Deciding to do this

When we're the boss, we can say "do this because I say so" and expect compliance. When we're the respected expert, we can say "do this because it's the right thing to do" and people who show us respect by following our advice. When we're paying the bill, we can say "do it or else" and get others to follow our orders or get shortchanged.

Most of the time, we're cannot say "do this" and then watch it get it done. We're not in the position of authority, of commanding respect or of being in control of the consequences for non-compliance. Saying "do this!" will come across as bossy, pushy, arrogant, over-reaching, insensitive, or some other disconnect. We need an alternative that gets cooperation. One that works for me replaces telling people to "do this" with "when you're deciding whether to, how to or when to do this, consider this...". I show them the respect they deserve as those who already have a lot on their minds, who need to make up their own minds and who want to make better decisions by upgrading what they have in mind. I handoff the final determination to them while giving my input on how their decision gets made.

Sometimes it helps to discuss what does into good decisions in general. I usually cover the ground of generating more options and considering more criteria to avoid jumping to conclusions. I'm fond of showing how better decisions result from making the process more complicated, not more simplified. Occasionally, I explore a decision tree where choices get lined up in sequences and progressively eliminate the wide range of alternatives. I show how additional criteria can be discovered by considering what the decision depends upon and what the decision will impact.

All this applies to what I'm telling you to do right now. It's unlikely that, just because I said so here, you would replace telling people to "do this" with "when you're deciding whether to, how to or when to do this, consider this..." You need to be shown the respect of someone who has a lot on your mind, who needs to make up your own mind and who wants to make better decisions by upgrading what you have in mind.
  • When you're deciding when to take this approach, consider if there's no need to bother with all this. Perhaps you can exercise your authority, command respect as an expert or attach consequences to others' non-compliance. Perhaps people want to be told what to do by you because they are unfamiliar with the situation, need structure imposed by someone better informed or depend on people to give them what they need to succeed.
  • When you're deciding how to take this approach, consider how much resistance you're facing. The more objections, apprehensions or excuses the others will raise, the more complications need to be added to their decision making process. However, if their hesitation is slight, their decision making can be simplified.
  • When you're deciding whether to take this approach, consider what else could improve by showing others this respect. Ponder what efforts could benefit from others making better decisions about their involvements. Explore what spill-over effects might be realized from engaging their minds in this way in the realms of creativity, contributions to shared objectives, and cooperation with team efforts. You may want to back-off from using this approach if you find you're in intensely adversarial situations where you're held in contempt, under suspicion and out of the loop of backstabbing commentary.

Deciding to do this is your own decision. I hope I've given you enough food for thought for you to make a decision that works for you.


Doctoring the indoctrination

There's a time to be straightforward and a time to be indirect with our message. There is content that calls for simply telling people what it is and content that calls for working with people's complex ways of thinking about it for themselves. There's a time to give people clear explanations and a time to give people more to talk through with others.

When we get this timing wrong, we come across as propagandistic. We appear to be brainwashing the people we intended to inform. We seem to be indoctrinating them, instead of educating, encouraging or engaging them. We give off the impression we're telling people what to think, instead of how, when and why to think things through differently. At these times, we need to "doctor the indoctrination" we had presumed to be harmless and helpful.

Indoctrination can prove to be mildly poisonous. It can induce a significant loss of interest, curiosity, attention and self motivation. It can provoke defensive postures, closed minds and opposing arguments. Indoctrination can even undermine the presenter's credibility, earned respect and leadership following. It can undermine implicit cooperation with tactics that appear controlling, coercive and manipulative. It can ask for passive compliance instead of initiative, integrity and self reliance. Indoctrination is usually bad medicine which deadens the recipients.

There are many ways to doctor indoctrination that I've had success with when making my presentations, conducting my workshops and teaching my classes. In this next series of blog posts, I'll review what has worked for me thus far, and explore some new ways I've discovered recently.


Strategic spaces for social production

There's lots that the public and private sectors cannot deliver, even though we need these things done. Clay Shirky first got me thinking about those limits in his book: Here Comes Everybody. He gave us the visual metaphor of a "Coasian floor" that stops firms from going below what they can afford to do. Yet there lots going on below the floor by volunteers, amateurs and peers. In his follow-up book: Cognitive Surplus, Shirky goes into more detail about the how everybody engaged in social production can be motivated and committed to high quality contributions. His two books have given me optimism about social production picking up the increasing slack from the inherent limitations of most producers with their private and public business models.

Here are some of the other inherent limitations of most forms of public and private production that are not shared by social production.
  1. Most producers are eager to scale their enterprise, enlarge their installed base and develop loyal purchasers of additional deliveries. Small is not beautiful for private and public producers. Superior size is the prize and getting bigger moves them toward this goal. Thus we have enormous corporations, governmental agencies and NGO's that cannot address granular problems, micro-contexts and individualized concerns.
  2. Most producers reward their employees with paychecks, bonuses, perks and benefits all with cash value. They feed a mass addiction to extrinsic rewards which skews judgement, trashes self motivation, kills creativity and fixates on short term objectives. They cannot realize the wisdom, creativity and long range designs of intrinsically motivated social production.
  3. Most producers spell out job responsibilities to to hold employees accountable, to justify terminations and to realize conformity, consistency and mechanical efficiency from their hires. These job designs inspire revenge rather than the desired forms of cooperation. They cannot throw out the job descriptions in favor of varied roles, results-only specifications, emergent teamwork and timeouts to reflect on possible collaborations.
  4. Most producers provide layers of management to oversee the underlings, conduct meetings, review the outcome metrics and evaluate performance. They do not allow for self-managed teams, self-directed individuals or unmanageable collaborations with their customers, constituencies or communities.
  5. Most producers deliver services that depend on a scarce supply of qualified professionals supported by a large capital investment. in a fixed location. These limitations necessitate bringing the problem to the solution via waiting rooms, waiting lines and waiting lists. It's not feasible to staff, equip and fund a system to provide community outreach, house calls or personalized service on more than an exception basis.
  6. Most producers seek a sellers market where they maintain a limited supply, short window of availability or premium version which supports charging higher prices and paying lower prices for inputs. This avoids the slippery slope of discounting the price or commoditizing the exceptional features that often occurs in a buyers market. Yet this strategy also makes enemies of customers looking for a bargain, free trial or entry level involvement at first.
  7. Most producers can provide services but not actually serve the public. They can figure out what the customers need and deliver special services for delivery, installation, reconfiguration, customization, repair and replacement. However, they cannot allow the value to be defined "in the eyes of the beholder" or to develop an empathic relationship with each buyer which could establish trust on an individual basis.

These inherent limitations of private and public production define, for me, the slack they cannot pick up. This slack becomes a "blue ocean" or "white space" of untapped demand where unprivate and unpublic business models can set up shop:
  • High school and college dropouts who got more emotional baggage to impair their performance, ambition and self-crated opportunities from formal education settings, but who will thrive in informal, peer-to-peer and social production settings for getting prepared for the next economy.
  • Citizens in a community who are not sick enough to need a doctor, ER or EMT, but need lots of preventative care, patient education and support for managing chronic symptoms.
  • Unemployed workers who will never get their old jobs back and who need to transition into new roles, self concepts and success routines that make a lot of difference and not much money.
  • Spiritual seekers who lost their faith in the confines of institutionalized religions, but who could find their faith again in communities of spiritual practice, service to others and caring for the community itself.

Only social production can leverage these opportunities. They are inherently small, resourceful and close to the personal problems. More importantly, they are free of those staggering limitations of most producers.


Learning as a free spirit

Yesterday, I finished reading Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success. I've enjoyed a variety of experiences from the messages of James Marcus Bach and then reflecting on how they relate to my own experiences.

Like Bach, I sometimes experience my self-motivation to explore unknown territory as an playful puppy dog and other times as a charging rhinoceros. When I'm on a roll, the process of coming to realizations, making connections and forming new questions leads to more of the same. Successful learning begets more productive learning. My tentative explorations become intense pursuits which uncover many sources of seemingly relevant information to dive into deeply.

I also have experienced befuddlement when my intrinsic motivation suddenly vanishes. Like Bach, I've developed heuristics to rekindle my motivation or change directions in order to better align with my motivations. His imagery of a becalmed pirate ship that finds the wind to fill its sails -- fits my experience.

I looked at Bach's story through my familiar lens of relational grammars. Rather than making a clean break from counter-dependence to become independent, both threads continue interwoven through his life. That insight provoked me to abandon my categorical reasoning and see the difference between the two developmental phases as a paradox instead.

I was fascinated by Bach's sixth grade experience of being profoundly respected by his teacher, followed by the shocking contempt and indifference toward students that disoriented him in seventh grade. While it clearly justifies dropping out of getting schooled, it also defines a challenge of recovering from the abuse and the excessive structure of coercive eductions.

I got to wondering if all the difficulties we experience when we're free to learn as we please, comes from preliminary experiences with too much structure. Bach learned very early to self-structure. He eventually recognized patterns in what worked for him as he routinely faced too many options for further learning. His array of "metacognitive strategies" is impressive and exemplary for anyone needing examples to imitate.

I found his personal story to be the most rewarding facet of his book. The ways he abstracted his experiences into a consistent framework was not nearly as useful to mel as the lessons learned from his life experiences. His story is both logical and emotional. It provides things to think about and to feel. It invites readers to be rational and irrational.

Bach mentioned many occasions where his writing this book came to a halt and proved very difficult to write. His 10,000 hours of deliberate practice involved computer programming and software testing, not writing. I found the non-narrative portions of his book as uninviting to read as any software manual. However, he reveals where he's coming from transparently and earned my trust far more than books which seem pompous and boring.

While he made no mention of this, I see his life journey as serendipitous. He repeatedly happened to be in the right place, happened to have something with him at the time, or happened to meet someone. I've had many serendipitous experiences myself. Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar suggests that learning as free spirit will bring fortuitous occasions about naturally.


The economy I want

To wrap up this latest series on the next economy, I'm revealing the next economy I'm anticipating with enthusiasm and optimism. This envisions the end game without the middle game to get there. I'm seeing signs that the transition is well underway and does not need to orchestrated, only anticipated.

  1. I foresee a massive reduction in consumer spending which will shrink domestic economies dramatically. This reduction will fall into place as people become less materialistic, less satisfied with shopping experiences and less addicted to extrinsic rewards.
  2. I suspect that neighborhoods will evolve along the same lines as the recent wonderful upgrades in homeschooling. There will be fewer isolated efforts and more collaborations. This will reduce the need for duplicate appliances, tools, backup supplies, even vehicles.
  3. I expect a new balance to be found between private, public and social production. This will reduce the profitability and size of private producers, the tax revenue and size of public producers. It will replace much of what is done for paychecks with volunteer efforts that the contributors find intrinsically rewarding.
  4. I foresee more of us picking up the slack for corporations and government agencies. We'll do for the big institutions what they cannot do for themselves by our being close to their embarrassing problems and capable of serving one individual at a time.
  5. I expect life long learning will become the norm as changes in lifestyles, food production, education, and social services. There will always be much more to explore as we seek to become competent and effective in our new ways of contributing and participating.
  6. I suspect that job sharing will become commonplace as individuals will seek enough paycheck income to maintain their homes, but want most of their time to be discretionary.
  7. Rather than go off the deep end of government supplied free housing and transportation, I expect we will work out a better balance between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. We'll see how to juggle what we love to do with a little daily grind on the side.

All these changes are already showing up. In a little more time, it will become obvious how to get on board, lend a hand and move situations in these directions.


What the next economy wants

Having explored what the old economy wants yesterday, two issues have been raised: what the next economy wants and how any economy could "want" something at all. Objective science objects when we assign intentionality to inanimate objects and abstractions. We're supposedly personifying or indulging in animism. Linear models of causality refute the possibility of recursive systems functioning as if they have minds of their own and intentions. However, subjective models of explanation allow for everything to enact processes and interests. We subject things to our perceptions and attributions in ways that are influential, engaging and ruinous to objective detachment. Our interests transform the interests we behold.

With that approach in mind, an economy shows interests in surviving and thriving. These interests are widely distributed through any local, regional, national or global economy. There are ongoing processes of growth, evolution, transformation and dissolution which enact these interests. An economy's interests transforms the interests of everyone participating in it. As I see economies, the next economy is nothing new. We're collectively losing interest in whatever the old economy wants for it to survive and thrive. We are gaining interests in different processes and beginning to enact them. Here are some of those processes which I'm calling "the next economy":
  1. The next economy wants us to feel connected to everyone and everything so that we revitalize every place on the planet. That means we will create a sustainable human culture that is compatible with ecological systems, limited resources and the long term consequences of our actions.
  2. The next economy wants us to question our conduct, hesitate before acting and interrupt our addictive compulsions. This will curtail our excess consumption and the inadvertent subsidy of any unfettered expansion of multinational corporations.
  3. The next economy wants us to become possessed by the meaning of our conduct, the purposes we serve and the intrinsic rewards we find for ourselves. This will bring out more creativity in our lives to replace the passivity we enact as viewers, consumers and hoarders.
  4. The next economy wants us to get a good read on everything we read, hear or watch to sense who can be trusted, which motivations are reliable and how inner conflicts can get resolved. This will dismiss unreadable presentations, advertising and journalism which happen to be lacking in transparency, self disclosure and honesty.
  5. The next economy wants us to embrace digital freedoms as the model for using technologies, value propositions and delivery systems. That implies that the use of analog models will appear to us as "old clunkers" and "quaint reminders of the bygone era".
  6. The next economy wants us to take consumer advocacy up a level so everyone has access to scrutinizing the quality of "customer experiences", "support after the sale" and opportunities to customize our purchases. This will diminish the acquisition of products and services from providers who relate to customers as enemies, zombies, idiots, fools or blobs.
  7. The next economy wants us to find our unique voices and to express ourselves through every media form that captures our imagination. This will drown out the deafening silence of those getting spoken for incorrectly or otherwise dehumanized, profiled or categorized as "one of those".
  8. The next economy wants us to see the highly paid stars as human, the leaders as equals in stature to us and the powerful as empowered by their followers. This will knock the arrogant off their pedestals and work some of those "first shall be last" reversals.
  9. The next economy wants us to experience symmetric relationships will all things living and inanimate. This will transition "ecological awareness" from something to talk about at length into passions to enact as living examples and to go the distance to heal our world.
  10. The next economy wants us to share what we have, care about others' interests, serve our common ground and co-create new possibilities. This will mess up property rights and litigation over violations of contracts which make sure no one shares, cares, serves or collaborates with us.

If you already have a foot in this practice of the next economy, you can see how it's no problem. The changes are in progress and getting explored in delightfully diverse ways. We're free to contribute our fair share, participate in collaborative outcomes and benefit from all the other contributions.


What the old economy wants

Kevin Kelly's forthcoming book is entitled: What Technology Wants. That got me inspired this morning to characterize what the old economy wants and new economy will want differently. I thought of so many facets to answer these questions, I cover them in two posts. Here's want the old economy wants us to think, to react to and to do according to its dictates:
  1. The old economy wants us to feel lonely, insecure and isolated so that we spend our money on consumer products and services that compensate for these dreadful feelings. That means we need to ignore how connected we feel, admired, respected and joined by so much of our online and mobile technologies.
  2. The old economy wants us to act senseless, driven, desperate and needy as if we're addicted to sports, entertainment programming, news, advertising, shopping, eating and driving around. Never mind how we're spending more time in personally meaningful ways.
  3. The old economy wants us to become possessed by our possessions, worried enough to buy warranties, and eager to stockpile inventories of "just in case" items in costly storage spaces. Forget living in the now with just enough stuff to get things done.
  4. The old economy wants us to trust providers, experts and professionals who are being opaque, secretive about their processes, closed to amateur inputs and protective of their private knowledge. Don't get inspired by transparency, honesty, humility and revelations within open systems.
  5. The old economy wants us to favor analog copies which degrade when duplicated, put us at risk to loan them out and morph us into property rights freaks like the guardians of income streams from the pre-digital era. Never mind what a game changer the digital copies have become.
  6. The old economy wants us to blindly accept the hype, hypocrisy and hullabaloo of push models of production, corporations spinning off toxic externalities and institutions turning a deaf ear to constituencies. Forget having a voice in all those comment boxes, customer advocacy publications, and platforms for self expression.
  7. The old economy wants us to enjoy the benefits of "double delegation", let others be our spokespersons and feel we're in our proper place when we've been silenced by superior expertise. Dismiss the democratization of authorship in the long tail of niche voices.
  8. The old economy wants us to take those high profile individuals making big bucks at face value, as if they can be taken at their word, held up as shining examples and valued as role models for the rest of us. Never mind what gets said off camera, what other lives they're living or what really motivates them.
  9. The old economy wants us to embrace asymmetric relationships where those in the know feel superior to the ignorant, those with the goods see those without as bad and those with advantage be sure to put others at a disadvantage as all this plays into premium prices, elite privileges and expensive access to off-limits enclosures. Don't change expectations from the abundance of opportunities to relate as diverse equals.
  10. The old economy wants us, as Clay Shirky tells us in Cognitive Surplus, to act spiteful toward others who could freely share in our wealth and to withdraw from mutually beneficial exchanges. Forget how much we can share without any loss to our own supply or well being.
Stay tuned for the sequel: what the next economy wants.


Amorous amateurs

I'm in the process of reading Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky and will have lots more to share that I'm finding in this wonderful book. For starters, Shirky tells us that the word "amateur" is derived from the Latin word for love: amor. Amateurs used to mean people who loved what they were doing and felt passionate about their pursuits. In modern parlance, they were intrinsically rewarded for their accomplishments. They did not need to be rewarded because doing the work, making a difference, contributing their talents and expressing themselves was reward enough. They were self motivated.

The word has suffered from "semantic shift". The meaning of "amateur" has changed over time. Nowadays, professionals think of amateurs as unprofessional, lacking credentials and disqualified from legitimate practice. It's regarded as a way to enter into a professional elite, but otherwise an obvious failure to advance oneself. Amateurs are presumed to dilly-dally and operate indulgently with low standards. There's no way they could be superior to professionals according to those who are educated, licensed, certified or otherwise qualified to practice.

We're beginning to see how amateurs can provide superior value, impact and functionality to others. The original sense of the word is returning -- of loving what they do and feeling passionate about their pursuits. They are free of the side effects of extrinsic rewards. They can bring solutions to problems and provide very personal attention. They can do more on a pro bono or volunteer basis using freemium models of versioned services. They are inclined to support each other transparently rather than compete, wall themselves off in seclusion and present an opaque bunch of hype about their processes.

The word amorous has also suffered from semantic drift. It no longer refers to the kind of love we feel for our activities and contributions. My dictionary gives its meaning as: "showing, feeling, or relating to sexual desire", "lustful, sexual, erotic, amatory, ardent, passionate, impassioned; in love, enamored, lovesick". When the meaning of "amateur" semantically drifts back to a superior kind of motivation, I suspect "amorous" will join the migration and refer to less erotic pursuits. We will speak of "amorous amateurs" with appreciation, awe and respect.


Talking with our tools

We've begun to have conversations with our tools. I've messed around with voice recognition software on my computers and tried out the different voices that can read onscreen text out loud. Many toys now speak to the kids sitting in the back seat of a car while the navigation system in the dashboard are speaking to their parents. These conversations assist us in doing what we're already doing. We remain under the spell of the tool which dictates our conduct and blinds us to alternatives.

In Sustainability by Design, John R. Ehrenfeld tells us that these conversations are not sustainable. We are unaware of what we are being, what role we've been enrolled to enact or what choices are available to us. He suggests that our technologies should interrupt what I have called our unconscious success routines. He uses the example of a two button toilet which offers the choice of flushing with less water. It saves water by making us aware of the sustainable or unsustainable role we're enacting.

As I played around with this way of seeing our conduct, I came up with several more extreme possibilities for disrupting our unsustainable behaviors:

  • When we're about to put more petrol in our vehicle, the gasoline pump could question us: "where are you going that requires this fuel?", "what choices do you have other than making this trip?" or "how could this drive be combined with travel to other anticipated destinations?".
  • When we're about to put groceries in our cart from the produce or packaged food aisles, the grocery cart could ask us: "have you considered the food miles and heat/cooling energy this item has already consumed and the carbon footprint that implies?", "are their other choices available which are more local and less energy intensive?" or "how can you revise your menu plans to eat in a more sustainable way?".
  • When we've touched the thermostat to change the temperature setting in the space we're occupying, the thermostat could query our conduct with: "why are you changing my setting?", "how could you get more comfortable by a change in clothing instead f messing with me?" or "what changes in your schedule could reduce the heating/cooling load which counteracts outdoor temperature variations?".
These are design revisions to familiar technologies which increase sustainability. They go one better than reducing excess consumption. They change habits and perhaps even our culture of consumerism. They question how we are being and what we are enacting. However these disruptions to our unconscious consumption would be ferociously opposed by the enterprises profiting from our unquestioned expenditures.

These examples are also conversations that naturally occur when we experience symmetric relations with everything in our world. Actor-network theory envisions us relating to the interests of the networks we encounter through contact with grocery carts, fuel pumps, and thermostats. Networked interests in our increased consumption are conflicted by networked interests in our sustainability. When this debate is controlled by vested interests in our increased consumption, we feel silenced and poorly represented -- as Acting in an Uncertain World helps us discern. When this debate engages us in hybrid forums and dialogic democracies, we become transformed by our participation in the conversations. We define our choices and get defined by our choosing. We see the roles we're enacting and the ways to enroll others in our interests. We become sustainable, less by design, and more by showing increased interest in others' interests.


Takeaways from Sonic Boom

I read Sonic Boom by Gregg Easterbrook to help me better anticipate the next economy. There are several significant takeaways from this book I'll refer back to once I return to formulating my predictions for what we're moving into and leaving behind:
  • The planet is now connected by a vast network of deep sea ports and enormous cargo ships. The international trade of raw materials and finished goods is fully supported throughout the world.
  • Trading partners need each other and maintain trade balances out of their own self interests. The alarming trade imbalances are mostly urban legends.
  • The good news is extremely under-reported by journalists who seem inclined to catastrophize, awfulize and demonize the bad news. (I've witnessed this pattern recently with the financial bailouts that have been repaid, the massive safety recalls by Toyota and the blowup of the BP deep sea oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico)
  • The explosion of global population in my lifetime from 3 to 6.5 billion has occurred amidst widespread declining birth rates. The increase is explained by declining mortality rates, longer life spans and better living conditions.
  • The overall population on the planet is successfully migrating out of poverty into better standards of living and better forms of governance.
  • A surprising variety of cities that were devastated by the obsolescence of an essential technology have reinvented themselves with inspiring resourcefulness and ingenuity.
  • The fees earned by venture capitalists amount to being paid to buy lottery tickets once the VC's have hit the jackpot with a particular start-up. It's no wonder the venture capital industry does not want to be scrutinized or regulated to protect investors.
  • The increased complexity of the world we work and live in calls for universal college educations. This change resembles the industrial revolution which necessitated the construction of enough high schools to give every citizen more than an elementary education that had sufficed for the prior agrarian economy.
These are the gems that stayed with me a week after reading Sonic Boom. I suspect these proved to be memorable to me because the tie into the questions I'm exploring and the hypotheses I'm formulating.


Getting it together

Inder Sidhu's new book: Doing Both - How Cisco Captures Today's profit and Drives Tomorrow's Growth - gives us some profound insights into the challenges I've previously explored as benefiting from paradoxes. Business enterprises usually rely on a set of metrics to monitor deviance from standards and asses performance of assets, individuals and profit centers. This inadvertently creates one right answer or one way to win which defines the perilous prospect of making career-ending mistakes. In order to "do both" of many different combined objectives, this conformist culture needs to be revised. There needs to be valid mistakes to learn from and new sets of metrics for doing the opposite of the prior one way to win.

As I reflected further on this book, last night, I realized more ways to benefit from utilizing paradoxes in business and educational practices. If we take the example of doing both: making useful mistakes and avoiding stupid or repetitious mistakes, we can see several more benefits:
  • There are no absolutes, rather situational evaluations of contexts which relies on the people involved to assess the mistake
  • Anyone obsessed with too little experimentation or risking the making of a mistake will feel pressured to maintain a better balance
  • Questioning "how many errors is appropriate?" or "how much emphasis to place on making mistakes?" will be answered by combined intentions to be right and proven wrong or being in the know and in need of knowing more.
  • Personal inclinations to idealize being error-free and then to demonize flawed performance gets transformed into realizing the best of accuracy and experimentation together
  • An approach to these contradictory objectives emerges where consistent, prescriptive advice gets replaced by guidelines for making complex judgment calls and insightful readings of the situation
  • A systemic approach for monitoring the balance between mistakes and experimentation evolves to recognize too few mistakes, too little accuracy, too many mistakes and too much insistence of flawless execution.
  • The successful cultivation of a dynamic equilibrium for each "doing both" paradox become unreadable by competitors and nearly impossible to beat in showdowns between rivals.
  • Facing the challenge of doing both as a paradox restores a sense of mystery to daily routines which can increase personal creativity, job satisfaction and dedication to successful outcomes.
We can change our minds about doing both by considering these many benefits. However, changing the culture, business models, and reward systems of an enterprise is a much bigger challenge that Inder Sidhu shows us how to tackle effectively.


Translating public interests

As I've reflected further on the book: Acting in an Uncertain World, I got inspired by the sequence of translations pictured by the authors. Translations is a key concept from actor-network theory which contains the processes of enrolling other's interests in a different approach, alignment or role. Perhaps because the authors study the sociology of scientific practices, their sequence follows the viewpoint of scientists as they address troubling issues in the public sphere. Their first translation moves from the messy world of contaminated data, irrational outbursts and political rhetoric to the secluded sanctuary of scientific laboratories, rational procedures and collegial interactions. Their next translation occurs within this seclusion where the unknowns become established truths, the hypotheses become verified (or discarded), and their critics get answered. A final translation returns to the world where the newly formulated science can inform government policy, commercial product development and individual preventative and remedial practices.

As I pondered the dynamics of alarming symptoms and ill-defined problems getting attention, resolution and solutions, I envisioned a different series of translations. I'm seeing a sequence of five translations that I've illustrated in the diagram on the right.

The first translation comes out of an illegitimate space of silenced voices, imposed denials and suppressed dissent to a gated space of politicized rhetoric. Once the issue has been politicized, it gets covered by the press which evokes much polling, commentary, interest and support for funding scientific research. The synergy between the roles of politicians and journalists spawns a narrative of historical significance. Participants feel like they are making a difference and making history. This process fuels an asymmetry of power, roles and interests between those in the space of politicized rhetoric and those illegitimate outsiders.

The second translation leaves the politicized space to enter the walled professional space. Here we find processes of coming up with scientific diagnoses, precise problem formulations, expert research designs, controlled experiments, comprehensive date analyses and defensible conclusions. This process also fuels an asymmetry of power, roles and interests between those in the professional space of empirical validation and those hand-waving demagogues in the politicized space.

If either translation shortcuts this sequence at this point, the innovations produced will be stillborn. These intermediate translations dead-end in the illegitimate space. Having been created in either asymmetric context of superiority, arrogance and condescension, the value proposition will seem too foreign, sophisticated or esoteric for the public expected to embrace it. They will respond irrationally to the offer as unfair, misfit or useless. The following two translations are essential to adoption and utilization by the public.

The fourth translation also moves from the illegitimate space of silenced voices to a space of commercialized possibilities. The illegitimate space gets reframed as an untapped market demand comprised of under-served or misunderstood interests. The silenced voices are sought out for insights, revelations and perspectives that arise from their unique contexts where end users experience overwhelming problems, setbacks, obstacles and constraints. By now, those outsiders have been exposed to the politicized and professionalized discourse on their silenced issues. Opportunities become clear for how to provide better services, new support systems and other commercial infrastructures for this new market space. The outsiders' experience of working with these commercial interests in symmetrical relationships contrasts dramatically with the asymmetrical experiences in the prior two spaces. There is a natural inclination to trust, open up to and buy-in to the commercial interests that have taken an interest in these silenced voices.

The fifth translation takes this "working with customers" to the next level by entering an ongoing collaborative space. The customers seem like what the authors of Acting in an Uncertain World have designated as "researchers in the wild". These deeply engaged customers are closer to the end uses, more keenly observant of details and more committed to getting their purchases to work better. These customers are full of innovative ideas for better solutions, approaches, and even formulations of the problems getting solved. They feel committed to the success of the business model and contribute significantly, as if they are getting rewarded intrinsically. Next generation innovations "hit home runs" because they read the customers' mindsets accurately, serve unmet needs superbly and guard against becoming too foreign, sophisticated or esoteric for the users.


Outgrowing delegative democracy

In the last chapter of Acting in an Uncertain World, the authors playfully explore the challenges of outgrowing delegative democracy. They make it clear there are vested interests in preserving what they call the "double delegation" to politicians and scientists by the constituencies of concerned citizens. It's very similar to the defenders of closed systems who see no value in switching to open systems for publishing, research, technical design or education. The authors suggest that commercial interests are equally anxious to lock down the thorny issues in order to produce some profitable products and services ASAP. Dialogic processes slowly open up a "can of worms" while involving a larger number of diverse voices, interests and perspectives. To those invested in convergent processes of diagnosis, decision making and execution, opening up several hybrid forums appears to make these messy problems impossible to solve.

As I read this, I realized I take exception to several facets of their argument about the challenges involved with outgrowing delegative democracy. My take on commercial interests is very different from theirs. My familiarity with interactive processes suggests different possibilities for getting dialogic democracy adopted. My research into advances in P2P models of collaboration, production and communities tells me that dialogic democracies is already working at small scales.

Incumbent enterprises can only come up with sustaining innovations. They cannot disrupt their business model without scaring everybody on the inside into a panic. These businesses provide evidence of the books characterization of commercial interests being very convergent. However, the global economy is brimming with disruptive innovators. They are anxious to better know the unmet needs of under-served customers. They rely on dialogic processes to get untapped market niches to reveal their contexts, problems, issues and aspirations. They do lots of listening after inquiring and inspiring so called "non-consumers" of incumbent offerings.

Dialogic processes are already in heavy use in contexts where the attendees are paid to attend. The four books pictured on the right reveal much of the terrain of these practices. Perhaps the attendees to these workshops, meetings and conferences are willing to participate openly because it's an enjoyable time away from the daily routine. It may be a very different story when participants are volunteering their own time away from their jobs and families to move worrisome issues forward that politicians and scientists are downplaying. But rather than connect the difficulties of outgrowing delegative democracy with the nature of dialogic democratic processes, the difficulties may be better explained by the circumstances of the participants.

Collaborative endeavors are usually in no shape to divide up the work at the start. There are dozens of unresolved issues that require considerable conversation, debate and further exploration to resolve. Working with others is inevitably dialogic and democratic, even if there is someone with final say or a gate keeping role. Experiences with P2P models of collaboration, production and communities are getting documented in videos, blogs and books. A Google search will find an amazing number of explorers of these new ways of working.

In short, we're already outgrowing delegative democracy and migrating into dialogic models as if it's a perfectly natural thing to do.


Acting in an Uncertain World

Last month Clay Spinuzzi wrote a review of Acting in an Uncertain World which inspired me to read the book myself. I was not disappointed. I've done lots of thinking beyond the book, much like I've begun to do with The Great Reset. Before sharing those thoughts in a later post, I first want to reveal how I found Acting in an Uncertain World to be valuable. One way I enjoy reflecting on books that I've read is to ponder what questions of mine were answered indirectly by the authors. Reading helps me realize what open questions I'm carrying by offering me wonderful insights, perspectives and patterns that respond to them. Here's a few of the questions that Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and Yannick Barthe have helped me answer:

Why do scientists in the public interest go into seclusion when working on high profile problems?
My question arises from the pattern of building trust in our expertise, advice and solutions by revealing our process of coming up with what we want trusted. In other post, Clay Spinuzzi both preached and practiced this pattern. Along the same lines, I faulted the authors The Firm as a Collaborative Community of for their conspicuous absence of transparency. I expect scientists in the public interest to be visible to the public as they contributed to problem formulations, data gathering, hypothesis testing and empirical validation. I learned several reasons why scientists favor opaqueness and seclusion from Acting in an Uncertain World:
  • The data in the world is too contaminated or impure to support precision in research findings.
  • The reductionistic process of scientific endeavors does not satisfy the hunger for immediate explanations among the public in a panic
  • The public appears irrational and unapproachable to scientists, in spite of concerned scientists wanting to serve the public's needs and solve their problems
  • Scientists are under constant scrutiny from peers to justify their hypotheses, validate their methods and verify their findings
  • Scientists develop symmetric relations with their own colleagues, but asymmetric power over politicians, spokespersons and representatives for the concerned public.

Why do concerned citizens experience so much difficulty getting heard when problems of public concern affect them personally?
Elected representatives now have staff who monitor emails, tweets and blogs for relevant mentions, concerns and commentary. Journalists are seeking lesser known and low profile sources for insider perspectives close to the alarming problems. The concerned citizens can upload text, photos, podcasts, slides and videos in order to get visibility, credibility and understanding. I've been expecting the problem of "not getting heard" to have faded away by now. Acting in an Uncertain World gives us several explanations for the continuing problem of concerned citizens getting silenced, shot down and misunderstood:
  • Most citizens can only recite their victim story, but not retell their misfortune in a larger or more abstract context of concepts, patterns and well-defined problems
  • Concerned citizens often dwell on the issue, but neglect the cultivation of their reputation, credibility and identity as a legitimate voice
  • Citizens abdicate their voices by over-relying on representatives and professional scientists who both prefer their silence through an implicit process of "double delegation"
  • Citizens lack support systems and transition processes for entering public forums, contributing to debates or reframing contentious issues as shared interests
  • Most concerned citizens don't reciprocate the scientists' interest in public concerns with their own symmetrical interest in scientific concerns which would establish them as compatible "researchers in the wild" capable of authentic dialogue
How have democratic processes effectively addressed problems with backlash, spill-over, residue, fallout and other forms of unintended consequences?
Journalists seem to dwell on what's not working in our world. We get too much information about crises, incompetence and stalemates. We hear too little about effective approaches, competent individuals and effective collaborations. So this question arises from what missing in our biased news diet. Acting in an Uncertain World gives us some models which have proved effective in these situations of alarming public concern:
  • A migration from delegative to dialogic democracy involves those people closest to the problem to contribute to problem formulation, gathering of useful sample data, or anticipation of consequences from remedial actions
  • The cultivation of roles for "researchers in the wild" validates the perspectives and motivations of concerned citizens while framing their conversations in terms useful to scientists and legislators
  • The structured use of models for opinion gathering, consensus building and conflict resolution increase the quantity and quality of participation among citizens
  • The shared map of translations -- from the messy world to the secluded laboratories (1) to precise findings (2) to the solutions applied in the world (3) -- creates an expansive space for addressing public concerns productively
To get questions to such large questions as these says to me that this book is unusually useful. That it also provoked many deeper reflections for future posts reinforces my impression of the authors' successful value proposition.


Adapting to the next economy

The next economy will come as a major culture shock to those of us who have relied on full time jobs for our identities, confidence and sense of what to do next. Our past history will tell us we "should get a job" because that's how the world works and that's what is expected of us. Never mind that "what we should do" is a guilt trip that frames us as "bad people" if we don't comply. In that frame of mind, we cannot consider what we could do, would love to do or can keep on doing because it leads us to what we're called to do. We need to be in our right brain cognitive strategies to consider those enlivening possibilities. One way to get there is to play around with visual metaphors. So here's four to ease your adapting to the next economy.
  1. How have you outgrown your past? When we're growing like crazy, we can no longer fit into the clothes we wore a few months prior. Likewise with our minds, competencies and compatibility, we become too big to play it small anymore. We become big minded so we can see much more than before: recognizing patterns and reading situations wisely. We become more competent with more experiences under our belts so we can do more heavy lifting and take on bigger challenges. We stand taller than before so we can see eye to eye with those of greater stature and command their respect more easily
  2. How have you moved forward? When we're making tons of progress, there's no going backwards in our lives. We gone beyond our comfort zone of familiar routines to a less familiar place that offers us new mysteries to solve, unknowns to explore and potential discoveries to realize. We're not the same person because we've solved some problems, met some challenges and realized some accomplishments. We've been changed by making changes in our world. We've moved to higher ground where we keep our perspective with ease.
  3. What have you built? When we've been working on projects, challenges and changes, we realized some accomplishments. These inform us in ways that revise who we think we are, what we presume we can get done and how we'll go about our next round of accomplishments. We have learned by doing to not only do things better next time, but to do different things that give us more meaning, deeper fulfillment and experiences of making a bigger difference. We've got our creations to show us who we've become and show others how to see us differently.
  4. What growths are you cultivating? When we work with organic processes of growth and decay, we realize we cannot make things happen mechanistically. Everything has a life of its own to respect, serve and trust. Some situations will appear to be forming buds that will blossom or bear fruit in time. Other arrangements appear to be decaying, withering and disintegrating. Some situations will appear to need weeding, pruning or restricting while others need encouragement, support and attention. When we see which of the varieties of growth we value for our own reasons, we can look after its flourishing and then nurturing us in return.
With these metaphors in mind, you can now consider how to continue what you've been doing. How can you keep on outgrowing your past, moving forward, building something new and cultivating growths? What can these processes lead to, set-up or turn into a different possibility? What differences will this make in others' lives that will come back around to change who you think you are. How can these patterns enroll you in a role of being who you're meant to be?


Anticipating the next economy

Over the past week, I've been finishing my reading of the four books pictured on the right.
Each is worthy of individual attention that I may provide soon, but I've been most captivated by the intersections between them. Sparks have been flying in my mind as I contemplated how these four books speak to each other. Together, they give us some wonderful clues about how the next economy will take shape. They're seeing the same trends through different lenses. Together they've increased my confidence in what I'm foreseeing as the sustainable replacement for the exploitative economy of the past three centuries.

Getting on speaking terms
The old economy takes for granted that we're not on speaking terms everywhere we turn. After all there is money to be made, work to be done and expansion to accomplish without idle chatter! So it has been business as usual for there to be disconnects between spokespersons and those spoken for, scientists and lay persons, manufacturers and resellers, product designers and customers, trend watchers and journalists, as well as employees and their top management. All four books show us ways to get on speaking terms with others throughout the next economy. The most radical version comes from John R. Ehrenfeld who was inspired by Bruno Latour's sense to dialogue with anything and everything. Ehrenfeld suggests how sustainability will come about by conversing with the thing we're about to consume. That will interrupt our automatic, thoughtless consumption with challenging questions for further exploration. The act of exploring our own interests as well as those of sustainable conduct will make us temporarily aware of the role we've been playing and another we could play out instead. Imagine how much more creative, collaborative, resourceful and responsive the economy will seem to everyone as result of replacing disconnects with dialogue.

Solving the right problem
The old economy has profited from solving the wrong problems without paying for the costly errors. The right problems don't appear as lucrative to solve until the beneficial side effects of a correct diagnosis are well understood. Each parochial interest has repeatedly gone into an exclusive silo, tried harder to do its thing and spun off troubles for others to handle. Now we know better than to ego-trip in our connected world. We can solve different problems with our access to information about who and what will get affected. We'll address the deeper nature of problems that spill over into others, blow back against misconstrued attempts at remedies, and escalate symptoms when addressed in isolation. We'll develop superior products, services, policies and programs to intervene where problems persist.

Hybridization of polarized opposites
The "tyranny of either/or" has ruled the old economy. As revealed by Collins and Porras in their 1994 classic: Built to Last, successful companies figure how to do both. Mutually exclusive pairs, stifling dilemmas and irreconcilable differences are all fodder for the mill of hybridization. There are paradoxes, balancing acts, meeting in the middle and winning combinations to be synthesized. Inder Sidhu's book applies hybridization to an amazing array of business issues. Callon, Lascoumes and Barthe apply it to the the collaborations between secluded professional researchers and the passionate "researchers in the wild". Easterbrook inventories inspiring synergies between opposing sides all over the globe. Ehrenfeld explores how the migration to sustainability calls for both the elimination of unsustainable practices and the embrace of approaches for flourishing in our lives.

Enrollment in roles
The old economy is rife with protestations about taking added initiative or responsibility. It's spoken as "it's not my job", "I gave at the office" or do I look like I care?". We've been compartmentalized and specialized in ways that undermine our cooperation, collaboration and reciprocation with others. The next economy has already begun to make us much more aware of others' pain, limitations, and forestalled possibilities. We're seeing many more ways to make a difference, lend a hand and show how much we care. It's something we'll do as the situation arises, not everyday like clockwork. We'll get enrolled by what we've discovered, how it understands us and what it asks of us. We'll play a role for the time being like we're playing a game or playing a part in a story. We'll have a sense of a space being created to enter inside, find others in there as well and together explore freely for the time being.

When one book makes a prediction about the future I'm thinking I'll wait and see. When four books perceive the same patterns emerging from such different viewpoints, I'm thinking I'll get onboard with lots of buy-in and eagerness to spread the word.