The shift from a complicated to a complex world

Fri, 2005-11-18 11:43.

A synopsis of a recent breakfast meeting with Dave Snowden, head of the Cynefin Centre and thought leader on complex systems and narrative and their application in business.

As he described his learnings and discoveries about complex adaptive systems and how pervasive they are in our business and personal lives, I began to realize that appreciating enterprises, organizations and systems as (mostly) complex rather than merely complicated is more than just a basis for re-framing business methodologies, it is a completely different way of sensing and dealing with the world. It changes everything. Here are just a few of the extraordinary paradigm shifts that this reframing provokes:

Complicated World Complex World
Assumption of order ("research this to find out if there's a market for it" Realization of unorder ("let's explore what might happen if we did this")
Importance of aggressiveness and charisma to "lead the change" Importance of collaboration and humility to participate in the evolution
Actions driven by authority-based direction Actions based on learnings from conversations, consensus and freedom to act bounded by personal responsibility
Top-down hierarchical communication and knowledge transfer Peer-to-peer (networked) communication and knowledge transfer
Military win/lose competitiveness Natural win/win cooperation and coexistence
Emphasis on action (making decisions quickly and 'expertly') Emphasis on paying attention (making decisions continuously, improvisationally)
Assumption of rational choice ("tell people why they should buy X") Realization of entrained behaviour ("study people to discover if they might buy X")
Primacy of objective reality ("what's happening here") Primacy of perception ("what do people think is happening here")
Changing the way things are Understanding why things are the way they are
Assumption of intention ("why did this happen") Realization of meaning ("what do we learn from this")
Assess causality Look for pattern and correlation
Focus Experiment
Leadership is everything Membership is everything
Strive for stability Strive for resilience
Exploit weaknesses, opportunities, needs via speed-to-market Explore weaknesses, opportunities, needs via continuous environmental scan
Mechanistic (machine) models of behaviour, relationship, order, connection Organic (natural) models of behaviour, relationship, order, connection
How do we solve the problem How do we deal with the situation
Set "go-to-market" mission, objectives, strategies, actions Understand the market and actors' identities and influence the attractors and barriers that bring the market to you
Market as rational

Market as emotional

 
Link via Dave Pollard's Blog

The connecting business

Wed, 2005-11-16 10:38.
 I harken back to Doc Searls saying in a podcast a year ago that the iPod is a prototype for the future of media delivery. My summary then:

Doc said that the transistor, as an enabler, and the transitor radio, as a platform, really created the medium of radio we know today. Similarly, he said, the iPod is the prototype for the next platform and the next medium.

... It’s not about downloading. It’s not about seeing video on tiny screens. It’s not about iPods.

It’s about breaking free from wires and schedules and devices and pipes and media.

...Herein we see the irrelevant war of content vs. distribution. Some companies are trying to own as much content as they can… but that’s silly in a post-scarcity world, where content will be ever-more plentiful (and ever-better as a result). Other companies are trying to control as much of the distribution (and devices) as they can. But that’s equally silly in an open world, where any device can address any media anywhere anytime (especially once I have my choice of cable modem or Verizon fibre-to-the-house or Google free and ubiquitous wi-fi of the next generation). They’re all fighting in the closed world of scarcity. But we’re past that. I’ll say it again and again: Content is not king. Distribution is not king. Conversation is the kingdom.

If these guys were smart, they should see themselves in the connections business: connecting people to talent and people to information and people to each other and marketers to people. To do that, your asset must be trust, not copyrights or pipes.
 
Via Jeff Jarvis Buzzmachine 

The case for object-centered sociality

Wed, 2005-11-16 00:55.
Jyri Engeström gives well thought arguments, why some social network services work and others don't:
Good services allow people to create social objects that add value. The services that we love to play with have made those objects tangible. They afford tagging, crafting, tuning, hacking. Flickr did it to photos. Del.icio.us did it to bookmarks. Bloggers invented a format for discussion postings that turned them into social objects.

 
This leads him to the question, what will be the next successful candidates? We have Amazon for books, Last.fm and Myspace for music. But how about places and products as objects for objects of online sociality?

Link
PPT-Download (4,9 MB)

Nicholas Negroponte on the social impact of peer-to-peer

Thu, 2005-11-03 22:55.
Peer-to-peer is a much deeper concept than we understand today. We're limited by assumptions rooted in and derived from the physical world. Information technology over the next 25 years will change those limits through force of new habits.

 
Link

John Hagel about attention and the value of intermediaries

Wed, 2005-11-02 11:54.
the real value of the infomediary comes from using attention profiles to reduce interaction costs and increase return on attention. The infomediary can help customers to sort through all the options competing for their attention and to connect rapidly and conveniently with the resources that matter the most to them – not only through search but, increasingly, through recommendation services based on deeper understanding of their interests and preferences.

Unfortunately, this is a much more challenging proposition to deliver on than either blocking access to attention profiles or selling attention profiles to the highest bidder. But it is also a compelling proposition that creates interesting opportunities for increasing returns dynamics.

 
Link

Open Technology Roadmap

Thu, 2005-09-15 22:52.

Openness is at the heart of truly worldchanging systems. Transparency of process, connections and results make open systems more reliable, more accessible, and better able to be connected to other systems; it also encourages collaboration and the input of interested stakeholders. This is perhaps most tangible in the world of technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT); open ICT systems are increasingly engines of innovation, and are clear catalysts for leapfrogging across the developing world, via reduced costs, potential for customization, and likely interoperability with both legacy and emerging technologies.


Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society has just published something they call the "Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems" (PDF), a guidebook for policymakers, business strategists and technical specialists looking to implement open information and communication technologies around the world. The Roadmap doesn't focus on any single type of open ICT, but on the greater value of the open approach, and the ways in which open systems encourage collaboration and innovation using "a potent combination of connectivity, collaboration and transparency."


One aspect of the Roadmap that I find particularly compelling is that, although it speaks only to information and communication technology needs, the majority of the principles and ideas considered could apply more broadly -- to other kinds of technologies (such as biotech and nanotech), and even to political and social systems (such as voting methods and urban planning).


It's this broad approach that allows the concepts to apply to more than ICT. Consider, for example, the Roadmap's list of Guiding Principles of Open ICT Ecosystems:


An open ICT ecosystem should be:


Interoperable – allowing, through open standards, the exchange, reuse, interchangeability and interpretation of data across diverse architectures.


User-Centric – prioritizing services fulfilling user requirements over perceived hardware or software constraints.


Collaborative – permitting governments, industry, and other stakeholders to create, grow and reform communities of interested parties that can leverage strengths, solve common problems, innovate and build upon existing efforts.


Sustainable – maintaining balance and resiliency while addressing organizational, technical, financial and legal issues in a manner that allows an ecosystem to thrive and evolve.


Flexible – adapting seamlessly and quickly to new information, technologies, protocols and relationships while integrating them as warranted into market-making and government processes.


With a few slight adjustments to the phrasing, the same list would apply well as guidelines for a distributed energy network, or as guidelines for a transportation system, or even as guidelines for cooperative biomedical research. This isn't because the guidelines are vague or overly-broad, but because many infrastructure and service systems ultimately have similar needs for sustainable success.


That said, the Roadmap does give ample detail about the particular value of open information and communication technologies. Most useful, perhaps, is the section on how open ICT ecosystems can evolve. The Roadmap authors pointedly do not expect governments and organizations to shift to an open approach in one great leap; rather, the move to openness requires a great deal of rapid prototyping and incremental adjustments, to allow the particulars of the implementation to match the organization's context. That's the corollary to the low-level similarity of needs across disciplines: the specific circumstances of each case will be highly variable. The guidelines and the Roadmap don't tell you the answer, they help you find the answer.


This is one of those documents where the short length -- it's well under 50 pages -- belies the richness of the material. Open ICT systems have a definite value for development efforts, in terms of both leapfrogging and local/regional economic regeneration (it would be useful, for example, for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast to keep the principles of open systems in mind). Even more useful, at least for me, is the degree to which the Roadmap triggers further consideration of how the open system concept applies outside of the realm of information and communication technology. The core principles of "connectivity, collaboration and transparency" have far broader application than just ICT; they are at the heart of a robust, flexible and sustainable model of society.
Via worldchanging.com

Why Web2.0 Matters: Preparing for Glocalization

Thu, 2005-09-15 15:40.
Danah Boyd has written a great essay on the relation between global connectivity and the need for putting this in a localized context.
Web2.0 is about glocalization, it is about making global information available to local social contexts and giving people the flexibility to find, organize, share and create information in a locally meaningful fashion that is globally accessible.

Online ad sellers think local

Thu, 2005-09-15 15:01.

"Once you get these small business customers to advertise online, it's going to be a billions-of-dollars shift," said Stuart McFarlane, chief executive of Pasadena, Calif.-based Insider Pages. "But the real challenge is, how do you bring in yellow-pages customers at a low enough cost to make it affordable?"

Search leaders Google and Yahoo have created largely self-service empires that let marketers bid for and place promotions next to search results, requiring advertisers to pay only when people click. The cost-effectiveness of search ads has attracted pioneering companies for years, but now marketers of all stripes are signing on, including national and international businesses.

Local advertising dollars, however, remain elusive. Google and Yahoo handle only a couple of hundred thousand local merchant ads, compared with the potential for tens of millions of customers, according to industry analysts.
"It's enormously difficult to get these small businesses to adopt Internet advertising," said Greg Sterling, an analyst at the Kelsey Group.

Small and medium-size businesses are typically stretched thin and, unlike national advertisers, rarely can afford to hire agencies to handle ongoing keyword auctions offered by search engines. Many small businesses know that the Internet could help them but have neither the time nor the inclination to go online, because of the medium's perceived complexity.

Still, analysts say, consumer behavior will drive change. Unlike the pervasive hype of the Web boom, Sterling said, "there's a reality now to the Internet that didn't exist before--consumers are doing research to find products and services."

 
Full article

Of Searches and Psychics: The Costs of Long Tail Businesses

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:55.
When individual transactions are very small, non-monetary costs dominate
Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame recently posed a question in a post on the economics of abundance: what happens when it costs almost nothing to produce and stock one more item?
One surprising result is that non-monetary costs dominate the transaction. Most of you are familiar with monetary costs - pay $0.99 to download a song from iTunes (or $0.10 from AllofMp3). However, as the monetary costs fall, the most important impediments to a transaction are non-monetary: search costs and psychic costs.
Some of you may have studied the concept of "search cost" in college economics. It is the cost of finding the item you need - often measured in time and effort, rather than money. When sorting through the list of all music ever released, it would take you forever to find that piece of music you'd actually enjoy. Even at $1 a CD, you'd probably buy nothing, because you'd give up long before finding anything you'd like.
That's why Amazon provides a variety of tools to help reduce search costs: recommendations, samples, listmania, and many other tools. Though not perfect, Amazon now leads customers to buy items they've never heard of before. (I discovered Pepe and the Bottle Blondes on Amazon because I like Pink Martini).
It is not enough for a company to aggregate lots of small things. Reducing search costs by matching content to users is critical for Long Tail businesses.

 
Full article

The Power Of Us

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:45.
Mass collaboration on the Internet is shaking up business.
Full article