If in doubt: Do

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A post I read on The School of Life blog has really stuck with me the past day. Perhaps because it invokes Benjamin Franklin, whose framework for each day I blogged about last year (an idea I’ve actually put into practice and that has been part of the inspiration a really interesting client project which will be beginning in the next month or so).

The post was by Mark Stevenson, and addresses the concept of being a “pragmatic optimist”: (more…)

Build-to-run

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Like Alan Patrick of Broadstuff, I’m a fan of Techmeme, the technology news aggregator that tells you at a glance what the hot tech/web industry stories are. 

In a post about its slow-but-steady growth, Alan talks about get-rich-quick start ups which go for growth at almost any cost and compares them with those – like Techmeme – that take their time: 

There is also a difference in motivation between a “build-to-run” entrepreneur and a “build-to-sell” one, I liken it to the difference between an artist who creates what is true to them, vs one who creates what will sell, now. Big studios love commercial art, but there is another whole market for “indie” art, which is often highly influential over time, and it doesn’t always require starving in a garret. 

It’s not necessarily about the integrity of the business, or the users, or a “get rich slow” mentality. Techmem’s founder, Gabe Rivera, quoted on Bloomberg says: 

I don’t want to deal with the obligations attached to raising money, and I still want to be able to take a nap after lunch.

Now that’s a man who has his priorities in order… 

Lazy narratives and how to be wrong

Apple-bashing is a game a lot of people these days.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball is challenging the emerging narrative of the company’s inevitable decline after the death of Steve Jobs. 

Apple was far from perfect under Steve Jobs. But in hindsight, critics and skeptics of the company now see fit to deem his reign flawless or nearly so. Here’s a guy on Yahoo Finance telling Henry Blodget that “Steve Jobs wasn’t wrong about anything ever.”

What you want is to be (1) right more often than wrong; (2) willing to recognize when you are wrong; and (3) able and willing to correct whatever is wrong. If you expect perfection, to be right all the time, you’re going to fail on all three of those — you will be wrong sometimes, that’s just human nature; you’ll be less willing or unwilling to recognize when you’re wrong because you’ve talked yourself into expecting perfection; and you won’t fix what’s wrong because you’ll have convinced yourself you weren’t wrong in the first place. The only way to come close to being right all the time is to be willing to change your mind and recognize mistakes — it’s never going to happen that you’re right all the time in the first place.

There’s some wisdom for us all in that…

Networks Thinking: Adapting for Complexity

These are the notes, slides and suggested further reading for the lecture I’m giving today at Warwick Business School as part of its Complexity, Management & Network Thinking business module entitled Networks Thinking: Adapting for Complexity.

Introduction

Networks became a focus for me about seven years ago, as I began to look at the effect that social networks and the web were having on the industries I was working in, marketing communications and media. The more I learned about networks, the more it seemed to me that they were incredibly important in re-thinking how our business worked – the business of attracting attention, essentially – and that they were important both as the cause and context of disruption we were experiencing (and would continue to experience for some years to come).

When it came to media and marketing, channels were being replaced (displaced, disrupted) by networks as the dominant model. The implications were profound for industries that had been built on building big channels, for big audiences with big advertisements and big budgets attached.

At iCrossing, the digital agency which gave me a home and let me develop a social media and content practice, we started re-designing the whole process of brand communications, from research through to measurement, with three principles

  1. Understand your networks
  2. Be useful to your networks
  3. Be present in your networks

It became clear very quickly, that once you started to adapt your customer communications to the new reality of networks, you started to look at the rest of the business very differently and that the impact of networks, the need to adapt to the age of networks, was going to be felt throughout the organisation. Networks were disrupting the existing media and communications models so much that soon politics, commerce, culture and society as a whole would begin to feel its effects.

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Networks are a model for managing complexity

Some of the topics and themes addressed in the talk include…

  • Embracing complexity
  • Scales from individual, to team, to division to team…
  • Understand networks (& then your networks)
  • Develop organisational and personal networks literacy
  • Networks thinking: design for networks
  • Beginning to lay down principles
  • As well as understanding… your networks… principles…
  • Presence first, process second: more important to be in play and prepared…

Sources cited

Recommended reading (some already cited as sources):

Recommended blogs

 

 

 

Business in Networks: Internet World Kongress, Munich – notes and links

These are the notes and slides for my talk at Internet World Kongress & Fachmesse, given today in Munich. I believe a livestream of the talk is available on the website and there may also be an archive with slides.

This talk is about how business is being disrupted by the web and the things we can do to adapt successfully, both at the organisational and personal level.

It combines some of the elements from two talks I gave earlier in the year: the web Super Skills I discussed at TEDx Brighton and the ideas about disruption, change management and Glasnost moments I talked about at CityCamp Brighton.

Here are the key points and relevant links:

Digital marketing at the edge of business transformation

  • We’re having some fun here, but just a bit. So obviously, I am talking to a room of digital marketers, so the idea of being at the leading edge is attractive, so is the idea that they have the stuff that is required to be the leaders of their wider organsiations.
  • The point is that they are closest in some ways to the web’s disruption of business. They have the tools and the need to adapt fastest, so the insights they gain may be what business as whole needs.

Business as usual to revolution as usual

  • The context is that we are living and will be living in a time of constant change, of permanent revolution.
  • Marc Andreesen explain this particularly well – as I’ve mentioned before. The web is pure software, we can keep reinventing it.

The Everywhere Web

  • Buzzwords are the hamster wheel of digital media and thinking clearly. We spend a lot of energy getting nowhere.
  • Two or three years ago, after a talks about Twitter people were asking what’s the next big thing after Twitter?
  • Better to udnerstand the big trends and call them what they are. I think about the social web, the data deluge and the everywhere web as the big meta trends.

Networks Thinking

  • We need to level up our thinking to deal with complexity. A friend of mine studying creativity at Goldsmiths introduced me to “threshold concepts”. they are ideas you really have to grasp before you can understand a whole lot of other things.
  • Networks are one of these, perhaps the most important for our age. We think we understand networks, but we really don’t a lot of the time.
  • When you are a German learning English you realise there are “false friends”, (“falsche Freunde“) words which sound or look the same in both languages but mean different things, e.g. “Gift” in German means “poison” rather than a present.
  • We don’t grasp how magnificently, terrifyingly complex networks are. We like to draw pictures of them and then think we’ve captured their meaning, when they are more like the weather – always changing, hyper-complex. Predictable if you are smart and have a huge amount of data and training, but only to a point and only some of the time. (There’s mileage in that weather forecasting analogy – I’d like to come up with it.

Platform-ism

  • One of the traps we fall into when we are thinking about networks is “platform-ism”.
  • We see Facebook as a proxy for the web, as a our new TV channel, we see Likes or Fans or Followers on Twitter as the gauge of our success without taking the time to understand our networks.

Accidental influencers

  • Another mistake we make is to think that influence is something fairly straightforward in networks.
  • To be sure there is a celebrity effect – when someone with a huge amount of followers on Twitter plugs a charity or website it gets a lot of traffic (sometimes). But influence is not as predictable or as straightforward as we think.
  • We fall prey to what psychologists call “narrative bias” – we think we see how things work, think it is obvious after the facts. Duncan Watts’s new book will deal with this subject in some detail.
  • Duncan Watts coined the lovely phrase “accidental influencers” to describe how unpredictable influence in networks can be…
  • Talking about networks with some mathematicians last week one remarked that place, location in a network might be the thing that best predicts influence, rather than popularity.

References / further reading

And as I mentioned, for more on Superskills see my notes from my TEDx presentation and for more on Glasnost moments and LOOP take a look at the notes from my City Camp presentation

Lastly, my book Me and My Web Shadow is available from your local Amazon (in Germany it is here) and other good retailers (well ones with large inventories) :)

If you saw the talk at Internet World Kongress or on the livestream and have any questions or feedback please do let me know.

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Business in Networks: Internet World Kongress, Munich – notes and links

These are the notes and slides for my talk at Internet World Kongress & Fachmesse, given today in Munich. I believe a livestream of the talk is available on the website and there may also be an archive with slides.

This talk is about how business is being disrupted by the web and the things we can do to adapt successfully, both at the organisational and personal level.

It combines some of the elements from two talks I gave earlier in the year: the web Super Skills I discussed at TEDx Brighton and the ideas about disruption, change management and Glasnost moments I talked about at CityCamp Brighton.

Here are the key points and relevant links:

Digital marketing at the edge of business transformation

  • We’re having some fun here, but just a bit. So obviously, I am talking to a room of digital marketers, so the idea of being at the leading edge is attractive, so is the idea that they have the stuff that is required to be the leaders of their wider organsiations.
  • The point is that they are closest in some ways to the web’s disruption of business. They have the tools and the need to adapt fastest, so the insights they gain may be what business as whole needs.

Business as usual to revolution as usual

  • The context is that we are living and will be living in a time of constant change, of permanent revolution.
  • Marc Andreesen explain this particularly well – as I’ve mentioned before. The web is pure software, we can keep reinventing it.

The Everywhere Web

  • Buzzwords are the hamster wheel of digital media and thinking clearly. We spend a lot of energy getting nowhere.
  • Two or three years ago, after a talks about Twitter people were asking what’s the next big thing after Twitter?
  • Better to udnerstand the big trends and call them what they are. I think about the social web, the data deluge and the everywhere web as the big meta trends.

Networks Thinking

  • We need to level up our thinking to deal with complexity. A friend of mine studying creativity at Goldsmiths introduced me to “threshold concepts”. they are ideas you really have to grasp before you can understand a whole lot of other things.
  • Networks are one of these, perhaps the most important for our age. We think we understand networks, but we really don’t a lot of the time.
  • When you are a German learning English you realise there are “false friends”, (“falsche Freunde“) words which sound or look the same in both languages but mean different things, e.g. “Gift” in German means “poison” rather than a present.
  • We don’t grasp how magnificently, terrifyingly complex networks are. We like to draw pictures of them and then think we’ve captured their meaning, when they are more like the weather – always changing, hyper-complex. Predictable if you are smart and have a huge amount of data and training, but only to a point and only some of the time. (There’s mileage in that weather forecasting analogy – I’d like to come up with it.

Platform-ism

  • One of the traps we fall into when we are thinking about networks is “platform-ism”.
  • We see Facebook as a proxy for the web, as a our new TV channel, we see Likes or Fans or Followers on Twitter as the gauge of our success without taking the time to understand our networks.

Accidental influencers

  • Another mistake we make is to think that influence is something fairly straightforward in networks.
  • To be sure there is a celebrity effect – when someone with a huge amount of followers on Twitter plugs a charity or website it gets a lot of traffic (sometimes). But influence is not as predictable or as straightforward as we think.
  • We fall prey to what psychologists call “narrative bias” – we think we see how things work, think it is obvious after the facts. Duncan Watts’s new book will deal with this subject in some detail.
  • Duncan Watts coined the lovely phrase “accidental influencers” to describe how unpredictable influence in networks can be…
  • Talking about networks with some mathematicians last week one remarked that place, location in a network might be the thing that best predicts influence, rather than popularity.

References / further reading

And as I mentioned, for more on Superskills see my notes from my TEDx presentation and for more on Glasnost moments and LOOP take a look at the notes from my City Camp presentation

Lastly, my book Me and My Web Shadow is available from your local Amazon (in Germany it is here) and other good retailers (well ones with large inventories) :)

If you saw the talk at Internet World Kongress or on the livestream and have any questions or feedback please do let me know.

ZZ1A4C91A9.jpg


Business in Networks: Internet World Kongress, Munich – notes and links

These are the notes and slides for my talk at Internet World Kongress & Fachmesse, given today in Munich. I believe a livestream of the talk is available on the website and there may also be an archive with slides.

This talk is about how business is being disrupted by the web and the things we can do to adapt successfully, both at the organisational and personal level.

It combines some of the elements from two talks I gave earlier in the year: the web Super Skills I discussed at TEDx Brighton and the ideas about disruption, change management and Glasnost moments I talked about at CityCamp Brighton.

Here are the key points and relevant links:

Digital marketing at the edge of business transformation

  • We’re having some fun here, but just a bit. So obviously, I am talking to a room of digital marketers, so the idea of being at the leading edge is attractive, so is the idea that they have the stuff that is required to be the leaders of their wider organsiations.
  • The point is that they are closest in some ways to the web’s disruption of business. They have the tools and the need to adapt fastest, so the insights they gain may be what business as whole needs.

Business as usual to revolution as usual

  • The context is that we are living and will be living in a time of constant change, of permanent revolution.
  • Marc Andreesen explain this particularly well – as I’ve mentioned before. The web is pure software, we can keep reinventing it.

The Everywhere Web

  • Buzzwords are the hamster wheel of digital media and thinking clearly. We spend a lot of energy getting nowhere.
  • Two or three years ago, after a talks about Twitter people were asking what’s the next big thing after Twitter?
  • Better to udnerstand the big trends and call them what they are. I think about the social web, the data deluge and the everywhere web as the big meta trends.

Networks Thinking

  • We need to level up our thinking to deal with complexity. A friend of mine studying creativity at Goldsmiths introduced me to “threshold concepts”. they are ideas you really have to grasp before you can understand a whole lot of other things.
  • Networks are one of these, perhaps the most important for our age. We think we understand networks, but we really don’t a lot of the time.
  • When you are a German learning English you realise there are “false friends”, (“falsche Freunde“) words which sound or look the same in both languages but mean different things, e.g. “Gift” in German means “poison” rather than a present.
  • We don’t grasp how magnificently, terrifyingly complex networks are. We like to draw pictures of them and then think we’ve captured their meaning, when they are more like the weather – always changing, hyper-complex. Predictable if you are smart and have a huge amount of data and training, but only to a point and only some of the time. (There’s mileage in that weather forecasting analogy – I’d like to come up with it.

Platform-ism

  • One of the traps we fall into when we are thinking about networks is “platform-ism”.
  • We see Facebook as a proxy for the web, as a our new TV channel, we see Likes or Fans or Followers on Twitter as the gauge of our success without taking the time to understand our networks.

Accidental influencers

  • Another mistake we make is to think that influence is something fairly straightforward in networks.
  • To be sure there is a celebrity effect – when someone with a huge amount of followers on Twitter plugs a charity or website it gets a lot of traffic (sometimes). But influence is not as predictable or as straightforward as we think.
  • We fall prey to what psychologists call “narrative bias” – we think we see how things work, think it is obvious after the facts. Duncan Watts’s new book will deal with this subject in some detail.
  • Duncan Watts coined the lovely phrase “accidental influencers” to describe how unpredictable influence in networks can be…
  • Talking about networks with some mathematicians last week one remarked that place, location in a network might be the thing that best predicts influence, rather than popularity.

References / further reading

And as I mentioned, for more on Superskills see my notes from my TEDx presentation and for more on Glasnost moments and LOOP take a look at the notes from my City Camp presentation

Lastly, my book Me and My Web Shadow is available from your local Amazon (in Germany it is here) and other good retailers (well ones with large inventories) :)

If you saw the talk at Internet World Kongress or on the livestream and have any questions or feedback please do let me know.

ZZ1A4C91A9.jpg


Adam Curtis on the struggle to tell the story on (and of) the web – Notes from The Story – Pt 2

* * Update: the audio for this talk is live at the Storythings blog * *

We’re not progressing through the day in chronological order, but now we have discussed the talk that was practically of use to me as a writer, let’s move on to the one which was both exciting but also so intellectually challenging I felt exhausted afterwards.

Adam Curtis is someone I previously knew mostly from The Power of Nightmares, a documentary that probed how fear and specifically terrorist threats are useful to those in power. After hearing him talk at The Story, I just want to hear more.

The caveat for these notes is that I may have at times missed the point, or got the wrong end of the stick, but here’s what I heard:

Can you use the web to tell stories?

  • Adam began by saying that many at the BBC were beginning to doubt that the web was something you could use to tell stories effectively.
  • He seemed to feel that we hadn’t reached a point where we understood the web well enough to talk about it, to tell stories about it and with it.
  • The web manifests the emotional realism that defines our culture. Emotional realism is about thinking that what you feel about things is the most real, most important thing.
  • The web is associative – you go where you like, where your fancy takes you. Narrative needs constraints, for you to be able to hold the attention of the person hearing the story.
  • So far story-telling on the web has not lived up to initial hopes for its potential, it has been whimsical at best…
  • It comes down to a fact that we have not come to terms with the power structures of our time and how they are manifest in the web (see below) – stories about these things give rise to great art, e.g. Tolstoy writing about the relationship between individuals and historical forces.

The web is useful for sharing long-form content, by-passing media formats we no longer trust

  • Adam showed a video clip from a news piece of an Afghani BBC journalist interviewing a member of the Taliban, a soundbite about the arrival of British troops.
  • He then gave us context – there were five Taliban who were all local farmers previously. The journalist was a metropolitan poet, who was new to the job, and both scared of the Taliban and feeling socially and intellectually superior to them. They’d not been interviewed before, he’d not interviewed many people in this situation before – the Taliban marched past the camera in a circle, changing the positions of their weapons each time, presumably to give the impression that there were many more of them.
  • the longer, raw version of the video was played and it felt altogether more bathetic, scary, odd, almost funny at times. It reminded me of Four Lions, especially the marching Taliban and the awkward responses from the interviewee that wouldn’t have made the final news report.
  • Emotional realism meant we valued this longer clip with all the disjointed human detail more than the news report. We, the journalists, everyone knew that the narrative from the politicians and the news organisations didn’t make sense. Why were we fighting there? It didn’t really add up. We all accept that its false and begin to look elsewhere for meaning.
  • “The fact that it doesn’t make sense any more makes it feel more real.”

What history feels like as it happens

  • Adam talked about a project he worked on with a theatre group called Punch Drunk. He made a film of spliced together TV, film and news clips trying to capture a sense of what it was like to live through some momentous events in the 1960s in the United States.
  • When we are living through events, they don’t make sense, they are confusing and disconnected – he said the films were emotional realism, representing the emotional experience of the 60s. I can’t find the exact piece of film he showed, but this is part of the same piece of work.

Follow the power

  • Adam railed against cyber-utopians – who doesn’t? – presenting the web as a free space, separate from the hierarchies and constraints of the “real world”.
  • The web is in fact “plugged in – literally – to the power hierarchy of the real world”.
  • If you understand how modern power flows through the web and shapes your experience of it, your emotions, then you are seeing it as it really is…
  • There’s no innocence or freedom online, the web is a cultural expression of our age of emotional realism.
  • Adam talked about Soviet Realist art, which looked nice to people at the time, but now we understand and see as representing the brutality of that power hierarchy in Soviet Russia. Some day, perhaps people will look at our online world and see it in a similar way, as “a cultural expression of the dominant power structures of our time” (perhaps about the tyranny of individualism, self-obsession, greed prevalent in our culture).

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Image: Little did they know they would be seen as artistic expressions of the regime’s brutality…

Adam was making lots of different points, related to one another, but it was hard to follow a central argument through his talk (not that it was any less thrilling for that). But he seemed to draw some of the strands of thought together in his conclusion, which went roughly like this:

  • The strength of the idea that we can’t make sense of the world is one that suits those in power.
  • There is a power framework around the web which shapes it.
  • If we can develop a framework, articulate it and talk about it – a big theory – then we can move on from the light, whimsical storytelling that we’ve seen so far on the web.
  • Stories are complicated – we shouldn’t shy away from trying to tell this one…

: : If you are interested in ideas about how power works, I think that Dan McQuillan is a good person to follow, read more of – he discusses the idea of power literacy and how important that is in affecting change in society. Dan – shout if I’m wrong on that…
: : To read more about Adam Curtis’s thinking and work, his BBC blog Adam Curtis_The Medium and the Message is the best place to start…