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Google’s Art Project

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image: Detail from The Great Day of His Wrath, by John Martin

If you haven’t seen it already, take some time to go and explore Art Project, a collaboration between Google and some of the world’s top galleries. Use the highest definition screen you can find…

Going along on street view on Google Maps, you see the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

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You can then wander around the museum…

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Then click on a painting and see it in very high definition…

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Image: Detail from The Dream by Henry Rousseau

In Peter Day‘s annual tech trends interview in with Mark Andersen of Strategic News Service, the latter was scathing about Google’s lack of direction and its seeming inability to monetise the outputs of its (previously) much-admired 20 per cent time.

When they produce something as wonderful as Art Project, a large of me thinks: I don’t care. Take a look for yourself, it’s just thrilling.

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Cisco still all about the networks

Cisco is a company that I find very interesting indeed, as it has completely understood the importance of online networks not at just a technical level (its machines are what makes up much of what the internet is built on) but at a strategic business level.

That means much more than effusive but impractical “this changes everything” sentiment in the boardroom. Cisco, led by John Chambers’ born-again zeal for the potential of the hyper-connected world, has put its brains and brawn to work on building a networked company.

I blogged about the Cisco approach two years ago in a post called “Command and Control is Dead”. As I said, that means things like:

  • Accepting that the social network sum of its people is smarter than its C-level team
  • Embracing complexity and uncertainty about where technology, business and the whole world are headed
  • Designing business processes and growing a culture that takes both of the previous two points as its context
  • Being able to work in upwards of 25 major initiatives at once, where previously two at most were possible

Anyway, do read that original post and watch the video of John Chambers at MIT for more information.

Two years on, Cisco hasn’t deviated from pursuing the vision it laid out there. I was really interested to read an account by Andrew Sharrock of another Chambers keynote, this time last week in London, talking about how Cisco was doing and where its strategy was taking it next.

It seems that Cisco’s vision has deepened with experience, and the concept of Networked Economy taking over from the Information Economy is being discussed.

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Adapting to the age of networks is an imperative not just for technology companies, but whole nation states, for most of the West, Chambers says. When we’re seeing R&D jobs leaving the UK for emerging markets, this view really rings true.

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I was also interested to see the slide on Cisco’s Vision, Strategy and Execution, which shows global councils (see my previous post) still at the heart of being able to move on several fronts at once, seemingly producing the effect of allowing a big company to be agile, freeing itself from 20th century structures and accessing the latent power of its own human networks.

if you’re interested in reading more about Cisco’s Global Council approach, Andrew’s post also links to another by Raph D’Amico, which includes a diagram showing how Cisco prioritises opportunities.

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Influence: It’s complicated

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Image: Streams, emergence – insert your own wry analogy here…

I liked the idea that “Strength of community supersedes influence” laid out in a post by Geoff Livingston.

What the post is saying is that in many ways the community is more important than a singled-out influencer, and yet a lot of effort is expended trying to identify the influencers and then, er, influence them. And I agree with that – the networks are more important to understand, and usually less understood by everyone from media/marketing planners to policy makers.

There is influence in networks, multidirectional influence at that. It is just wrong to boil down influence to being all about influencers. There are people who are important, who can pass on a thought or idea or link to a whole lead of others, but it’s not a a predictable, simple, sustainable thing.

It makes me remember what Duncan Watts said about accidental influencers. Very often someone is made to look influential or are influential within a network because an idea, a thought has started with them.

You influence the networks you join, you are influenced by your networks, by the actions of people you know and don’t. And networks also have a mind of their own, the rule from Connected that chimes with what Geoff is saying.

Thinking about the idea of influencers in that context, it is almost as if networks choose their influencers. Or maybe that influencers are an emergent phenomenon in social networks.