that executives will serve on social networking groups and be moved based on function,” said Chambers.

Chambers noted that technology executives can be moved to business functions and general managers can run IT. As long as these executives drive results, Chambers isn’t going to get stuck in some role.

Now some of this is a case of Cisco selling collaboration. Everything from the network to WebEx to the Cius tablet to telepresence is hooked into collaboration. Cisco has to eat its own social networking dog food. However, Chambers noting that collaboration is damn hard indicates that there’s more than just a sales pitch involved.

In fact, when Chambers was asked about what the biggest investment in a non-Cisco product should be. Chambers said that more spending needs to support the “cultural change of technology.”

Simply put, collaboration technology is a lot harder than it sounds.

Other key points from Chambers:

•Enterprises will have to move to support any device. Cisco now does that, but the challenge is finding out how to provide security and support while offloading intelligence into the network. Did Cisco want to support multiple devices? “We didn’t have a choice. We support some laptops more than others, but any device to any content is a must,” said Chambers.

•Cisco bet on the consumer market on the idea that creativity will emerge from social networking, technology and the consumer. “We moved into the consumer market because we thought a lot of what we would learn would go to business,” said Chambers.
•Apple’s iPad is a great business tool, said Chambers. He noted that Cisco “started the Cius before the iPad.” However, Cius will find a role by packaging telepresence, video and integrated communications, he said.

•Cisco will grow employee productivity 10 percent a year over the next decade due to cloud computing, networking and collaboration.

•CIOs need to put technology into business terms.

•IT budgets will grow dramatically over the next five years “if we translate technology into growing productivity and revenue streams.”

•Security and agility are the biggest challenges for cloud computing.

•Are there two customers who care about Cisco’s environmental performance? Wal-Mart and Duke Energy.

•Cisco “will sell anyway you want to buy,” quipped Chambers. He was referring to dealing with CEOs that want to invest for growth or cutting costs.

•On making servers, Cisco said the company “would have never entered the server business as a standalone.” But computing and networking are coming together “not just in the data center, but all the way to your home.”

•Chambers said the company’s UCS data center architecture is the first big change in two decades. Chambers said “we approached the incumbents about doing this, but they weren’t interested.”

•Security is front and center for CIOs. Chambers said security is the biggest risk to business.

•“There’s not a CEO or government leader in this world that won’t invest in new concepts that meet business needs,” said Chambers. “You have to put these technologies in business terms.”
Being slightyl lazy this morning, I just posted the whole piece, but the relevent bits stand out pretty well. The key points being, "Cisco will grow employee productivity 10 percent a year over the next decade due to cloud computing, networking and collaboration." and "Cisco bet on the consumer market on the idea that creativity will emerge from social networking, technology and the consumer".  That's noteworthy. Using 'social media' is more than just another way to extend your brand and viral marketing. It's developing creative platforms where real innovation can occur, cross cultural groups can collaborate, and productivity can be stimulated.

Is it easy? Of course not. It takes leadership, vision, and a willingness to push cultural change. It's a 'bet', a 'risk', sure. But it's a much better bet and risk that holding the course with old world mentality and culture. That's a world we're leaving behind.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Group Intelligence

This is interesting! Groups are smarter than individuals:

Group IQ
The new work is part of a growing body of research that focuses on understanding collective behavior and intelligence — an increasingly relevant topic of research in an age where everything from scientific progress to entrepreneurial success hinges on collaboration. Embedded in a century’s worth of Broadway shows, the interactions of online communities, or the path a ball travels between soccer players, researchers are finding hints about how individual people contribute to make a group creative and successful.
The interest is fueled in part by the Internet, which provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to join and leave groups, unbounded by geography. In the digital age, interactions between people are also creating a huge stream of data, giving scientists new ways to glean precise insights about how complex, aggregated behaviors arise. What they are finding is that groups, as entities, have characteristics that are more than just a summing up or averaging of those of its members.
“Intuitively, we still attribute too much to individuals and not enough to groups. Part of that may just be that it’s simpler; it’s simpler to say the success of a company depended on the CEO for good or bad, but in reality the success of a company depends on a whole lot more,” said Thomas W. Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and senior author of the recent study, published in the journal Science. “Essentially what’s happening as our society becomes more advanced and more developed is that more things are done by groups of people than by individuals. In a certain sense, our intuitions about how that works haven’t caught up with the reality of modern life.”
 Creating online communities for your organization can tap into this group IQ. I'll keep saying it! We have an enormous amount of untapped knowledge and intelligence within our regions and organizations. Lets start tapping into it! We can't afford not to.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Halo Effect

Great article outlining why fads in business strategies don't work.

The most basic problem that I identify is an example of what is known as the Halo Effect. When a company is doing well—when its revenues and profits are up, and its share price is strong—it’s natural to infer that the company has a good strategy, an effective leader, excellent customer focus, and a vibrant corporate culture. When that same company falters, it’s easy to say that the strategy was misguided, the leader became ineffective, the culture became complacent, and the customer was neglected.
In fact, very often the company did not change much at all. Rather, people made different attributions based on its changing performance. Unfortunately, so much that we read about companies—in the business press, case studies, and even large sample research studies—is based on data that are undermined by the Halo Effect. These studies appear to have described the factors that lead to high performance, but are more correctly understood as identifying the ways that high performing companies tend to be described.

Most companies and organizations understand at some level they need to change. But they go for quick fixes instead, and do not possess the courage and  will to institute the kind of change that will make the difference long term.
I would rather build a house than work with organizations and companies that do not have the courage and will to do what it takes to institute real change.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Macro Planning--Putting it Together

I am not sure I'll be able to connect all the dots for you here, but what I'd like to do is riff off this brilliant except from Herbert Simon's "Strategy and Organizational Evolution", courtesy of the top notch Farnam Street blog.

It's a longish post and well worth the read. Here's the bit I'd like to riff on:

Institutionalizing intelligence activities
How can a firm organize so that it will scan the horizons with sufficient vigor, identifying potential problems and potential opportunities? It is no accident that the eyes and ears are located on the surface of the body and not in its interior. Intelligence requires continual contact with the relevant environments, and in the case of business firms two of the most relevant and important environments are the end-use (customer) environment and the science and technology (research and development) environment. Other parts of the firm should not be excluded from the search for information, but these are perhaps the two most important in it.
The marketing function is not simply a function of selling and distributing products to customers. It is equally a function of acquiring, through contact with the end-use environment, information about the future of the firm's markets and of markets into which it might enter. Salesmen and sales engineers may play an important role in this intelligence activity, but only to the extent that it is an explicit part of their function, they are trained to do so and they are linked effectively in communication with top management, planning and design units. Specialized units may also provide various kinds of intelligence—products of customer polls, for example. I shall not attempt to describe in detail how one organizes intelligence about the end-use environment, but simply call attention to its importance.

This is a big part of what the three pillars approach is designed to do.
One-- is to create the culture for what Simon calls "institutionalizing intelligent activities".
Two--systems thinking is understanding that all the 'parts' of an organization cross function is a multitude of ways, and in a non-linear fashion.
Three--Organizational and personal learning is an autonomous incentive cycle that creates the organizational intelligence across all boundaries internal and external to the organization.
Four--Social media technologies are very well suited and evolving rapidly for a organization to fully embrace, utilize and extend it's internal and external intelligence.

Unlike a mechanical system approach to organizational behaviour, where the default mindset is everything has to be measurable to discern value, the living systems approach is process oriented where value is an emergent result of the process.
What we really need to remember here is all successful long term enterprises are based on relationships.
Relationships with your employees, relationships with your suppliers, relationships with your customers, and these all interconnect in ways that are increasingly unmeasurable. This is not something that is quantifiable through data.
When we really dig down, it is based on trust! 

To build and maintain trust and relations, any organization must have a culture and system in place to constantly develop and nurture that trust and those relationships. This is the very heart of the three pillars approach.

Extending this further, the days are increasing behind us where the organization, particularly publicly owned corporations, can be thinking of themselves as separate or above the larger socio-economic system. Enterprises that are going to last, and prosper in the rapidly changing environment of the future will noticeably be seen as part of the solutions to today's and tomorrow's challenges.
The internet and the social media technologies it has spawned will make it increasingly difficult to have a disconnect  between the values of the organization and the values of society at large.

Seeing the world from a living systems point of view means recognizing that we are all part of the larger system, and it's long term health depends on the quality of us and our organizational behaviour.

Winning organizations of the future will actively have a culture of macro planning with organizational intelligence where the long term health of the organization and that of the socio-economic environment on which it depends supersedes that of the short term incentives that most humans and organizations are prone to.
This is both a profitable and winning strategy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rich Social Media--Third Pillar (Pt Two)

I want to open this post by making a very key point: my strategy for 'social media' only makes sense in the broader context of it as part of my three pillars approach to an organizations operational process and functionality, and that the organization is viewed as a living system operating in an environment of other living systems.
For our purpose here, "living systems" is defined as any and all formal and informal forms of social organization. Economic activity is the result of all "living systems" and individuals pursuit of resources required to maintain life.

If we embrace the idea of systems thinking (how else, I'd ask, would we think of a world that is comprised of a complex networked web of systems??) as how we think of and look at our organization, and we embrace the idea that our organization should be and is a learning organization, then what the internet and social media give us is an amazingly vast set of ways and tools to be a highly adaptive and trusted organization in today's highly dynamic and ever changing world.

One of the most obvious uses is internal social networking. Your organization has an enormous amount of untapped information, knowledge and intelligence than your organization is currently using. A stratified organizational hierarchy is a real damper on motivation and the inherent talent within your organization. Internal social networking can flatten that. If management and executive are threatened by that--get over it. Either they are insecure, incompetent or both. If internal social networking sniffs these sorts of bureaucratic deadweights out, be grateful. They are doing nothing but sapping team spirit and your bottom line. Skilled, competent management and executives can and will use the extra resources to do their jobs better, more productively, more intelligently with greater confidence and decision success rate than before. This exists within your organization--unleash it.

Organizations themselves are inherently complex, nobody can know everything there is to know about it and it's functionality--including you. For that matter, odds are you have an ignorance about a lot about your organization.
A comprehensive list of the array of networking tools available is beyond the scope of this post, but it's quite likely they might exist already within your organization and are being under utilized.

Externally, the dynamics of networking increase exponentially. The list of examples of companies and organizations that have tapped into and connected with their customer base, supply webs, and the randomness of network connections is legion. Your organization may already be tapped into it.

Developing the full potential of your organization using techniques and tools enabled by the internet and social media take courage, vision, and a change of leadership style. In today's socio-economic climate, this isn't an idle choice, it's becoming a necessity.

Why? Because the environment in which your organization operates is morphing daily. To grasp it, it takes things like a distributed intelligence to better comprehend it. That intelligence lies both internally and externally to your organization. If you are developing strategic paths without at least an awareness of what that intelligence has to offer, you are missing pieces of the picture. You are flying blind into an increasingly complex future.

Leading organizations that want to be the winners of today and tomorrow understand this. 

Rich Social Media--Third Pillar (Pt One)

Let me start this right off by saying I am not an expert on social media. I barely exist on Facebook, I do not as yet have a Twitter account, I blog but only to a very small and intended audience.
And this is partially the point--I don't have to be. In today's operating environment, we can't be everything, know everything, do everything. We are continually being broken down into, or fragmented into two very broad categories--specialists and generalists. It will be of interest at some point that I draw many of my functional uses of those two terms from my many years in the home building industry--but this is for posts further down the road.
I am in the generalist category, a synthesizer of specialists, you might say.

Now, while there are many ways to effectively use social media for both personal and business use, in this post we want to look at it as part of a broad strategy of integrating it as part of a three pillars approach as an organizational operating system.

To start, if we are running an organization, we are thinking of it as a living system. A living system can be guided, but not controlled. As a living system, it consists of web of sub-systems. Very broadly, those are going to be employees, your supply webs or networks (supply chains is so last century!), your customers and/or constituents, if publicly owned, your shareholders and/or stakeholders, if publicly owned, the media and social media including analysts. Every organization will be slightly or very different, but you get the idea.
First thing we need to understand is these are already networked in ways that can't be mapped or understood. They are also networked in ways that can be mapped and somewhat understood. (Valdis Krebs for example, provides a service and software for social network analysis)
All these sub-systems are made up of individual actors, each with varying motives. Each individual actor now has the means to connect and communicate with any of the other actors. This also needs to be understood. 

To be clear, all these sub-systems that are part of the web that is your organization are networked in ways that can and cannot be mapped and understood.
This is important to realize. It's also part of why if we're running an organization we have to change our perceptions of control. We can guide, we can lead, we can not control.
If the sub-systems are connected in formal and informal ways, they exchange information and knowledge. This is both good and bad. You need to understand this. You also need to understand that it is unlikely that you know whether it's good or bad.
Ignore this dynamic at the peril of you and your organization. This dynamic exists whether you like it or not.

In the world that is now, this is both the good news and bad news. It's probably salient to point out now that in today's world it's best if you can hold those opposing points of view in your mind at once. This is part of systems thinking.

The dynamics that are the internet and the social media it enables are working both for and against your organization as we speak (so to speak). By now, I hope you realize you are not controlling that dynamic.
This said, it's not unlikely that your organization does have some kind of social media strategy. You may even have a social media guru of some sort in your employ. It's likely you have some kind of social media branding strategy.

What I want to do is develop a deeper understanding for you and your organization that there is much more to be gained via the internet and social media.

That is what we'll dig into in the next post (which, in blog style, will appear before this post. )

Rich Social Media--Context

If we are creating an operating program for organizations to be more adaptive to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century with the explicit goal to be a leading, winning organization of the 21st century, the question here is:
How does 'social media', or as I call it, "rich social media" play into my three pillars approach for creating such an operating program?

To fully understand the role that so called social media plays, we need a quick overview of the environment in which it operates.

All organizations, private or public, profit or not, operate in an environment and compete and/or cooperate for resources.
For much of the industrial era economy, this environment was relatively stable. Or, to be more accurate, the perception of the time was that it was stable. (a retrospective look would reveal it wasn't as stable as the perception.) The production of goods and services was mechanized, standardized, the input and output was measurable (or so it seemed), business cycles were long (the horizon was distant), management and organizational processes, systems, culture and psychology reflected the times in which it operated in.

With the advent of the computer and subsequently the 'knowledge economy' (or 'information economy'. these are subjective terms to try describe something that is broader, deeper than we can conceptualize, but serve the purpose of distinguishing the modern economy from that of the old industrial economy.) we have been leaving the mechanized industrial economy behind, and have entered an economy that is much more fluid, dynamic, non-linear, chaotic and unpredictable.
Operating in such an environment necessitates an entirely different mindset (mental model) and operating system, one that reflects biology and living systems. It is very important to understand this is not analogous or metaphorical. We are much more defined by living systems than we are mechanical systems.

Accepting this reality means giving up our idea of what is knowable, what is manageable, what is controllable along with the conventional wisdom of how to operate in an environment such as the one that exists now. We need to think more in terms of leading, rather than controlling, inspiring rather than constraining. 
In the industrial economy human capital was considered and treated as parts of a machine, and as a cost. While not strictly conceived of that way today, human capital is not considered with an open mind as to it's massive potential, a potential any organization needs to fully embrace to compete in today's operating environment.

For organizations to adapt, thrive, and remain relevant today, there are three main tenets that need to be understood and accepted:
One--life is comprised of countless interactions among living systems (enhanced by mechanical and socio-technological systems creating a web of systems that is unknowable. This is complexity.
Two--knowledge and information are what separates those that survive and those that do not.
Three--communication and media have forever been transformed by the internet.

These are pretty incontrovertible. If they are, you probably should not be reading this blog, you should close your browser, and move on. I can't help you in any way, shape or form. :) There are people and organizations that may live outside the bounds of those tenets, but they're also unlikely to be relevant in the future.

Accepting these, it becomes inherently logical for people and organizations:
One--to have a conceptual and operational understanding of living systems with a functional systems thinking mindset.
Two--to have a culture of organizational and personal learning to facilitate the acquisition and spread of knowledge and information.
Three--to have a conceptual and operational understanding of the nature and use of the internet and social media.

A tidy little overview like this makes it sound all so simple!! It isn't. Not at all. Why? That answer is simple--we're humans. As individuals, we're complex, and an aggregate and organized, we're even more so.
If this was easy, I'd have no prospects, and I'd be better off sticking to the sensible profession of home building.

Okay! We have a brief and I hope succinct bit of context here, in the next post I'll look at the concept of social media and the internet in more detail.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Social Networking

I've not addressed this aspect of my approach to organizational and personal adaptation to the change and challenges we're facing, and over the next few weeks I want to address this deeper.
For today, however, I want to post this quote:
 “If you don’t have a social strategy, you better go get one,”
That from here:

That in turn from this very encouraging post here at Andrew McAfee's blog. (Which is on my blog roll to the right)

Tag-Why Few Organizations Adopt Systems Thinking

Tidy little paper by Russel L. Ackoff on Why Few Organization Adopt Systems Thinking

Key points, one I touched upon below in my previous post:
--the cover your ass principle endemic in most organizations.
--systematic punishment of failure
--accounting practices and principles that cannot account for the value output of systems thinking
--very little inter-organizational communication...the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing
--jargon that makes sense to those learned in systems thinking but is incomprehensible to lay persons

Missed in the paper is the personal responsibility aspect, which, near as I can tell, most systems thinkers miss.

Hat tip for this piece goes to the LinkedIn discussion boards on Systems Thinking.

Coming from the ground up as I have, with no formal training or academic grade education, I perhaps have a more intuitive touch in getting people I talk to to grasp systems thinking. It's not that difficult. But! It takes time.
Adopting systems thinking is another matter. That is in large part to our culture of individualism, and not having a means of continuous education and practical application.
My goals for Transforming Organizations and Transforming People are to help address these shortcomings, but there are many boulders to roll up hill before I/we get to that point.

Living Systems--Feedback Cycles 202

Or, "Why We Can't Get Good Government or Business Practices"

My brother sent me a link yesterday for a news article George W. Bush calls Katrina photo a "huge mistake" .
There's several aspects to this story that I'd like to explore.
One, is in retrospect, Bush takes ownership over his handling of Katrina. In retrospect. In real time, during the crisis, we've evolved a system that makes that kind of ownership and responsibility either highly difficult or nigh on impossible.
The feedback loops of media and voters that vilify that kind of leadership. Instead, we get spin, and cover-our-butts type statements and actions.
Leading in politics and in business, in other words, in this world we've created, that we are a part of, becomes very difficult. We are part of the feedback loops that create this dynamic.

Two of the largest systems that have enormous effect on the general living systems that is general society--government and publicly traded companies--are governed by these feedback loops that are us.

It's easy to want to blame capitalism and/or government for the plights of society. Yet, who are the voters? Who shapes the media? Who are the people that have shares on publicly traded companies? Who is supporting all this? Oh, yeah, that would be us.

This is the tough part of systems thinking. Taking ownership, taking responsibility in our part of these systems. We may understand our ideological political beliefs (this is highly debatable, by the way) but we do not understand how government works, we may understand our own economic needs, but we do not understand how economies work.
We are the feedback loops. But understanding that takes responsibility, ownership, and a desire to improve on our ability to be part of a sustainable system.

Leadership and a real desire for sustainable change starts with you. Yeah, you. Yes, it's work. Yes, it means adapting new mental models as to how the world works. Yes it's grasping the very graspable concept of systems thinking and that we are all part of living systems and that we all play our roles in the feedback loops of these systems.

A former President is taking ownership of some of his roles. How about you?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why The Unconventional Consultant

I thought you'd never ask.

Unconventional, because the conventional is not going to be what we need to respond to the challenges we are facing.
Unconventional, because I only write in passing about the challenges we face, that I'd rather develop the process for understanding those challenges and responding together as people, as organizations.
Unconventional because my path to this point is unconventional. I have no degree beyond a high school diploma, I am completely self taught, self motivated, self driven, self directed because I feel we need to do better as a society, as people, as organizations.
Unconventional because I believe in humanity, I believe in market capitalism, but also believe we need to understand ourselves, our economic systems better if we're going to realize our potential, and the potential market capitalism has to transform the world.
Unconventional, because I want to promote and engage new theories and processes for how our organizations function. 
Unconventional because I believe we have the inner power and ability to transform the world.

Unconventional because I want to tap into the potential we have in all of us, to take you, to take organizations, to take society to the next level.

Escaping Gravity

It's not easy to admit we as people, and we as organizations are not up to the challenges we're going to be facing in the coming years and decades. In large part, because we are not hard wired to think in terms of the long term, the long horizon.
While as humans, we've been endowed with these big brains, we are for the most part driven by our millions of years of wiring--aka our "lizard brain". (Google "lizard brain" for hours of entertainment).

We are quite capable of responding to the challenges of the future, but we need the awareness and the motivation. We also need a more developed and advanced mental models and organizational theory to get there.

All this takes effort beyond our hard wired instincts for basic survival. We need to want to examine the consequences of our actions, we need to want to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
To get that ball rolling, we need to want to stand out from the herd. We need to want to take a stand for what is right not just for ourselves, not just for our family and immediate social networks, we need to want to take a stand for what is right for a global economic, social and environmental ecology.

Escaping that gravity isn't easy. But, if we open our eyes to the road we are on, and see that we are facing, and that we are responsible for what we are facing, and that we want to challenge ourselves to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, we can and will find the energy to escape the gravity of our past habits and mindsets.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

North America--The Next Generation

With the era of the credit economy coming to a close, it's time to think ahead. The race to the bottom is over, the chief beneficiaries  being China and India's ability to close the gap in economic output and increase of skilled labour.
While there is a lot of talk about China and India being the next economic engines--each country now has a 'middle class' that exceeds that of North America--both have a long ways to go before they establish the kind of trusted rules and legal frameworks that integrates them into a globalized economic network.

They will also compete on price for some time to come.

Companies based in North America have two basic choices:
--compete on price
--compete on value

If we want to be the leaders in creating a sustainable economy, an economy that  not only continues to be the economic engine of a global economy, but one that will be the model to follow, we need to re-think what we compete on, what kind of companies and corporations we want to transform towards, what kind of values we want to promote.

Anybody can compete on price, that's a loser's game. Competing on value takes courage, commitment and real leadership. That is where the winners of the emerging post credit economy will gravitate towards.
The next generation of North American enterprises will understand the bigger, long term picture, and recognize that sustainable business models can't rely on cutting costs, cutting human resources, can't rely on credit incentives to grow and thrive in the world we are heading towards.
Companies with true leadership, that adapt to the new paradigm of organization models, will be able to get employee buy in, consumer buy in, and perhaps most importantly, investor buy in.

For The Unconventional Consultant, that is where the sustainable future lies. A sustainable global economy, one that can meet the incredible array of challenges the future is bringing simply can not rely on the business and economic models that brought us to this point.

As a continent, we need to open our eyes, open our minds, and lead with our conscious to gain back all that was lost the last ten years, and once again become the model that all others what to emulate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Systems Thinking--The Big Picture

All people, all businesses, all social organization public or private operate in an ecology of systems. Social systems, mechanical systems, technological, economic systems, environmental systems, political systems--a incredibly complex web of systems.
Yet few people, few businesses, few organization have any kind of systematic approach to understanding this web of systems and more importantly, how it affects them, their future, their sustainability. Mostly, they want to know or hear just so stories that fit their vision of a future they want--which in itself is not a bad thing--but without a way of measuring or gauging that against a current reality, the person, the business, the organization begins to construct a 'reality' that often has damaging consequences.
The reasons for this can and do fill books, but at the root of the problem is either not having a systematic way of constructing and measuring the vision against the current reality, or as often the case, having the analytical capabilities but having personality driven management that over-rides the nature of the current reality.

This is called gambling. During a roll, executives, management, CEOs, etc can get away with this kind of ignoring of the reality, but eventually it comes home to roost. The 'house'--that is, the "marker of current reality"--almost always wins.
This was seen in mass with the global economic meltdown where Wall St. and eventually much of the industrialized world bought into the economics of cheap credit leading to a world economy based more on speculation rather than sound economic principles and value created products and services. Worse yet, solid companies that did have solid fundamentals were getting left behind by 'investors' (that is, speculators) because their earnings were not meeting the expectations of the market speculators.
This naturally all came to a crashing end in September of 2008.

The American economy and the global economy as a whole are going to take a long time to recover from that 15 year credit bubble run that many still refer to as a "bull run".
The savings and home investments of so many of the consumers were wiped out or left thread bare, that any kind of consumer driven recovery is going to be a long ways off.

North America--I am after all Canadian!-- has all the talent, all the abilities, all the creativity and innovation it needs to once again play the leadership role of being the economic engine and generator of the global economy.
Whether this can be repeated using the same outdated economic and organizational theories and practices is what remains to be seen.
Understanding why an organization would want to adapt the newer organizational models based on the principles of living systems and biology over those based on the old principles of mechanical systems means understanding the complexities of the current realities of the 21 century economy.

Understandably, that isn't easy. Yet organizations of virtually any size could benefit from having a deeper, broader, more realistic understanding of current economic conditions, but more importantly, the larger trends that are going to be shaping the nature of the economy as it continues to evolve. Organizations of any size can benefit from understanding and adapting the scientific developments that give us a much better understanding of human behaviour, and how that behaviour affects and shapes organization culture.
Increasingly, it will be the nature of organization culture that will make the winning difference.

 Organizations that adopt a systems thinking point of view and mindset, organizations that encourage learning as both an organization and that of it's personal level, organizations that develop an understanding of the use and potential of tools and networks of social media are going to by their very nature have a broader, deeper understanding of their operating environment.
They will have the flexibility and motivated talent pool to adapt to the myriad challenges and complexities of the modern economy.
They will have deeper and broader connections not just within the organizational culture, but extended well beyond to that of it's customer base, it's suppliers, and that of the world opinion.
They will have access to knowledge and information from more sources than ever before, and the organizational culture that can process and harness that knowledge and information for their good, and for the good of society.
They will also have the transparency that will foster the kind of trust organizations will want in a world where social media can spread rumours, and truth, about your organization in a matter of minutes.

These are going to be the kinds of organizations that are the leaders and winners in the ever changing, ever evolving modern economy and social norms. 

Old styles organizational models and mindsets will not be able to keep up in that world.

News Flash--Downsizing Isn't Necessily Effective

I picked this paper up via the website of the firm Right Management the paper itself produced by SHRM Foundation

Employment Downsizing and Its Alternatives

"Studies have tracked the performances  of downsizing firms verses nondownsizing firms for as long as nine years after the event. The findings: As a group, the downsizers never outperform the nondownsizers."

This underscores my belief and philosophy that most firms and organizations have the talent already within that they need to excel. They just do not quite how to find and develop that talent.
Maybe they do not have the right incentives and motivations in place to draw that talent out.
Any organization that employed my three pillars approach would develop the culture and process to draw that talent out, and enable that talent to excel and grow the organization with it.

During tough economic times, there exists enormous opportunity to reorganize, and adapt the kinds of organizational models based the new theories of biological systems, as opposed to the old theories of mechanical systems.
We are on the leading wave of a paradigm shift, and it is up to you to decide where your organization is on riding that wave.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Systems Thinking-Point

I'm reading through Farnam Street  past articles, when I come across this piece, interviewing Risky Business: James Bagian—NASA astronaut turned patient safety expert—on Being Wrong .

What catches my attention is the opening question and his answer:
How does the healthcare industry compare to engineering and aeronautics when it comes to dealing with human error?
Not favorably. Much of my background is in what's called high-reliability industries—the ones that operate under conditions of high hazard yet seldom have a bad event—and people in those fields tend to have a systems perspective. We're not terribly interested in what some individual did. We want to know what led up to a bad event and what changes we need to make to reduce the likelihood of that event ever happening again.
When I got into healthcare, I felt like I'd stepped into an entirely different world. It was all about, "Let's figure out who screwed up and blame them and punish them and explain to them why they're stupid." To me, it's almost like whistling past the grave. When we demonize the person associated with a bad event, it makes us feel better. It's like saying, "We're not stupid so it won't happen to us." Whereas in fact it could happen to us tomorrow.

The key point here of course is "systems perspective". Systems perspective doesn't look to blame the individual. People can not work to their full potential if they're worried about mistakes, and being the scape goat. It fosters a poison culture.
Systems perspective is about improvement, not blame. It's a process that will over time produce better, more consistent results. Talent prospers in such a system.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Purpose and Drive=Opportunity

I have spoken a lot about opportunity here. Opportunity for organizations, opportunity for people, opportunity for you.
Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About Motivates Us compiles impressive evidence that beyond a certain measure, it is not money that motivates us. What does motivate and drive us, is a sense of purpose, a sense of mastering something, a sense of autonomy in how we approach our work and lives.

Where then, is the opportunity?

With new philosophies for organization based on living systems, instead of the outdated philosophies based on mechanical systems. With an ever broadening of scientific understanding of how we function as individuals, and as groups and organizations. With new tools for communicating and collaboration. With new mediums for connecting people and ideas--all coupled with an economy that is based more on knowledge than on physical objects* in a recessionary economic environment presents enormous opportunity for individuals and organizations alike to transform themselves.
There is opportunity for harnessing the full potential of an organizational workforce like never before. There is opportunity for harnessing the loyalty of customers like never before. Opportunity for harnessing both of those forces into innovative new products and services. For increasing productivity, while finding cost savings. There is opportunity for creating the kind of sustainable organizations and business practices that can build the kind of sustainable communities and cities which we'll need to cope with the mega trends of the 21st century.

Organizations that take the lead in being the kinds of public and private enterprises that society will need to cope with these mega trends can harness that sense of purpose as vision for themselves, and for the people that make up the organization.
Organizations that take the lead in adapting the new philosophies and practices of living systems during periods of stagnant economic conditions--think of this as re-tooling--can not only find business opportunity that others may be blinded to, but can also hit the ground running as economic conditions improve. Great organizations will be the ones that lead society from out of the muck of the economic crash.

With fresher organizational mindsets and culture, all manners of public and private enterprise can re-invent themselves and become the dynamos that lead not only their respective industries, but also set the new standards for all business practices.
These will be the kinds of organizations that attract not just the top talent out there, but better still get more out of the talent they have.

The almost unlimited array of opportunities that exist today lie well outside the means of a simple blogpost, and, of course, of the singular mind of a consultant writing a blog.  The opportunities will not likely fall from the sky. There will be more than a few organizations that are already positioned, and those that find opportunity by luck. For almost every other organization, they'll have to re-invent and find it for themselves.
And that will take open mindedness, diverse collaboration, with cultural change and broad organizational buy in.
It will be hard work.

Tom Peters, with his seminal work Thriving on Chaos (1987) and Peter Senge with his seminal work The Fifth Discipline (1990) laid the direction and groundwork for creating these kinds of organizations. The theory and practice is not that new. Yet the standard mechanical model of hierarchy, structure and control, and our seemingly affinity for the comfort it provides is still the dominant paradigm that resists the kind of change needed to take advantage of benefits those kinds of organizational models bring with them.
Breaking free of the bonds of outdated organizational models and mindsets isn't easy. But the path is not a jungle, the theories are not fads.

We have to not only want to take the lead of our own organizations, but also open our minds to how these kinds of models can lead the way for a broader, healthier, sustainable economic society that can cope with the challenges, the change and the complexity. And harness the myriad opportunities.

We all win if we do.

* Even if making physical objects is the backbone of your business, it is the intrinsic knowledge around the making, manufacturing, and marketing of that product that makes the difference. As I say in my talks, anybody can make a widget these days, it is the value and knowledge of your work force that is the competitive advantage.

The Medium is Not The Message

I am reading through Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood's SuperConnect: Harnessing The Power of Networks and The Strength of Weak Ties, specifically right now, the chapter "Cyberspace--Brave New World".
The authors are exploring where the internet--cyberspace--fits in with shaping who and what we are, with an additional perspective of how this is changing are ability to connect via 'hubs'. After all, language and the ability to communicate have been shaping who we are as groups and individuals for 50,000 years, give or take. The difference, the authors are saying, is not in an increased ability to communicate messages, rather an increased ability to connect.
This is interesting to me on numerous levels. Many of the points of their book are not new, not novel, or earth shattering for those that have followed the whole 'internet phenomenon' over the last 15-20 years. One point of the Cyberspace chapter being that the internet is not another communication medium, but rather another dimension of existing forms of communication. The other, is that online relations cannot supplant those of face-to-face relations.
I don't overly disagree with either point. They argue that cyberspace can be as much about escapism than it is about exploring new knowledge, new connections. Again, I agree.
The world online does not have the rich texture of life in our physical world, nor does it have the rich degree of social cues necessary for connected relationships. However, these are not black and white, either one or the other options.
What the authors, and myself, are getting at, is how well we blend the two worlds is where the greatest gains are going to be had.

Without reviewing the entire book, I do want to use these points as a jumping off point to perhaps something more subtle that I continually want to bring closer to the surface.

My purpose as a consultant is to increase the abilities to adapt and thrive in these ever changing conditions of the 21st century for you and the organizations of which you are reliant upon . That means being not only being able to make us better aware of our environment, it means not only being able to shape our environment, it means being aware of and shaping our environment in a sustainable way.

The internet or cyberspace is another layer of complexity over an already existing environment. It can make us passive (escapism) or active (growth), both perhaps in the same moment. We can broadcast messages, we can receive messages. We can connect those messages.

We can do this in a manner and to a degree that is unprecedented in human history. In 1964, communication theorist Marshal McLuhan famously remarked, "the medium is the message". He was speaking in a time of the rise of television, and commenting that the medium--TV--was the "message". That is, it is the ability to mass broadcast messages that is the message, rather than being what message said.
The question than is, is the internet just an extension of that? Is the medium the message? Is it more important that you and I can broadcast messages rather than what message we broadcast?
The answer is maybe. The answer should be; "Yes, it does matter."

The point I continually try to raise, to bring awareness to, is that we are the medium, we are the message. We have the tools to both extend and increase our knowledge of our environment, of our social systems, and share that knowledge in ways that makes us better people, makes our organizations better at what they do and better to be associated with and to work within.
That power, that ability lies within each and every one of us. But we have to take leadership, we have to take ownership and responsibility of that power.

It is that ability to take the lead, to learn to share what we have to give, learn to grow from what is being given back that can shape a prosperous economic and social environment where more people 'win'.
We are that medium, we are that message.

Monday, October 4, 2010

More Evidence

Every day, the blogosphere increases it's distributed information and knowledge. On any given day I can find or stumble upon high value knowledge that in my case offers more evidence to support what I want to do to help transform your organization for the better.
Today was another case in point. I started by reading Peter Miller's "The Smart Swarm", which lead me to becoming aware of the U.S. intelligence community's "Intellipedia", a Google search in turn lead me to Radar O'Reilly's technology site, from which a blog post there lead me to this terrific post by Andrew McAfee's blogpost called Enterprise 2.0 Is a Crock: Discuss.

McAfee is responding to a piece by Dennis Howlett titled Enterprise 2.0 What a Crock.

Howlett raises what I often talk about here, but what also is a false dichotomy: the self organizing nature of social media and Web 2.0 tools are a threat to the existing hierarchy and bureaucratic order of organizations. They can  be, yes. That is a long ways away from them having to be. Howlett also raises another excellent point: companies and 'corporate America' are far more engaged with trying to deal with the worst recession since the great depression. Engaging with new social media tools may not be high on their to do lists.
That is a point. But it is also a point one would expect from the old guard.
He also misses that it was a lot of the old guard mentality, lack of foresight, lack of social intelligence and greed for short term gains over that of long term organizational and society health that brought on the worse recession since that 1930's.

It was herd mentality the lead America and many others over that cliff. Your organization could have separated itself from that herd. Your organization, your corporation can still separate itself from that herd.

Howlett is wailing the loser's cry. Leaders and winners look ahead, look for the new tools, the new science that can take them there, and forge the paths America and the world needs to create the kind of sustainable future where society benefits, and private and public organizations benefit.

Read the entire posts by both Howlett and McAfee. One is progressive and forward looking, the other rooted in an increasingly outmoded mentality, one more concerned with accounting principles than that of forging better bonds between the producer and consumer.

Howlett does not offer up any argument against being better connected, better informed, better decisions, whereas McAfee does offer up more evidence supporting that being better informed, better connected can lead to better decisions.
How well your organization can do that depends on the culture that can be fostered to harness the knowledge and human capital within.

Better Informed, Better Connected, Better Decisions 202

I'm reading through Peter Miller's The Smart Swarm : How Understanding Flocks, Schools and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done and was pleasantly surprised to read that the U.S. intelligence community has for four years used it's own Intellipedia!
Why? Intelligence is essentially about gathering information. What Miller does so well in his book, is look at how things like bee colonies, termite mounds, and ants produce complex behaviour with simple rules. Rules that can and do work for our complex societies and organizations. The basic principles are: Seek a diversity of knowledge; Encourage a friendly competition of ideas; Use effective mechanisms to narrow your choices.
What the intelligence community in the U.S. found in the wiki software format was a way to get closer to those principles.
What we also see here is another layer to what a process such as my three pillar approach of "systems thinking"; "organizational and personal learning" and "rich social media networks" can bring to your organization--being better informed, be better connected, making better decisions.

What is remarkable here is this is the intelligence community, which is traditionally notorious for being secretive, hoarding of information and not sharing, started it's own wiki site to do just that--share information voluntarily across a highly distributed network. Yes, it is going through the natural struggles of escaping the gravitational pull of the old guard culture.On his site on " Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies"  Alex Howard at Radar O'Reilly does a great job in a blog post Connecting the dots with intellipedia of gathering several insights and opinions about how well this is working, along with the challenges.

What does this mean for your organization? This is yet another example of how a very complex organization with a deep rooted culture is extending itself to broad benefits of the tools of Web 2.0, and doing so so they can be "better informed, better connected, better decisions".

Check out the Daniel Pink youtube link in the post that precedes this one. There are very likely people within your organization that perhaps already have the motivation to increase your organizational intelligence through the vast array of Web2.0 tools, creating a "rich social media network" that can be a vital source of innovation and knowledge sharing that will boost your organizational performance. This already exists within your organization. The question is do you have the leadership within to tap into this vast resource of knowledge and talent that lies dormant within?

"What Motivates Us"

I highly recommend checking this RSA Animate, from Daniel Pink's "Drive" and posted on youtube.

The surprising truth on what motivates us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The New Science of Organization.

I say "new science" in the headline to draw attention, but really the theory behind the science isn't that new,  more and more studies are backing up the theory. What the studies and the science continually show is a growing gap between our perceptional "reality" and the "reality" of how people and organizations function. With that reality lies enormous opportunity for growth, efficiencies, innovation and healthier organizations. This means improvement in the bottom line. Better productivity, cost savings, and taking a decisive lead in the market place.

Two recent books bring this science closer to the surface. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, and The Smart Swarm by Peter Miller cover different but overlapping topics.
Of the two, "Drive" gets more to the specifics--what motivates us--while "The Smart Swarm" by it's very nature covers the generalities social intelligence.

While two very different books, both give plenty of direction for how we can think and act differently as organizations.
With "The Smart Swarm", we get better acquainted with the pros and cons of the herd mentality I have written about here often before. There are times where following the herd is the smart thing to do, investing being one example. The trick being is having enough understanding of where that herd is leading, what it is that is protective or smart about it, and when to leave the pack and follow your own path.
Within your own organization, you can harness your own swarm, your own herd with it's own group intelligence to make better decisions on where your organization fits into the larger market conditions.
The other trick is for managerial actors to let go of ego so they can harness the intelligence within their team.

"Drive" helps us get there. The one main take away from Daniel Pink's work is that after a certain level, money is not what motivates us. A deeper sense of purpose is what really engages our abilities, creativity and desire to excel. That purpose can be with the organizations in which we work, that can be your organization.

What these two books also underscore again, is the need for fostering the right culture to let our 'drive', our 'swarm intelligence' flourish to the point where it's getting more out of the latent talent and abilities the lie within all organizations and within society itself.

The science and studies are there and growing. The question that also grows is does your organization have enough leadership within it to harness it's 'drive' and 'swarm intelligence'?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking For Leaders

Rethinking organizations, re-inventing organizations, rejuvenating organizations is hard.  Stagnation is a natural order of life. Once it's gone through the high growth phase, and ossifies towards bureaucratic stagnation, finding the innovation often needed to keep a organization vital gets close to impossible. Instead of existing to produce innovative new products and services--the lifeblood that often launches a company or organization to begin with--it exists to maintain what it already has, and becomes unable to see what it needs. Management begins to exist to maintain the life of management, rather than overall health of the organization itself.
The talk, the desire, the need can all be around growth, innovative new product lines, services, but the psychology, the mindset of the organization actually fights to stifle that very need.
Status quo. Protecting turf within an organization. Ego. Fear of change (one of the most natural tendencies of human groups, aka herd mentality). The simple, very natural desire for order (also very natural). If you are a publicly traded company, the incentives of meeting quarterly numbers trumps the incentive of chartering long term strategic growth, innovation, the often tough adaptation to changing market and economic operating environments.

What can be one simple step for any organization to escape the gravity of status quo, bureaucratic stagnation? Look for leaders within. Look for revolutionaries. Develop a culture where pockets of change can take root.
Your organization is a living system. Every living system needs new growth to maintain its long term viability. In a forest, forest fires do this job. In oceans, tides and ocean currents do this job. It is the edge of chaos. This is where real innovation, real change, real adaptation to change happens.
In human organization, markets are the forest fires, the tides and ocean currents. Or revolutionary leaders and visionaries that already exist within your organization.

Every organization should be looking for leaders, for revolutionaries within. Those outside the status quo, those with something to say, an idea, a sense purpose that is outside the status quo, outside the the inner circles of management. Those are people that an organization wants to create an environment where that kind of spirit can take root. Not all, not many will flourish. All it takes is a few however. Along with a culture that can run with the ideas, the innovation these revolutionaries create.

All the tools that enables social media to flourish on the internet, those tools exist for your company, your corporation, your organization. Those tools, that technology likely already exists within your organization, the organization you work for. The question is is it being used to find the leaders that can spawn the ideas for new products, new services that can keep your organization with the vitality that can help it thrive through all the change the future is sure to bring.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Great Presentation

For those that do follow along here, my inaugural presentation went very well, despite my not closing out as well as I had rehearsed.
The over all experience was better than I had expected, there was a great turn out with the room packed, and my main points were well received.
What I didn't do was do a very good job of directing the energy I created that night into a more specific direction. I left it too unclear as to what people there were to do next.

This is partly the nature of starting something from scratch, we have no "there" yet for people to plug in to.

Still, there is the genesis of some pretty special people to get this going, so all in all I'm pretty happy with the outcome of the presentation.
Next one will be Thursday, November 4th, the Weldwood room, fourth floor, at YWCA, 535 Hornby.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Better Informed, Better Connected, Better Decisions

As I prepare for the presentation I am giving on Thursday the 16th (four days away!), I have been reviewing a lot of the relevant material on organizational and management theory, and the science underlying it. I also find myself trying to find a better short hand synopsis as to "what is it all about?".
While there is a lot to the process I developed and want to continue to develop, the 'output', so to speak, is people and organizations will have a trustworthy process to be "better informed, better connected, making better decisions" as they proceed along the paths of being leaders and winners in this rapidly evolving social-economic environment in which we want to thrive.

One reason I feel confident in the ability to say my process (and myself along with it) can help any person or any organization adapt and thrive, is I am very hard pressed to think of any person or any organization that cannot benefit from being better informed and better connected so as to make better decisions.
The key, however, is in the process.
Not all information is useful. Not all networks or 'connectedness' brings the same value.

It is the dedication, the "buy in" to a process of my "three pillars" approach of 1) a systems thinking point of view, 2) personal and organizational learning, and 3), connecting the people, ideas, intelligence, diversity of views (that diversity is a major key) in a rich social media networked environment as a systematic process to gaining the knowledge from the information, having that knowledge 'survive' an ecology of opinion, insight, experience, etc, and connecting that to the right group that can turn knowledge into action.

Why a process? We all have our blind spots, we all have confirmation bias, as groups we can suffer from group think, our egos and political agendas can all get in the way of making better decisions. Systems thinking along with personal and organizational learning is a means to overcome these kinds of decision making detriments.

Any person or organization can use this process to enhance and further their own goals. This in itself is powerful, but if we also do this with a systems thinking perspective where the overall sustainability of the larger systems in which we operate is enhanced as well, then we all win.

Connecting as many people and organizations as we can, in an ecological network of a common philosophy around a trusted process has tremendous potential to deepen relationships across many boundaries, more importantly, is the kind of creativity, innovation, and re-invigorated personal investment in ourselves and our organizations that can make a vital difference to the quality of life of any community, city, or region.

In very short, what we are developing is an ever deepening process of connecting the rich, under-tapped 'vein' of talent, skills, ideas, and qualities in people out there to the organizations that can make them a productive force in society. These under tapped people can be within an organization, or outside, they can be their customers, or their management. That person could be you.

I will say this time and again, the quality of our future life is directly dependent on the quality of our people and our organizations. To tap into those latent qualities is dependent to a large degree on the quality of the process.

This is the kind of sustainability that we can all grow with.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Why 150?

I've written in the past here as wanting to set off "150 light bulbs" in people's minds, and a "tribe" with a 150 people in it.
It's not a random number, as you possibly may have guessed. It is based upon Dunbar's number or what is sometimes called the '150 rule'.
It is an approximate number of the limit of people one can have "stable social relations" with. Malcom Gladwell wrote about it as well in his book, The Tipping Point.

Groups larger than 150 begin to need different rules of organization and laws to remain cohesive.

It's mildly noteworthy as well that the 150 rule also comes up in Stephen Wolfram's cellular automaton. Maybe much like fractals play a larger than understood role in the development of life, so does the '150' rule.

On a quiet week on the blogging front, I thought you might like to know where the 150 number came from!

This piece from Mind Sport is excellent at explaining why the 150 rule is important to organizational size,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sustainability 101

Sustainability is a term of growing ubiquity and importance, and for good reason. If we don't continue to find new ways to create sustainability, business loses, people lose, society loses.

How we think of sustainability becomes all the more important with each passing year. Thinking of sustainability from a systems thinking point of view, is more critical yet.

Sustainability from a systems POV takes into account not just the sustainable practices of the various actors and components of a social-economic system, but how well these practices sustain the system as a whole.

Our food chain is vulnerable, and while technology and practices have kept pace to keep much of the industrial countries supplied, we will have to continue to ask the questions of "at what cost?".
It requires enormous amounts of energy, water and chemicals to grow the foods here in North America that keep us fed, plus the amazing varieties of food stuffs we import.
But are these practices sustainable?

Fertilizers that are part of a process of that artificially enriches the soil, but the run off can deaden the water of oxygen, leaving fish stocks depleted. Where we gain in land productivity, we give away in water productivity.

As consumers either of the food we cook for ourselves, or from the restaurants we frequent, sustainable choices are going to get tougher and more critical. Likewise from the organizational side from our suppliers, grocers, and restaurants suppliers.
As systems be-ers, we will all need to think of our roles in the food supply chain, plus the many many other ways our buying habits affect the environment, and diversity of sources that makes our life style possible. We all need to, from people, from organizations, from government, to take the lead in understanding the systematic nature of our daily resources.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Geo-Politics--Order over Chaos

I do need to add this as part of the post that follows below.
Politics and their organizations bear specific scrutiny and understanding in the Big Scheme of Things.

Politics is the ideological force of order imposed over chaos. This is not a judgment, but rather a statement. It isn't inherently good or bad. It is a form of social organization that evolved to adapt the state to ever growing populations, democracy being the latest adaptive trait.

Understanding this in the context of society, for creating the operating environment of human economic and social activity, we need to broaden our own perspectives and that of our organizations perspectives. Saying politics matters is like saying oxygen matters.
It is understanding the dynamics between political will and economic activity where fruitful innovation can happen, and within that, it is understanding what political oversight and economic activity are trying to accomplish. That can be simply put as creating a sustainable environment for human survival and personal growth.

The interplay between all political bodies from regions, within countries, within geo-political regions, etcetera, can either create pockets and environments of enormous creativity, productivity, and desirable lifestyles, or it can cripple and retard these.
Ego and often out-moded ideologies are very often behind the crippling affects.
Political organizations more than any other type of organization need to re-think how their ideology can play a role in creating the future that is inclusive and sustainable for the kind of world we are heading towards.

What Are We Adapting To?

It's the Journey, Not the Destination--The Destination is Gone By the Time You Get There

We're going to tie together a few themes in this post.

My life's work, my mission in life, is to make people, organizations, regions, more adaptive to what is inevitable change. My mantra is, that the industrialized organizational models and management theory is no longer applicable--for that matter, it hasn't been for thirty years at least--and that if we the people, the organizations, the regions and on up are going to be more adaptive, we need different organizational models and theory.
These models and theory are what my consulting practice and Transforming projects are based upon, it is what I write about extensively here.

By "destination" in the subtitle, I mean we cannot predict to future. What we can do, is as people and organizations, is develop and follow a process and system for being much more flexible and able to adapt to whatever might come our way in the future. That is what is meant by "it is the journey, not the destination".

Way back in the mid-1990's, as I was searching for my own future, what I felt I needed to understand if I wanted to be aware of what would shape that future, I needed to keep up with six 'forces'.
They are:
       --market economies, capitalism, the cultural hybrids of the two that countries adapt to their culture, the macro and micro features and theories and observations. Rooted in biological drive to accumulate and trade scarce resources.  Take away features--These are living systems. Inherently unpredictable. Evolve with no central control or authority guiding it.
       --To say that our religions and beliefs have an enormous impact on culture and society would be an understatement. Take away features--defines our humanity in many ways. Driving cultural force. Must be respected. Belief trumps intellect in personal guidance.
       --Globalization should be, needs to be understood as a very long term trend. Homo sapien has been 'globalizing' the world for some 60,000 years, give out take. Take a brain that can plan, couple it with an instinctive drive to find and accumulate 'scarce' resources, add culture and technology, and we get globalization. Take away features--Biologically and culturally driven. Technology and social media enhanced, globalization is gaining more momentum.
        --Technology also needs to be understood in a historical perspective. We have been making tools for a million years, with the implicit purpose of shaping our environment, enhancing our adaptive traits. As noted, our big brains, and evolved ability to transmit knowledge via culture, has turbo-charged technology. The industrial revolution marked the beginning of a very steep trajectory of this curve. Take away features--Evolving at a pace that out-paces culture. That cycle is shrinking. Shapes our environment like nothing else.
--The Environment
       --The ecology of life that supports human activity. Also includes natural resources that the earth produced. Take away features--Life is indestructible. The ecology of life that supports human activity does have limits. Has a history of collapsing, six that we know of. Regenerates over hundreds of millions of years. A living system.
--The Internet
       --Yes, this could be categorized differently. I included it as the six force because it does change everything. The genesis of the information revolution pre-dated the internet. But this is how we need to think of this--life is information (RNA, DNA), life grows and evolves through the transmission of information. The internet can transmit and socialize information like no medium, no technology ever before in human history. The internet is cultural biology. It is defining our future. Take away features--Highly distributed. Highly networked. No central control. Global in reach. Growing connectivity at an unimaginable pace and matrix.

These six forces all have an historical quality that are not changing vectors any time soon. They, in a very dynamic, very organic, living system kind of way, shape our future in ways we cannot even think of controlling. Planning for a future with the pace of change these forces are driving is not recommendable. For people and organizations to remain relevant, to be able to adapt, the mechanized organizational models developed for the industrial revolution are archaically inadequate.

As people, as organizations, as regions, we need to be cognizant of the forces that shape our world, yet find ways to adapt ourselves to thrive in what comes.
A systems thinking mindset or mental models, organizations that learn, and the social networking of our knowledge and abilities is a process and system that give us, our organizations, our regions an optimal way to adapt. It's that journey creates the value and profits needed to survive.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Specific--Fine Grains

Large grain, and fine grain, and the variation in between are terms I can't remember exactly where I picked them up, but they describe how closely or how broad a perspective we are taking.

With this post, I'll begin referring to specifics with some commentary.

In my research travels today, my brother sent me a link to a piece from The Vancouver Sun  giving a nuts and bolts look at Vancouver's high property prices and some implications for the future of our intellectual capital.

Here is the bit that most grabbed my attention:
"High housing costs have a great way of killing innovation and creativity. Can the next Facebook or the next Apple computer really come from Vancouver if you’re too busy trying to pay the rent?”
The upshot, he says, is that Vancouver is increasingly seen by the young as a nice place to hang out for a couple of years, but not a place to settle down.
“That’s serious. You’ve got to think about what’s down the road. They’re not going to be here to support us, to pay for our social infrastructure and all of that.”
 How much this is happening to creative young talent is hard to say, but given Vancouver's epically high housing costs, it is something we need to have on our radar. We need to attract and keep all the innovative and creative talent we can.

The second piece that caught my attention today was a opinion piece by Jock Finlayson (executive vice-president of policy at the Business Council of B.C.),  Ineffective Planning in Metro Vancouver, this coming from the BCBusiness magazine.

The economic section of the draft plan is preoccupied with agriculture and ignores the many other industries that drive Metro’s economy and support 1.25 million regional jobs. Scarcely a word is devoted to manufacturing, advanced technology, tourism, the port or the film and digital media sectors. Readers could easily be left with the impression that farming is the dominant industry in Greater Vancouver, which is far from the case.

Metro Vancouver’s army of planners and their largely disengaged political overseers have a habit of steering clear of issues such as competitiveness, the region’s connections to external markets and the impact of public policies on industry structure, job opportunities, business location and investment decisions.

 Whatever your political leanings, a document, no matter how well meaning, purporting to plan for the year 2040, is folly from a systems thinking point of view. It's not just that the document is flawed--the quoted paragraphs illustrate that well enough--the premise itself is highly flawed.

We can have a vision of what we would like the city to look like, what key areas of livability we can work towards, we can have design parameters, we can have a process to get there, but having too rigid a plan this far in advance of a future we can only vaguely imagine is ill-conceived.
We need far more flexibility, distributed inputs and feedback loops to grow with the kind of dynamic adaptability than a static plan can offer.

Big Picture--Your Edition

The innovative and productive dynamics that are waiting to be harnessed with the concept I am developing really start to take hold and grow exponentially when you understand that social networks involve people.

Here is what I know about you, and organizations in general. You have skills, talents, interests, social skills, I could go on and on, that society needs, that your organization could use, that are lying there under valued. You likely have skills we could use that you can't even imagine there is a use for!
But I know they are there. I've found them in pretty much everybody I talk to.

You just have to want to take the lead in wanting to both develop your skills, your passions, your interests, and then sharing them. If it is with the networks I am developing, my 'tribes' of transforming organizations and people, you'll not just learn how you matter to how we all grow and benefit, you will experience just how satisfying that can be to your self and your soul.

I cannot emphasize this enough. We need you because will all benefit in some way big or small with you being part of this. You have a lot to give, and a lot to gain back once you participate, once you experience the positive energy, you'll grow personally like you never thought possible.

All it takes is sharing and developing what I know lies within you, and wanting to be part of something cool, something bigger than yourself, something that can and will benefit society as a whole.
With that, you will be better able to adapt, and thrive in coming years ahead. You will have an outlet for your talents, your interests, your passions. You may discover paths for yourself that you either gave up on, or didn't think existed. You win, society wins, well all gain.
And the Vancouver region is the better for it.

Big Picture--Vancouver Edition

We're going to try cover a lot of ground here this morning, so you might want to grab a coffee.

This post can also be sub-titled, "The Everybody Complains About the Weather, But Nobody Does Anything About It Edition".

First, a quick synopsis covering what motivates me, and what I'd like to think would motivate everyone on this planet. 
By the year 2050, it is projected that our planet will be required to support nine billion people. That is a little less than three billion more people than we already have.
You do not have to do much research to see that humanity and the resources that make our life style possible are already under increasing strain, adding three billion more will create further challenges.
Change, instability, rapid evolution of technologies and social trends, and political systems unable, to slow to cope are going to be the defining features now and the future.  The more we understand this, the better.

Now, lets look at a key word I used there--"projected". One thing to understand about chaotic systems is that we can not predict with any certainty the outcome in the years ahead. We can only project. Like the weather. The weather we get today is the product of chaotic systems and inherently unpredictable. There are boundaries that make predictions reasonable within a span of a few days, and general predictions within months (those are as much based on seasonal patterns than any real predictive abilities, however). But long term predictions of weather, or lets introduce a term we'll get used to here, climate change, is inherently unpredictable.
Just as a quick aside on 'climate change' here, I am not a climate change denier, but my approach to climate change comes from my understanding of chaotic systems. We cannot manage climate change. Cutting our carbon foot print is a great idea. It makes great sense from angles other than that of trying to 'halt' climate change. It's a path we should take anyways simply from the responsibility of a systems being point of view.
But from a trying to affect climate change, it's not a reasonable proposition. I say this now, in that I will always take great pains not to politicize chaotic systems. That my friends is the road to fanaticism.

While climate change is one thing humanity will have to adapt to as it happens--and we can do our part!--what we can have much more effect upon is our social systems.

Here is a question I like to ask: Hands up who thinks we can not do better as a society, as organizations, and as people?
This actually is a trick question. Studies show that we have a tendency to think we're doing enough, we're doing our part, but it's the other people that aren't. That is a trick our minds play on us. The reality is different.

The reality is we can all do better, the reality is we all have to do better. What we are all doing right now is not good enough.

The question people can then reasonably ask then is, how?

The answer largely lies in understanding chaotic systems. Of which our economies especially, our social structure to lesser degrees are chaotic. How we do better lies in part with our giving up our illusion of control we have over these systems. Ten thousand years of civilization has been a story of trying to impose order over an ever increasing level of complexity and and 'chaotic unpredictability'.
What we here need to understand, is neither complete chaos is desirable (no order in the system), nor is complete order (no chaos or 'disorder' in the system).
Understanding this takes a different approach in improving ourselves, improving our social systems, improving the organizations that make modern life possible.

The 'answer' in how we can do better is then not an "Answer"--there is no "The Answer"--but rather a process.

What I am developing with both my consulting practice, and my Transforming projects is both growing and building the process, and the methods for developing and learning the process.

Bringing this all back to Vancouver, is while my long term goal is to have a positive affect on world, my immediate goals are having a positive affect on the city that makes my amazing life possible.

The many forces or winds of change that will force regions, organizations and individuals the world over to change and adapt their ways will affect us here too.
Will we adapt? That is quite likely. How well can we adapt? That's a better question. How can we lead the way in showing how to adapt? Now we are talking!

I did not develop the approaches I advocate. What I did do was dedicate myself, my life, to understanding them, understanding how to 'package' them to bring further value to people, organizations, and society, and dedicated myself to being a leading force in bringing this process to as many people and organizations as I can, and as we "get this" as a network, we are the leading force in developing this for not just our benefit, but for the benefit of society as a whole.

I did this, because this is the most natural way for us to affect change, and it's effectiveness lies in the idea that there is no central authority, no central control, no chain of command, there is just the process, and our desire to lead and grow at whatever level we chose. Our "control" lies in our ability to improve ourselves, and in leading and inspiring others to be the best they can be in the context of the challenges we all face!
It is the "emergent properties" of this process that creates the change we need in ourselves to respond to the challenges life is bringing us, and the change in organizations and society that will give us the optimal chance to adapt and thrive in the face of the unpredictable nature of the challenges and opportunities.

It is very empowering at a personal level, at an organizational level, and if we as a Vancouver society can harness it together, very empowering at this regional level.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Weaving the Web

One of the things we are learning here is that we are the economy. That is, the 'economy' as the aggregate or the emergent properties (my preferred term!) of people--you and I (etc) doing the things we need to do to earn a living, house ourselves and family, feed ourselves and family, and lately (the last 50 years or so) our pursuit of leisure activities.
It's important to know that the economy is a bottom up phenomenon.. Or, as Adam Smith observed some 250 years ago, our "propensity to truck and barter". (We'll save discussions around supply and demand for another post another day) I also never tire of wanting to point out that the stock markets are not the economy, nor or they a measurement of the economy.

What happened in the United  States, and to lesser degrees elsewhere around the world, was an economy based on speculation over a period of 15 years--this so called bull run--rather than sound economic activity. Policy wonks, politicians, economic schools of thought, ad nauseum debate and fight over what to do, in a rather ironic misguided conceptual basis that we have a command economy. En mass, somehow experts while knowing better prescribe 'solutions' like a centralized authority controls or manages the economy!

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you look at this, it comes back down to people getting down to the hard work of making themselves more productive, and the companies they own or run, or work for, more productive. This is inescapable.

For people like us, the more we connect our own efforts to become more productive, more knowledgeable, becoming more understanding of what it means and takes to become more productive, to add more value, in the 'information age', we'll realize the enormous opportunity that exists in front of us.

There is, right now, the weaving of the web of the economic basis for a healthier economy. There is tremendous opportunity for those of us who understand enough of those dynamics to harness and network our energies.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Zooming In--Vancouver Edition

I live in downtown Vancouver, one of the great places in the world to live, as such, as I develop a client wish list, it's the economic dynamics of my city that draws my attention.

One area I am very keen on working with is our restaurant industry. Particularly some of the bigger players like Earl's, The Cactus Club, Milestones, The Boathouse and The Keg to name a few of those I frequent, but there is no limit as to the restaurants I'd love to have on board.

The are several key reasons.
Restaurants, especially the bigger upper scale chains, have significant impacts on the food chain. The more awareness and practice we can develop around where and how restaurants acquire their food sources, that can be a significant effect on not just their impact, but also creating and instilling deeper awareness in their customer base.

From a Transforming the World, Transforming Vancouver perspective, working closely with restaurants has amazing potential to create a lot of positive ripple affects around the kinds of organizational and cultural practices we need to develop to respond to the greater challenges ahead.

A third being, to keep Vancouver dynamic and a growing economy, restaurants and all manners of our service industries need to expand their role in how this grows and attracts our economic vitality.

It's critical in my mind to develop broader, deeper understanding with all our economic players to gain as much as we can from our potential.

As good as these service entrepreneurs have been, I know from my own observations and napkin assessments there is a lot of under used talent and organizational processes that could be harnessed to further increasing the growth dynamics that are here in the Vancouver area.
Harnessing these in sustainable winning ways is only going to increase the value of Vancouver as a leading city to live.
We as a city need to keeping pushing the envelope as a model city.

I know there are a lot a terrific initiatives here pushing that envelope, but there's a lot left on the table that we can work with.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reference to the Reference.

The post that follows this one, I liked as a copy and paste job, as the book and overview do a nice job of saying what I try to get at in regards for organizations, or in the case of the book, corporations, need to transform themselves.

I don't want to post outside copies like that often, but this one just so naturally fit to the ongoing theme here. 

Outside Reference

Creative Destruction - Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market – And How To Successfully Transform Them
Doubleday/Currency, 2001
Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan

Creative Destruction offers a radical new proposition: The most exceptional, enduring corporations cannot continue to beat the capital markets indefinitely. In order to continue to maintain excellence and remain competitive, they must adopt the dynamic strategies of discontinuity and creative destruction.
Foster and Kaplan, drawing on research they've conducted at McKinsey & Company on more than 1,000 companies in 15 industries, show that even the best-run and most widely admired companies are unable to sustain market-beating levels of performance for more than 10 to 15 years. They write: "Corporations are built on the assumption of continuity; their focus is on operations. Capital markets are built on the assumption of discontinuity; their focus is on creation and destruction. The data present a clear warning: Unless companies open up their decision-making processes, relax conventional notions of control, and change at the pace and scale of the market, their performances will be drawn into an entropic slide to mediocrity."
Corporations operate with management philosophies based on the assumption of continuity; as a result, in the long term they cannot change or create value at the pace and scale of the markets. Their control processes, the very processes that have enabled them to survive over the long haul, deaden them to the vital and constant need for change. What will be required are more than simple adjustments for these corporations.  Foster and Kaplan explain how companies like Johnson & Johnson, Corning, and General Electric overcome cultural "lock-in" by transforming rather than incrementally improving their companies. In order to continue their success, these companies create new businesses and sell off or close down businesses or divisions whose growth is slowing. They also abandon outdated, ingrown structures and rules and adopt new decision-making processes, control systems, and mental models. Corporations, they argue, must learn to be as dynamic and responsive as the market itself if they are to sustain superior returns and thrive over the long term.