Triform market spaces

When markets come on the scene, tribal and institutional forms do not disappear. What David Ronfeldt calls a "Triform society" emerges from the combined presence of all three kinds of order. A SIMPLE situation where order could be maintained by stable institutions, now becomes a COMPLICATED situation. Institutions with monopoly control over their prices and quality now face rivals offering competing value propositions. Customers who previously accepted what was offered consistently now expect choices, better service, customized solutions and responsiveness to their particular contexts. Advertising that previously promoted brand names must now get in the customer's heads to appeal to their own diverse preferences, perceptions and memberships.

This analysis can obviously be applied to the global, domestic or regional economy. In later posts in this series, I'll apply it to particular markets and institutional contexts like secondary and university educational systems. This analysis follows on the prior two for Chaotic-Tribal order and Simple-Institutional order. There remains the fourth network order which provides an even more comprehensive context for these three orders I'm exploring today. (You can view a full size chart by right clicking on the one above to open it in a new tab)

Serving who?
The complications of a diverse bunch of customers is a welcome opportunity for any market order. It responds to the challenge to better serve a more varied demographic, segmentation and range of niches. Market order breaks out of the box of "take it when it's offered", "watch it when it's shown", "accept the same version as everyone else". Customers feel understood, supported in their own endeavors and well-served by the ways a market order responds to the complexity. This contrasts with institutional order which responds as if the customers are simply the same, wanting whatever preserves the self-serving institution's profitability, market share, brand name and product upgrades. This also differs dramatically from tribal responses to perceived chaos which do a potentially harmful dis-service to customers, depriving them of real value, useful experiences, enduring impacts and genuine satisfaction.

Characteristics of consumption
A market order explodes with a diversity of offerings that meet the needs of small niches, interest groups and specialized contexts. The customers are very selective, particular and informed. Consumer advocacy components have raised the bar on what customers expect, look for and reject as inadequate. Responsiveness to customers remains too varied to ever formulate best practices. The only possibility is good practices following considerable analysis of the complicated situations, options, rivals and customer segments. This contrasts with institutional responses that mass produce for mass consumption as if the buyers are passive consumers desperately filling their cupboards, attics, garages and storage lockers with excess stuff. The market response also differs from tribal response to an unwitting, captive market that can be exploited with exorbitant prices, shoddy quality, sporadic service and outright scams.

Premise for relating to customers
Market responses get the customer understood by listening, learning, exploring and discovering. The market order empathizes with what the customer is trying to accomplish with whatever they are buying. The context of the customer's use, their premises for perceiving value and the pitfalls they fall into when using what they bought -- all get revealed by relating sincerely and respectfully. This contrasts with institutions that get blinded by their success to think "we already know what we're doing" and "what the customers do with our products is none of our business". This also differs from tribal responses that perceive customers as "wanting something for nothing", "quick to change suppliers" and "too cheap to appreciate higher quality offerings".

Energizes its persistence with:
Market responses feed on the how customers respond to being cared for, served and understood. They respond in kind and make it easier for the provider to refine, diversify and follow through on what they offer. The spirit of cooperation permeates the interactions with customers who see the immediate benefits of playing along with the service provider. This contrasts with the competitive spirit of institutional rivals which seek larger market share to beat their rivals while acting on the conviction that they product is questionably superior. This also defies the conflicted spirit of tribal providers who get torn between acting greedy, wicked and deceitful and keeping up appearances of reliability, trustworthiness and integrity.

Cannot do better because the situation is:
Market order cannot do any better than it already does because their situation is so COMPLICATED. There are so many different customers seeking varied services, customized products and disaggregated delivery systems. This contrasts with institutions that get trapped by their success, structures, legacy practices, policies and tenured employees which makes "business as usual" so SIMPLE to maintain. This also differs from any tribal inability to improve when they're constantly set back by the lack of stability, safety, infrastructure, and competencies to handle the CHAOTIC situation.


Cooperating or collaborating?

In a comment yesterday, Stephen Downes, proposed that cooperation was better suited for complexity and collaboration fit better with complicated situations. Harold Jarche's initial concept drew from Shawn Callahan's post last December for Anecdote that used the Cynefin framework to differentiate between uses of coordination, cooperation and collaboration. My dictionary gives cooperation and collaboration two slightly different inflections to the idea of "working together", the exact title of Harold Jarche's post. The denotation is practically synonymous.

I mean two very different things by "cooperation" and "collaboration". These meanings make sense of cooperation fitting with market responses to complicated situations and collaboration arising in network responses to complex situations:

Cooperation connotes concessions of our own selfish aims while going along with another's agenda. We cooperate (or not) when someone else wants our agreement, permission, support or accommodation. Cooperation involves a reversal of our winning at their expense, taking advantage of their situation or parlaying their neediness in our favor. We switch to backing off, backing down, or giving in to their requests in order to cooperate with what others need or want from us. We are deploying a lose/win strategy in the chart of relational grammars.

Collaboration connotes the co-generation of new accomplishments, outputs and results. We collaborate (or not) when someone wants to pick our brain, get our input or come up with some ideas to help them. Collaboration involves a reversal of our merely cooperating, going along with their agenda or accommodating their needs. We switch to sharing responsibility for getting something done, solving a problem to our mutual satisfaction or making a difference we'll both benefit from. We are deploying a win/win strategy in the chart of relational grammars.

I also mean very different things by market and network responses as I detailed in yesterday's post: Reading situational responses. here's some further elaboration of the connection between networks and complexity that markets fall short of:

Markets structure mostly unilateral relationships between enterprises and their customers. The customers purchase and use what is sold to them. Networks structure bi-lateral relationships with their customers who contribute timely innovations, generate better buzz than any paid advertising, and expose flaws in service, product reliability or brand positioning. The customers make passionate use of the digitized, "free self-expression" context to collaborate with enterprises to make them more successful.

Markets keep rival enterprises disconnected to avoid appearances of collusion, price fixing, monopoly controls and other anti-trust violations. Rivals may concede to the advances made their competitors advertising, product upgrades and value proposition innovations. They do not help them achieve those aims. Networks connect rivals in order to share resources and mutually benefit from industry wide advancements. Rivals collaborate to adopt new technology, comply with new standards, cultivate new talent for the entire industry.
In another comment that followed up on Stephen's proposed change, Murl wrote the following:
I think it is the right way around because it does depend on a definition of collaboration. From my research I have noted the high degree of complexity of collaboration that operates in both the physical and virtual worlds as well as being very high risk driven towards an uncertain goal. That is, those who collaborate are highly vulnerable and exposed. On the other hand, participation in a cooperative venture is negotiated and agreed around a known goal. I would argue that collaboration is the highest order of working together and highly complex.
This adds two more dimensions to the distinction between cooperation and collaboration that help us sort out this issue. The situation is merely complicated when cooperating toward an established goal with little risk exposure/vulnerability. The situation becomes extremely complex when the goal is opened ended and the participants are vulnerable to those uncertainties amidst their collaboration.

All these considerations reinforce how Shawn and Harold applied the Cynefin framework to coordination, cooperation and collaboration modes of working together.


Reading situational responses

Living in a "Quadriform society" (T+I+M+N), we're constantly exposed to situational responses from tribal, institutional, market and network organizations. Chaotic, simple, complicated and complex situations are mixed up together. We're constantly wondering "where did that come from?". We're always trying to get a read on the responses we're seeing to the varied situations we're immersed in. Here's one way to sort out the responses that became clear to me by pondering the implications of Harold Jarche's added Group Work parameter to this evolving mash-up of the Cynefin and TIMN models.
  1. Tribal responses are lacking in coordination, cooperation and collaboration. They act against other tribes and institutions. They effectively undermine their own market position as a valuable provider, trusted source and understanding relater to consumers seeking cooperation with what they need. Tribal responses isolate themselves from the inter-dependent networks in their midst as if the network is more of the same chaos keeping them under siege.
  2. Institutional responses are lacking in cooperation and collaboration. They successfully coordinate their simple internal efforts with best practices while acting against outside interests. They discard their own failures onto their surroundings while making enemies of those seeking social justice, sustainable models, cleaner environments or other larger issues. They develop reputations for delivering reliable quality at what they have always done while proving to the market they cannot respond, adapt, evolve or learn from what's changing. Institutional responses firewall themselves off from the networks in their midst for security reasons involving continuing chaotic situations and others' tribal responses to the chaos.
  3. Market responses are lacking in collaboration. They successfully cooperate and coordinate with diverse niches, interest groups, demographic segments and consumer advocacy groups. Market responses act against rival providers while striving to better serve those who've adopted their differentiated and isolated value proposition. They practice empathy to allow for the value they provide to be intrinsic, unique to each beneficiary and decided in the eyes of the beholder. They cooperate with the long tail of active consumers by democratizing what institutions have centralized, controlled, restricted access to and mass produced. They utilize networks in their midst to get some buzz, spread their word, and generate some demand for what they offer.
  4. Network responses lack nothing. They collaborate with highly interdependent communities. They contribute to the common good altruistically, expecting nothing in return. The network returns the favor by extending the reach, enhancing the reputation and disseminating the value of each contribution. Network responses empower each participant to do their thing for the good of the whole and for their individual interests at the same time. They provide platforms for self expression that gives others the impression of understanding, respect, inclusion and permission to do the same. The usual problems that fallout from tribal, institutional and market responses vanish in the presence of network responses.

With these four ways to read the responses to any situation, it then become possible to define variations in situational literacy/illiteracy:
  1. Tribal responses are completely illiterate. They cannot get a read on institutional, market or network responses. Everything appears chaotic, out of control and unmanageable. Everything calls for a tribal response. Every response is tribal regardless of how big, well funded, long established, connected or responsive.
  2. Institutional responses can read tribal responses. They get the opportunity to impose control on out-of-control actions. They handle the constant danger of chaotic situations fueled by tribal responses. However, institutional responses cannot get a separate read on market and network responses. They equate markets with signs of tribal responses: being out of control, lacking coordination and violating their legally protected, proprietary interests. They view the network as equally tribal, aiming to put the institution out of business, undermining time-honored credibility, destroying their brands and disrupting their business models. They read a black and white subtext of insider/outsider, controlled/chaos, and with us/against us.
  3. Market responses can read institutional and tribal responses. They read shades of gray, middle ground between polarized extremes and nuanced subtleties. Market responses sees leveraging an apparent shortcoming where institutions see a weakness to keep hidden. Market responses create opportunities proactively by getting a read on who and how institutions and market rivals fail to serve, solve problems and adapt to the changing times. They recognize how customers form tribes of common interest, expression and connections. They see how to become less controlling, more accommodating and increasingly open without going into a panic like institutional and tribal responses.
  4. Network responses can get a read on all other responses. They read in living color. Network responses see how everything results from everything being connected. The network read of a situation is far more complex than we can put into sequences of words of spoken or written languages. Network responses take it all in. The read of the situation sounds like "Yes!"


Changing a light bulb

In searching for ways to convey an intuitive grasp of the four Cynefin/TIMN quadrants I've been exploring, I came up with these scenarios for "changing a light bulb"

In chaotic situations, tribal order cannot do what it takes to change light bulbs effectively. The electric power goes out sporadically. Most light bulbs burn for less than their rated hours due to adverse, unprotected conditions. The supply of replacement light bulbs is inadequate due to recent roof leaks and shelving collapses, as well as vandalism or theft by other tribes. The store shelves are often out of stock of bulbs due to problems with raw materials, manufacturing, warehousing or delivery of light bulbs. Some tribal members grip the bulbs too tightly and others too loosely when changing bulbs, which both result in excessive breakage of replacement bulbs.

In simple situations, institutional order replaces light bulbs as a matter of policy compliance. Job descriptions spell out who is responsible for changing light bulbs. Job training ensures that the procedure used complies with established best practices which prolong the life of each light bulb. Policies establish whether bulbs can be changed before they burn out when adjacent burned-out bulbs are getting replaced. The light bulbs are protected from damage in both their installed and storage locations. The manufacture, distribution, sale and procurement of light bulbs also proceed with without disruption due to similar policies, job descriptions and training. Electric power get delivered without interruption 99.94% of the time.

In complicated situations, market order supports a diversity of responses to burned out light bulbs. Some customers prefer to change bulbs themselves and inventory a supply of spares. Others change their own bulbs with no back up supply, and use a just-in-time approach to stocking replacement bulbs. This approach is supported by a reliable supply of bulbs on retailer shelves. Others hire free agents who provide a wide range of maintenance services which includes the changing light bulbs. The supply side offers a wide range of shapes, wattages, filaments and quality standards for shoppers to choose from. The competition between rival manufacturers, distributors and retailers results in a variety of value propositions including: you get what you pay for, you can save money on the purchase price but will change the bulbs more often and you can pay too much for the same quality as a generic bulb.

In complex situations, network order integrates the entire panorama of concerns. Power consumption gets reduced by less use of electric light, more energy-efficient bulbs and local wind/solar generation of power. The manufacture of light bulbs utilizes more recycled glass while cleaning up potential environmental hazards before they get discharged into the air, groundwater, soil or rivers. Purchases are made in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging material and the number of fuel-burning shopping trips.

As you consider these four scenarios, it's evident the differences between them are real. However, every situation is really as complex as the situation labeled "complex". The differences between the situations can be regarded as how much of that inherent complexity gets taken into consideration.


Combining relational grammars

I've been a big fan of relational grammars for the last two decades. I got started with Karpman's Drama Triangle years ago. Each of these grammars help me understand where others are coming from, how we differ and ways that changes might occur. As Sun Tzu advised us 3000 years ago in The Art of War, it's essential to "know ourselves and know our enemies" to not get blind sided by our own shortcomings, hubris or assumptions. Relational grammars help us accomplish that objective. We can see ourselves more clearly. We can get past those easy us/them labels of others and then apply more nuanced insights into our opponents.

Recently I've become aware of a relational grammar developed by Alan Page Fiske. Michel Bauwens has used this grammar to develop his P2P Manifesto. Others have drawn the parallels between that relational grammar and the TIMN framework of David Ronfeldt. As I've been synthesizing that TIMN model with Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework, the relational grammars I've been using came back to mind. Today I assembled the chart below which combines all these frameworks together. (right click on the chart to open a full size version in a new tab or window)

Here's one way to put this chart into words:

Tribes can bring order to chaotic situations by keeping everyone in line. Surpluses get distributed fairly and shortages evened out by the barter and gift economy dynamics. This means that no one is a winner and there's no way to win in ways that take advantages of others (lose/lose). Everyone is dependent on the tribe for safety, and thus co-dependent, endlessly needy for security, and essentially taking each other hostage to their lack of self reliance. Their tribal culture is powerless in a world of power trippers, colonizers, empire builders and systems of domination. They can migrate, evacuate, take flight and wander as nomads when threatened by land grabs, invasions or violence. Tribes are routinely persecuted in contexts with arrogant institutions, insensitive aristocracies, condescending monarchies or tyrannical dictators. Any member of the tribe who adds to internal instability, chaos or disorder gets ostracized. The fear of being left out from the safety of the herd keeps members from acting out their anti social urges. Being cast outside the tribe if like to deliver fatal consequences in the midst of overpowering and chaotic circumstances.

Institutions can bring order to seemingly simple situations by rule of law and formal social structures. Surpluses get hoarded for lean times and awarded unfairly to those on top of the hierarchy. The top dogs win at the expense of the underdogs. The institution get divided between first and second class citizens which unravels any depending on leadership. Counter-dependent urges get acted undetected by monitoring for deviance, sabotage or traitors. Passive aggressive defiance undermines teamwork, follow through and initiatives. Institutions wallow in stagnation, thwarted by their inability to innovate and change with the times.

Markets can bring order to complicated situations by responding to changing customers, rivals, technologies and resources. Making the sacrifice to invest in long term potentials sets up the next generation winning products, teams and investors to prosper. Power struggles ensue between rival enterprises and opposing camps within an enterprise favoring different innovation strategies. Viable markets foster independence from any monopoly control of prices or brand dominance by introducing diverse services, added value, enhancements and package deals. Customers get rescued from the institutional mass producer that fails to customize, segment and otherwise complicate their market of actual niches, special interests, and cultural diversity.

Networks can bring order to complex situations by providing platforms for the vast interdependencies, connectivity and emergent phenomena to express itself. Networks create opportunities for everyone to win and benefit from others' succeeding. Everyone can have the effect of empowering others by encouraging their contributions, appreciating their sharing, and maintaining the commons. The collective abundance of creativity has the potential to redeem chronically problematic interactions by offering alternative diagnoses, frameworks and stories.


Cynefin practices applied to TIMN

Dave Snowden's Cynefin model was developed for enhancing knowledge management practices. It has since found more widespread applications referenced in the Wikipedia page for Cynefin. Here's how I'm seeing those four quadrants apply to the TIMN framework.

CHAOTIC situations breed a TRIBAL order where NOVEL practices handle the challenges. In chaotic situations, all bets are off about "best practices". Any correspondence courses on tribal leadership, administration and decision making would find no buyers. The situations are too extreme, unstable and unpredictable for knowledge to become routine, verified or documented. Chaotic situations call for continual exploration, experimentation and variation. Action comes first to get a better sense of the situation which suggests how to respond (Act -Sense - Respond). What worked before may not work again or maintain any hypothesized causal relationships. Policy manuals would become obsolete before the ink dried on the pages. Job Descriptions would be inadequate and misleading. Tribal forms of oral culture and storytelling handle the challenges far better than the other forms.

SIMPLE situations breed an INSTITUTIONAL order where BEST practices handle the challenges. In simple situations, the stability, continuity and longevity enable best practices to get established. Institutional documentation remains valid, useful and practical for years. The variations in the world can be handled with cookie cutter, rubber stamp and carbon copy solutions. Institutional functionaries need only know how to execute the plan that's guaranteed to work, not troubleshoot, second guess or critique the plan. All that's required is to sense which situation this is, categorize it accurately and respond with a best practice (Sense - Categorize - Respond). Institutional order handles these challenges the best.

COMPLICATED situations breed a MARKET order where GOOD practices handle the challenges. Rival firms position themselves with varied product/service mixes. Customers are constantly changing their needs, desires, preferences and perceptions. Technology, regulatory legislation and media coverage alters the commercial landscape. The complications defy categorization or the application of best practices. A big investment needs to be made in analyzing what is sensed about this panorama of complications prior to responding with good practices (Sense - Analyze - Respond). Market dynamics handle these challenges the best.

COMPLEX situations breed a NETWORK order where EMERGENT practices handle the challenges. Feedback loops, vicious & virtuous cycles, self-referential messages, layered problems, and self-organizing dynamics all defeat the deliberate formulation of practices. Too many facets have taken on a life of their own with highly interdependent, evolving dimensions. It's better to let effective practices arise from immersion in the complexity. Probing the immediate situation without prior conditioning, preconceptions or assumptions will yield a clear sense of how to respond in the moment (Probe - Sense - Respond). Network dynamics handle these challenges the best.

Having said all this, yet another use of the Cynefin framework applies to these four kinds of situations and what order they breed. Taken as a whole, the combination of the four alternatives will be complex in itself when sensing any situation that could be any combination of the four. The order that handles the options well will emerge, rather than become formulaic or analytical.


Points of differentiation

As I'm applying David Snowden's Cynefin framework to explore David Ronfeldt's TIMN framework, I inevitably twist both authors' original meanings. Here are some of the ways I've taken liberties with the TIMN framework:

Historical progression or simultaneous options?
Ronfeldt's inspiration for his TIMN model appears to the historical progression from "uncivilized" hunter gatherers to post-industrial cyber-citizens. Thus his definitions for the four categories relates effectively to how each form first emerged over time. He also explores how prior forms linger as societies evolve. My focus is on what he calls our contemporary quadriform society which incorporates all four forms (T+I+M+N). I'm exploring how each subsequent form incorporates it's prior form to co-exist with it. Thus my definitions will not provide mutually exclusive categories. This also makes me more likely to see a progression of good coming from a bad episode, rather than a regression from bad to worse tribal chaos. When all four forms are co-existent, the potential to innovate is more likely than whenever it requires a historical progression which must outgrow an incumbent order.

Leaderless or tribal leader of the pack?
In his seminal paper, Ronfeldt equates tribal forms with leaderless communities:
In keeping with the primacy of kinship and the codes of conduct that stem from it, the classic tribe is egalitarian—its members share communally. It is segmentary—every part looks like every other part, and there is little or no specialization. And it is “acephalous” or headless—classic tribes do not have strong, central chiefs. (The “chiefdom” is a transitional phase between tribes and early states.) (page 10)
I include chiefs, tribal elders, and leaders of the pack in my definition of tribes. Even animals and swarming insects exhibit power differentials among members. When I apply an psycho-developmental lens, I perceive tribes as operating in "weak ego states" that lack self control and depend obsessively on authoritarian rule. Tribal members resemble children who need parental figures or domesticated livestock that need a shepherd. Thus, in my view, tribal leaders are not an "early state" of an institutional form, they are an inherent feature of tribal order amidst chaos.

It follows that I perceive differences between tribal and institutional leaders. Within an institutional context, the same difference is evident between the formal and informal leaders. The formal leaders receive gratuitous respect for making official pronouncements and for being in positions of power over others. Informal leaders earn the respect of the their followers from the way they personally perceive situations, respond to challenges, relate to other viewpoints and make difficult decisions. Formal leaders are inherently insecure in their titular positions and surround themselves with people who both tell them what they want to hear and shoot messengers who discredit their blind spots. Informal leaders are inherently confident in their roles and attract informants who share conflicting viewpoints and disrupt their cherished assumptions to get a better read on unfolding situations. Formal leaders get promoted by decision makers in positions of authority. Informal leaders emerge from conversations, meetings and rumor mills in the back channels of an institution. Thus tribal leaders closely resemble any informal leaders within institutional contexts.

Marketing preceding or following institutional forms?
In his most recent valuable blog post, David Ronfeldt relates his TIMN model to several others which lack his tribal component. Several of those models reversed the order, as if markets precede institutions in evolution, complexity or societal development. They seemingly assume markets are SIMPLE mechanisms that merely find optimum prices and more efficient interactions between supply and demand. Institutions are then COMPLICATED structures that make more elaborate plans, pursue more diverse goals and serve more differentiated constituencies. This is the view of markets held by free market economists who have sought to de-regulate financial institutions, investors and speculators while vehemently opposing any bill of rights for holders of mortgages, credit cards or other consumer debt.

I regard this view of markets as SIMPLE and congruent with the outlook of SIMPLE-INSTITUTIONAL insiders. This over-simplified view makes markets seem manageable, easy to manipulate, ideal for maximizing profits and supportive of expanding institutions. It fits the self-serving premises of institutions. Thus it's a characterization of institutions which precede markets, not a characterization of markets. I agree with the "I before M" in Ronfeldt's framework. I'll explore my view of COMPLICATED MARKET order in a forthcoming post.


Simple - Institutional order

Simple - Institutional order

INSTITUTIONAL ORDER cannot be successfully imposed when powerful, wealthy or colonizing organizations try to make it happen. Any chaos that takes on tribal forms is unmanageable by abstract, rational or formalized structures. Tribal forms persist while the chaos continues to perpetuate itself. Institutional order only becomes feasible when a change comes over the populace, citizens, market or members of a tribe. The propensity for hostile-vindictive conduct transforms into passive aggressive tactics. Blatant disregard for others evolves into backstabbing, rumors, blackmail and subterfuge. Dependence on the herd for safety transitions into dependence on authority figures for stability. The participants are then ready to be managed, organized and penalized.

When institutional forms can take hold, they do not replace tribal order. Institutions contain tribal dynamics within their formal rationality. Once the unruly mob simmers down, managing their compliance becomes a SIMPLE problem. Conformity is managed with policies, laws, regulations and contracts. Capability gets handled with indoctrination, drills, testing and grading. Comparisons get handled with objective measures, normative standards and stats. Deviance is punished with fines, incarceration, termination of contracts and death. The people, problems, situations and repercussions may not be simple, but institutional order regards them as simple to manage them within its means.

Here are some of the ways an INSTITUTIONAL ORDER contains tribal chaos as SIMPLE problems:
  • harbors tribal chaos when it shows up as office politics, turf battles, dispensing privileges to those in the loop, getting outcast as a second class corporate citizen
  • camouflages tribal chaos when it's acted out as corruption, scandals, insider deals, bribes, racketeering
  • commercializes tribal chaos when it can be exploited as fan worship for film/TV/rock stars, sports icons, political figures,
  • sublimates tribal chaos when it can be channeled into consumer brand fanaticism, customer loyalty, fan devotion, collectibles, gatherings
  • glorifies tribal chaos when it can be enslaved by hero worship of military service personnel, law enforcement officers and first responders
  • sanctifies tribal chaos when it becomes religious fanaticism, devotion to a faith tradition, sacrifice to a religious order
  • imprisons tribal chaos when those impulses get expressed as criminal behavior, violation of laws, harm to others

Each of these ways an INSTITUTIONAL ORDER contains tribal chaos as SIMPLE problems ignores the actual complexity of the problem. The simple minded approach fails to address the underlying cause, unmet need or missing half of the whole solution. The necessary oversimplification disregards the countless repercussions, long term consequences and inevitable blow back from reductionistic approaches. The problematic nature of institutional responses makes it vulnerable to getting obsolesced by COMPLICATED - MARKET ORDER dynamics when they emerge.


Combined models for pattern recognition

If you've been reading the blogs of Harold Jarche, Rob Paterson, and/or Dave Pollard, you're already familiar with Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework that all three make great use of when identifying patterns. If you've been reading John Robb and/or Michel Bauwens, you've become aware of David Ronfeldt's TIMN framework. This morning those two frameworks merged in my mind as one coherent model. Here's how the combination comes together in my current outlook:

Chaos - Tribal order

When situations are CHAOTIC, our minds function sub-optimally as I've previously explored in Baggage has a mind of its own and in Deciding about uncertain danger. Our limbic system overtakes our rationality. We act out our negative emotions with violence, herding instincts and abusive language. We see others as depersonalized objects or as hated enemies. We contribute to the chaos rather than introducing social order.

This results in in the patterns of war torn regions that inspired Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Black Swan model. Our minds fall for narrative fallacies to cope with the chaos. The instability invades civilized societies as terrorism, battles between drug cartels, maritime piracy, gang violence, organized crime and failed states. The widespread misconduct is infectious and breeds another generation addicted to acting out and feeding the chaos. None of the players have access to self control, self discipline or self restraint. They typically experience themselves as out-of-control and dangerous to themselves.

The only sustainable order amidst this pattern of chaos is TRIBAL. The kinds of order embodied in institutions, markets and networks fall apart when people act this unruly. Tribal order is what works. We gang together to realize some safety in numbers amidst the chaos and to improve our chances of survival. Interaction patterns fit the model of social darwinism: survival of the fittest and natural selection of dominance. The tribal chieftain is like an "alpha dog" who has risen to lead the pack of desperate individuals fearful of getting outcast, shamed or stigmatized. Deviants in the herd are kept in control with a gift economy where everyone contributes their fair share in tit-for-tat arrangements. Slackers, critics and power-mongers get outcast for disrupting the cohesion of the tribal order.

This series mash-up of the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks has evolved with the following posts:
Simple- Institutional order
Points of Differentiation
Cynefin practices applied to TIMN
Combining Relational Grammars
Changing a light bulb
Reading situational responses
Cooperating or collaborating?
Triform market spaces
Destructive impact of network entrants
TIMN practices
Speaking of frameworks
Emergent forms of TIMN


Structuring vibrant communities

The numerous problems with pseudo online communities I listed yesterday can be easily eliminated. Taken as individual problems to solve, remedial efforts will only lead to frustration. The underlying structure of the community needs to be revised. Here are four key ingredients to a vibrant underlying structure:
  1. Pronounced diversity: Most gatherings are set up as level playing fields to subvert anyone taking control or over-powering the group. This imposed homogeneity keeps exceptional talents, experience or resources from alienating, intimidating or diminishing particular members, . Everyone appears equally incompetent, inexperienced and lacking in resources for the sake of harmony. Nobody knows what anyone else is good for. When differences in talent, experience and resources get brought to light, lots more can get done. It becomes clear to all who to call upon for what, how many problems can be addressed productively and which combinations of members will be the most fruitful. The diversity gets recast as a valuable asset to the community, rather than as a looming threat to its cohesion.
  2. Evolving personal profiles: Ordinarily, member profiles serve the purpose of only providing a published directory. The profiles get filled out in a perfunctory frame of mind. These listings get used by newcomers learning about established members, who in turn, learn about the new members. The profiles get looked at only once by any individual because that look-see resolved any questions, dashed any hopes and lowered every expectation for the future. Profiles ought to be revisited often and play into further questions, optimism and goals. This occurs when profiles are regarded as works in progress that reveal more over time. Evolving profiles create expectations that these customized, updated and reconfigured profiles are really worth visiting regularly. This in turn makes the members seem more interesting, worth knowing and potentially valuable for exploring issues together.
  3. Standing requests: Most requests of community members are made in passing via email, forums, or blogs. If members don't get to them right away, they don't know if the request still stands, got enough responses or needs more input. There's no reply-by date or closure on the request. All that can be changed by using a wiki-style web page for standing requests. Responses can be added to the page, just like adding comments to a blog post. However, the page will get updates about the status of the request, appreciation for those who have responded and eventually be closed out.
  4. Virtuous cycles of feedback: In an atmosphere where members are posturing and pronouncing self-congratulatory positions, feedback becomes adversarial. The follow-up comments may attack the arrogance, downplay the sales pitch and diminish the claims being made. Comments may, alternatively, offer gratuitous praise to the like-minded, collude with a tribe member or validate an underlying conspiracy. These brands of feedback form vicious cycles, deplete community vibrancy and engender a predominance of silence. Virtuous cycles can be formed by a formalizing an added element to the transactions. This added component can be observations about the pattern of interactions, restatements of a particular position, efforts to better understand an individual, work on the relationship between adversaries or the restoration of bilateral feedback. In every instance, the effect is energizing. It pays to give feedback and get feedback in return. The wording becomes constructive in this improved atmosphere. The quality of contributions to the community soars as these virtuous cycles take effect.

When an underlying structure like this gets installed, countless problems disappear. Community members feel understood and well situated to understand others. They experience getting talked with, instead of talked at. They notice they are no longer talking to a wall, but are finding out where they stand, how it's coming across to others and what else needs to be said. Members gain proof that they are making a difference which gives them incentives to contribute in more and better ways. The abundance of value created by the community gives rise to many more voices, ideas, approaches and solutions.


Pseudo online communities

Back in the eighties, Total Quality Management was all the rage. Companies adopted "quality circles" to enable those close to the work to work together on improving quality. There were a few showcase examples, but most were "quality circles" in name only. People showed up for the meetings without making an effort or making a difference. The same pattern occurred with self-directed teams, communities of practice and cross-functional task forces. In the dozen years I taught college, the same dysfunction occurred on the students' "group projects". At the same time, I participated in several online listservs. Now we have more than a million online communities that mostly appear to be communities "in name only". The pattern continues to repeat itself ad infinitum.

Here are some of the telltale signs of falling into pseudo teamwork or community dysfunctionality:
  • The predominance of silence filled with only a few loud voices.
  • Tired debates over positional stances that avoid collaborative processes for changing, learning, rethinking, problem solving etc.
  • Use of the shared space as a dumping ground for personal frustrations, resentments and other forms of baggage.
  • Routine experiences of "talking to a wall" and getting deprived of feedback, reactions, responses, and other perspectives.
  • Polarizing of members into cliques, mini-tribes or turfs to make enemies of other members and to fortify defensive rationalizations.
  • Contributing to mutual misunderstanding, mistrust, escalation of tactics and adoption of superficial stereotypes.
  • Expecting others to provide what's missing while abdicating responsibility for contributing to much-needed solutions.

Over the years, I've come up with many explanations for why these patterns reappear so consistently. Here's more than a few:
  • Left brain cognition thinks in dichotomies which rejects the nuances and complexities of effective interpersonal relations
  • Emotional baggage interferes with authentic relating and our ability to understand others insightfully.
  • Doctrinaire approaches to schooling breed passive learners who cannot regard "what's going wrong" as a lesson to learn from.
  • Bureaucratic employment enforces a culture of top-down, hierarchical power structures which repudiate power-sharing, bottom-up initiatives and teamwork.
  • Scientific objectivity rejects the cyclical, interdependent, reciprocal and self referential dynamics of seeing other people and "their" problems.
  • We only relate effectively when we're feeling understood, and otherwise become preoccupied with getting attention or getting even.
  • Systems of abuse silence their victims and teach them to feel permanently powerless, dominated and vulnerable to hostilities.
  • Outer directed consciousness falls into vicious cycles which drains the participants of their personal motivation, commitment and creativity.
In this post I've used my bounty of the patterns I recognize to identify recurring problems. In my next post, I'll explore the solutions inherent in these ways of defining the problems.


WWGD? Part Two

This is part two of the enterprise design principle's I've extracted from my reading of What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. You can read part one here.

From behind closed doors to transparent processes: When customers cannot be trusted, secrets abound. There is an obvious need to keep private dealings inside walled gardens. Going public would only occur during a criminal investigation, whistle blowing incident or unfriendly audit. When decision making is done in public view, trust abounds. People see what went into the decision, what tradeoffs had to be made and who can be trusted. They invest some confidence in transparent processes that don't always turn out the way they want. They have a perspective that works with, instead of against that enterprise.

From protectors of proprietary property to providers of embeddable content: When we're captivated by owning what we've created, we do not want to people to steal it. We safeguard it from others getting hold of it, spreading it around and sharing it with others who might find it interested. We assume that other's have no right to become an advertiser, distributor or promoter without our consent. When we make it easy for others to embed our creations in their digital publications, we allow them to go one better than "spreading the word". They set out free samples. They set up others to 'try it before they buy it" and "see if it works for those people in particular".

From greedy capitalist to freemium strategist: When we're in it for the money, we charge what the market will bear. We may offer teaser rates, loss leaders and discount coupons to relieve the sticker shock. This makes it possible to eventually "stick it to the customer" with the hidden charges, fine print, renewal rates and mandatory add-ons. Jeff Jarvis advises us to charge the minimum the enterprise can bear while staying in business. One way to achieve that is the "freemium strategy" that both Chris Anderson and Peter Froberg have advanced our thinking about. Off the basic version for free that is "good enough" for the vast majority. Allow the use of the freebie to whet some appetites, refine some potential uses and create demand for a premium version. Satisfy that emergent demand with a revenue-generating package of enhancements for those "most devoted" customers.

Applying these upgrades to the conception of new enterprises poses a significant psychological challenge. This is a serious departure from the familiar comfort zone of "business as usual". Yet the resulting revisions to value propositions and business models appear numerous: Marketing expense could fall to near zero. Customer satisfaction and loyalty could increases dramatically. Financial feasibility could improve significantly as operating costs and initial investment get reduced by this approach. In short, becoming Googley improves the chances of a new enterprise's success.


What would Google do?

I read the book What Would Google Do? over a month ago and it's still spawning insights in my mind. Over the weekend, I was exploring how Jeff Jarvis's concepts could apply to launching a new preschool. As I talked it out with a friend, I had a familiar experience of "the best way to learn something is to teach it, tie it into some other ideas and make it clearer to someone else". This morning I realized a way to present the challenge as seven upgrades to our thinking about value propositions, business models and competitive strategies. I'll present three of these transitions today and the remaining four tomorrow.

From commercial hubris to networked humility: When launching or expanding an enterprise, it's tempting to become "all things to all people". The idea of offering "one stop shopping" and cultivating a brand as the "The Trusted Source" spawns a bubble of conceit. We lose sight of "serving all masters serves none well" or how we'll end up paying the price for "getting too big for our britches". We then become receptive to Jeff Jarvis's concept of "do what you do best and link to the rest". We humbly offer what we naturally excel at and rely on the network to fill in our gaps, blind-spots, shortcomings and biases. Choosing a niche strategy of specialization is far less compromising in a world with link-saturated, resource web pages that rise in page rankings with all those page visits and click thrus.

From changing the customers' conduct to supporting what the customers are already doing: When we're penetrating a market that is not yet buying what we're selling, we see the need to change the customers' conduct. We facing a tough sell, uphill battle and wall of resistance. We tell ourselves we cannot lighten up, back off or give in. We become bullies or sharks that develop reputations for marketing scams, false impressions and deceitful practices. When we make it easier for customers to solve their own problems and get the results they've been seeking, our offer sells itself. They hijack the brand, tell their own story about what we're offering and get the deal to go viral. They want the enterprise to succeed because it works for them as a tool, aid or facilitator of what they've already been doing with difficulty.

From high-profile professional to low-profile platform host: When the products/services being offered require a big, upfront investment, we fall prey to putting faith in factory business models. We imagine the customers as passive consumers who cannot compete with or complete for themselves -- what we offer. We assume they lack the education, equipment and experience to rival our expert professionalism. We live in a read-only world of ink on paper, mass media and manufactured goods. When we get the idea of providing a platform for "user generated content", we change to a read/write world of digital content that gets tagged, ranked, customized, remixed, mashed up, fictionalized, favorited, and linked to from other digital content. We provide places for customers to join, contribute, share, upload, vote, rank and comment as they see fit.

to be continued here ....


If businesses could speak

I'm back to working on a business model for the next economy and have been thinking today about different kinds of enterprise architectures. Here's the four that do a good job for me of sorting out the characteristics I'm focused on at the moment:

Commission architecture: Lots of enterprises make a percentage off what they sell. They compete on price and appeal to those customers looking for a bargain. Because they are focused on the percentage they are making, they run a lean operation. They are prone to the deceit and exploitations that we've recently witnessed among brokers of mortgages, derivatives and credit swaps. They cannot provide extra service to the vast numbers they make a small markup off of. They would say "you're already getting a bargain, we cannot listen to you".

Production architecture: Many other enterprises produce deliverables for their market of consumers. They compete on the quality of what they offer and appeal to customers looking to get what they pay for. They operate production facilities to deliver their product/service mix consistently, perhaps even by Six Sigma standards. They are prone to feature creep and indulging consumer excesses like the manufacturers of SUV's and oversized pickup trucks. They would say "we're delivering what the market demands, take it or leave it".

Persuasion architecture: Relatively fewer enterprises influence new customers to take the risk and try out their value proposition. They make offer support for buyers facing a complex range of issues prior to making purchase. They may put out a freemium deal where the free starter kit is good to go and only a small percentage buy the premium version. They may customize what they sell to each customer's preferences. They are prone to "give away the store" in the process of enticing new buyers to come on board like those pizza retailers who offer too many discount coupons to break even.

Participation architecture: The internet is revolutionizing this possible approach to enterprise design. Businesses can be platforms where potential customers show up, sign in and contribute. They maintain profiles for each individual and places to share among themselves. Those that join in talk up this place that understands how potential customers can contribute ideas, guide decisions and spread the word. While this crowd has little or no respect for proprietary content, copyrights or walled gardens, they are thrilled to make a difference by sharing the value they experience. These enterprises are prone to go viral and to scale rapidly after a slow start. They would say "here's what we've heard as we've listened to you give us so much valuable input to consider. Thanks!".


Mind of a control freak

I've known many control freaks among consulting clients and spouses of my married friends. As I've been exploring emotional baggage of late, I've realized what drives those people to control others. Briefly, here's the likely dynamics of their inner world that comes out as controlling others.
  • Control freaks are prone to outbursts of their stockpiled negative emotions. They have a lot to keep a lid on.
  • They experience themselves as easily provoked, upset or outraged by others. Their hot buttons seem to get pushed by a gust of wind.
  • Keeping themselves under control is a tenuous affair. Their ability to keep a grip on their emotions is not reliable.
  • Control freaks experience themselves as dangerous to others and their relationships when they lose their grip.
  • They automatically seek to improve their chances maintaining self control, to minimize this danger.
  • They frequently experience others as upsetting them and provoking them by appearing "out of control".
  • What appears as "out of control" to control freaks is merely spontaneous, fun-loving, experimental or exploratory to others.
  • The control freaks urgently react to get others "in control" before the control freaks reach their own flash point.
  • Their need to control others and situations is structured to be relentless, insatiable and insensitive to others.
  • Control freaks have no choice but to act controlling since that alleviates the problem of how dangerous they are.
There is no solution at the level of how controlling they are or how "out of control" others appear to them. Their stockpile of negative emotions drives the entire pattern. Control freaks will only become more tolerant, flexible and accommodating as they resolve how they are feeling about their past history.

For a newer look at this issue, see my Mind of a control freak - redux 8 March 2010


Sorting out a tangled mess

When two people become a pair with matching luggage, most of what's happening occurs below the surface. What obviously gets said and done can be very misleading. What gets talked about is usually talking about something else entirely. The only way to stay on track without getting derailed is to wonder about the underlying significance of what is immediately obvious.

When half of a pair accuses the other of bringing emotional baggage into the relationship, s/he will say things like "get over it", "let it go" or "stop taking things so personally". Meanwhile, that person will use the relationship as a dumping ground for acting out negative emotions, internalized abuse or personal insecurities. The other will be getting upset, getting his/her hot buttons pushed and getting provoked by reenactments of personally painful past episodes. There is a constant barrage of experiences in the relationship to get over, let go of and stop taking personally. There's no relief in sight because both are hardwired to what's happening on the outside.

When one blames the other for "making him/her feel a certain way", no responsibility is being taken for how one feels. Blaming merely announces a toxic dependency on the other to feel good about oneself. Left to one's own devices, the blamer feels inadequate, inferior, defective or dangerous to oneself and others. Rather than point out his/her personal flaws, blaming another provides a useful cover. Choosing how to feel is kept off the table. It remains legitimate to say things like "you upset me" or "you depress me".

When half of pair tells the other s/he has a problem, it takes one to see one. The person pointing fingers has the same problem. The problem is getting pointed out to have more in common, to get understood or to stick together when fears are driving each other apart. There's no opportunity to support each other's successes, growth or expanding self awareness. "Misery loves company" becomes the only companionship option. Making the other miserable enough to commiserate takes control of the relationship. Eviscerating the other's self confidence and independence insures more clinging and hanging together out of neediness.

When we can discern these underlying dynamics, relief is in sight. We can recognize the pattern in what happens. We can read the subtext in what gets said. We can break the cycles that ensnare us in constant reactions. We can choose how we feel regardless of what's happening. We free ourselves from what our own baggage dictated, necessitated and perpetuated.


Raising the level of suspense

This morning I've been working on how storytelling may be a useful approach to resolving emotional baggage. If you've been reading this ongoing series of posts, you know I've previously explored facets of emotional baggage through the lens of storytelling in Revising your past history, Trapped inside a story, and Authoring a new story.

Baggage kills the suspense in our lives. The pain we've hung onto keeps the same things happening over and over. There's nothing to look forward to when our baggage is running the show. Our baggage is keeping us safe from danger and locked into successful routines as if there is nothing new to learn, to reconsider or to adopt as a replacement. Baggage driven lives are boring. The same old victim story (what happened to me) gets retold a thousand times.

Today I'm wondering if restoring suspense to lives via suspenseful stories might create the desired transformations in these storied lives. Here's how stories generate suspense that may potentially become infectious in the baggage-burdened lives of an audience:
  • When stories take the characters into an unusual world, we are held in suspense about their eventual return. Will Alice get back safely from Wonderland? Will the Darling children accept life in London as normal after their adventures in Never Never Land?
  • When stories reveal the "back stories" of the main characters, the level of suspense gets raised by not knowing how their past history will influence their current conduct. Will the characters have enough motivation from what happened to them before to see this new challenge all the way through to completion? Will the insecurities and weaknesses acquired in the dreadful past episode subside as the characters go on this new quest?
  • When the protagonist gets pitted against an antagonist, we're left hanging by the evenly matched contest. Will the heroics overpower the villain in the end? If the enemy gets the upper hand, will this strengthen the resolve of the good guys?
  • When the predictable chain of events gets disrupted by a twist of fate or reversal of fortune, we're left in doubt about the final outcome. Will the plot get back on track and reach it's desirable conclusion? Will the characters get back to making progress after recovering from the discouraging setback?
  • When we get set-up by a story to expect a particular payoff, outcome or resolution, we're held in suspense by the promise made to us. Will the story deliver what we're expecting or leave us hanging after it ends? Will the promise prove to be sincere or just another scam to mislead us to jump to false conclusions?
  • When the main character reveals a pattern of inner torment, we're left in a lurch by the uncertainties. Will the character's dark side get the better of him/her? Will the character overcome the negative emotions which have been sabotaging his/her heroics in order to save the day in the end?
  • When the climax calls for traits we've not seen displayed before, we're left wondering if everything can work out for the better. Will the main character discover there is no escape but to face the challenge with increased resourcefulness and resolve? Can the central character summon enough courage, compassion, creativity or cleverness to transform the entire situation?

Each of these storytelling devices seem to have the potential for captivating and transforming anyone who wants to resolve their emotional baggage. I've got my work cut out for me to apply these to the workbook.


Getting beyond past history

Continuing what I explored in my last post: If we had no past history, there are several ways to get beyond what happened to us. It's easy to describe and difficult to do because our mind automatically uses what already happened to us to improve our chances of survival and success.

Here are some of the conceptual models for getting beyond our past history:
  • We can realize that what happened is not here and now. It's only a memory that can be remembered or forgotten according to our choice.
  • We can get deeply into the now moment with fascination, appreciation and sense of pure being that overpowers any invasions from the past.
  • We can embrace the return of a past incident in our mind with an inner sense of vastness, serenity and acceptance.
  • We can imagine the past haunts us because we are clinging to it and then create a ritual of letting go of it, cutting it loose, burning it to ashes, or burying it forever.
  • We can forgive those who contributed to our bad memories as if we are all human, making mistakes, carrying baggage and acting out our frustrations.
  • We can get clear that there is nothing to forgive because nothing that appears to harm us in any way impacts our eternal spirits.
  • We can sort out what is really happening in life from what appears to be happening in our minds and dismiss past recollections in the process.
None of these strategies work when we are in a frenzy. A busy schedule keeps our past history in a condition that continues haunt us and mess up our game. We cannot successfully run away from our past or keep it from interfering with our lives. There is no substitute for turning to face what we've been avoiding.

Any of these strategies can work for us when we've invested some time by ourselves. We need to be still and focused on the present moment. We need to let go of our calendars, to-do lists and piles on our desks. We need to get back to the feeling of being human after any bout with acting like a human doing.


If we had no past history

When we're burdened by emotional baggage, it's not surprising that many wish they had no past history. We're are so many immediate advantages to being clear of a personal past:
  • We could be as innocent and open minded as children: full of wonder, fascination and curiosity
  • We could face new challenges without any panic attacks, apprehensions or fears of repeating particular episodes in our lives
  • We could express ourselves freely without hang-ups, hesitation or eruptions of unwanted inhibitions
  • We could let go of whatever happens to us without clinging to it with a new batch of resentment, guilt or plots of revenge

With so much in favor of having no history, it's initially surprising that there are not psychiatric or street drugs that induce a functional form of amnesia. It's equally amazing that our brains don't drop recollections as a strategy to access more immediate pleasure. Yet, upon deeper reflection, there as many disadvantages to having no past history:
  • We could not build up competence and confidence in our established expertise
  • We could not know how to stay out of trouble or beware of danger without getting into it first
  • We could not quickly read a situation, recognize misleading information or suspect a ruse
  • We could not recognize patterns in a problematic context or formulate a responsive solution

This combination of advantages and disadvantages suggests another way to frame the challenge of resolving emotional baggage. We each have a particular relationship with our past history. This is a different thing from the history itself. How we relate to it determines whether we are burdened or liberated by it. How we see it delivers an experience of stagnation or growth. Whether or not we value it determines if we get value from it or not. We get back what we give out to our personal past history.


Menu of missing components

After writing out yesterday's Creating useful workbooks, I got to thinking about improving the menu to get started with the work flow for resolving emotional baggage. Lately I've been seeking a way to simplify the choices to improve the attraction of the workbook to lure heavily burdened riders off their bandwagon. Here's what I came up with:
What if there is only one thing missing that keeps emotional baggage from getting resolved? If it's something that's missing, nothing we do to fix what's obvious will fill in for what's not here yet. Here are twelve possible "missing components" that could each resolve emotional baggage in short order. Which one of these gives you the strongest feeling of being true for you?
  1. Are you missing a viable choice between what things are and what those things mean to you personally?
  2. Are you missing a better story to tell yourself about what has occurred and how far you've come since then?
  3. Are you missing a innocent outlook that frees you from your past and fills you with curiosity about what lies ahead?
  4. Are you missing a better scorecard when shopping around for who, where or what you want to experience next?
  5. Are you missing a deeper lesson to be learned from what defied your reassuring predictions about how the world really works?
  6. Are you missing a deeper, recognizable pattern to explain your repeated misfortunes, setbacks or rejections?
  7. Are you missing a way to breakup of the stalemate between your persistent baggage and your contrary, conscious intentions?
  8. Are you missing a creative combination of avoiding familiar dangers and exploring new opportunities?
  9. Are you missing a different diagnosis from what you believe must be the real problem to get solved?
  10. Are you missing a self-fulfilling prophesy that frames your weaknesses as real strengths and shortcomings as genuine assets?
  11. Are you missing a way to refine how you express yourself after years of being repressed, inhibited or stifled?
  12. Are you missing a trusted change model to guide your journey from what always happens to what can be true from now on?

Ordinarily, short phrases make for more legible menus than long sentences. Yet posing a dozen "what-if" questions like this seems to make the alternative work flows more accessible and appealing. Making a menu of questions creates a different effect from typical chapter headings. Hmmm.......


Creating useful workbooks

As you may already know, I've been designing new workbook processes as I've explored the inner workings of emotional baggage on this blog. Any useful workflow for resolving emotional baggage has got to fit the many ways that baggage functions. Otherwise, the procedures will prove to be useless make-work that yields no beneficial results. Here are some of the challenges I've identified while I've been formulating workbook processes for the past two months:
  • Requisite variety: The field of cybernetics tells us that a system must be as complex as the range of variety in that system's environment. We need to pack our bags with enough different kinds of clothing to handle the different weather conditions where we're going. Emotional baggage has become increasingly complex in my understanding as I've explored so many different dynamics in it. This goal to match that complexity frames most solutions as "over-simplifications" while constantly calling for more nuances and interconnections.
  • Looking in the mirror: Anything we say about others may be talking about ourselves. Anything we see may reflect where we're coming from. Anything we try to fix in others may be the very thing that needs revision in ourselves. There are always these questions to consider, self awareness to factor in and self reference to own up to whenever we're thinking we can be helpful to others. This workbook has be looking at my own baggage regularly.
  • Creating effective solutions: It's very tempting to create problems when we're offering something that relieves symptoms of deeper problems. It's essential to solve for pattern rather than try to fix one part of a big problem. Effective solutions take effect comprehensively where isolated solutions create additional problems, backfire and feed the underlying problem. The workbook to alleviate baggage repeatedly appears to activate learners' baggage from factory schooling and shut down their vibrant growth process.
  • Freedom of choice: Cafeteria-style offerings let each individual "take what they need and leave the rest". Each learner serves as the best judge of their appetite, situation and next step. There is no forced-feeding or excessive conformity when learners can choose from an extensive menu of options. The offerings then function as tools for the learners' active use rather than content to be passively consumed. This workbook design struggles with offering a wide-ranging menu in a foreign language where the learners cannot sort out the options for themselves.
  • Helpful maps: When there are extensive offerings and countless interconnections, the complexity can overwhelm the learner. It's helpful to provide a map or narrative framework to organize their individual explorations. Rather than dictate a "one size fits all" sequence of exploration, individuals get equipped to recognize where they are on a map. This picture also gives them a sense of their progress from a previous position and choices to consider for their next move. Different designs for this workbook to resolve emotional baggage leaves the learners with so much to make up their own minds about, they can feel "lost without a compass" amidst a forest of mapped-out options.
  • Personal projects: When individuals are working on their personal projects, the formal structure provided allows for informal learning by each person. The learners get challenged to express themselves, follow their inner guidance, trust their personal motivations and respond to their unique situations. Their project turns out very differently from any other while fitting the parameters of the same project accomplished by each. This workbook has definitely given me a sense of working on a project, while withholding that experience from the future users of it.
  • Comforting closure: Leaving a procedure open for individual exploration and customization can also leave the learner hanging in limbo. The open system offers no closure unless there is a way to wrap up an open-ended process. When closure gets experienced, the learner gains a sense of accomplishment and confidence in his/her ability to do this again successfully. This workbook project has lacked closure for me and thus come from a place where others will share in the misfortune.
This has been a difficult list for me to write out, and thus very helpful. Like the writing about our personal baggage, past history and problems, the realizations come to mind slowly. The work of making the unconscious awareness conscious takes confidence and determination.


Luring users off their bandwagon

When we're creating any disruptive innovation, there are always two markets out there. One is the hoard of "non-consumers" who are over or under served by the incumbent offering. They can be found in that "blue ocean" kind of uncontested market space where rivals fear to tread.

The others are on the bandwagon of the incumbent provider. They inhabit one of those "red ocean" kinds of contested market spaces where rivals bloody the waters with their aggressive pursuit of market penetration. These users are ganging up with retailers, advertisers, suppliers of accessories, service providers and journalists who cover that market space. Together they form a self-reinforcing equilibrium that is not easily disrupted.

One viable strategy steers clear of the incumbent bandwagon to avoid getting run over, attacked or drawn into a costly battle. This approach seeks a small niche of fanatics who are already disenfranchised from the bandwagon, sold on the disruptive innovation and poised to become its early adopters. These users welcome evangelists into their midsts, form communities in a heartbeat and chat up the innovation among themselves for free.

The other strategy attempts to lure active users of the incumbent offering off of their bandwagon. This is the generic challenge of product launches:
  • getting users of fountain pens to write letters, lists and diaries with one of those new skinny ball-point pens
  • convincing riders of horses to use a horseless carriage with a crank on the front to get around town
  • showing routine visitors to the telegraph office the advantages of a phone in their home
  • urging listeners seated around big, vacuum tube radios to stick a plug in their ear wander off with a portable transistor radio

How successful we will be at luring users off their bandwagon depends on our answers to questions like these:
  1. How big a difference does it make to the users in their own situations, from their own perspectives and applied to their own problems?
  2. How compatible is the innovation with what the users are already doing, invested in, familiar with and set-up to accomplish?
  3. How simple are the innovations to grasp, put to use, figure out what's wrong when it doesn't work and explain to others showing an interest in it?
  4. How possible is it try it before they buy it, take a test drive or get a feel for it before buying it on faith?
  5. How obvious are the results it produces and the benefits it provides to convince other skeptics and overcome their suspicions of scams?
  6. How much can it be customized, altered, fine tuned, given a different look or personalized by each user?
  7. How often does it require the user to spend more time, effort and money to replace, upgrade, renew or repair it?
  8. How accessible are other users, advisors, mentors and helpers to collaborate on troubleshooting breakdowns, sharing shortcuts or formulating workarounds
  9. How supportive is the selling process, user experience, exploration of alternatives and information provided for making purchases?
  10. How much buzz has already been generated by early adopters to spin a narrative of successful use, satisfied users and envious non-users?
The better our answers to these questions, the more viable our end game becomes where the innovation gets adopted. the higher we score on these criteria, The better our chances of luring the users of their current bandwagon.


On track for my endgame

Over the weekend I was rereading a 2003 book that applies game theory to business models: The Slow Pace of Fast Change / Bhaskar Chakravorti. The book suggests that we formulate an endgame that appears plausible to us when we consider the choices of those who will make the change to our value proposition. Chakravorti's expertise in game theory enables him to frame the challenge of a start-up in terms of disrupting a self-reinforcing equilibrium and creating a middle game to move to a new equilibrium. As I shared these ideas with an entrepreneur yesterday, I reframed the challenge this way:
The status quo is a large crowd of people who have gotten on a bandwagon. No one wants to be the first to get off the bandwagon or be the only one who is no longer on the bandwagon. It's human nature to stick together on the bandwagon even when it no longer serves our personal interests. Yet as soon as enough people have jumped off the wagon, that same human nature will follow the herd to the next equilibrium/ bandwagon.
This book gave me a way to revisit the big picture of all I've been exploring on this blog for the last six months. Here are the main components of the endgame I'm successfully pursuing:
  • There will be a next economy to replace the industrialized, oil-dependent, market-driven mess that is currently being resuscitated by the G20, World Bank, and economic stimulus programs around the globe. The next economy is misperceived by the governments, corporations and investors as a failure of leadership, reversion to medieval practices and loss of wealth. The sustainable, resilient, natural, small, networked, collaborative, altruistic economy does not make sense to incumbents players.
  • There will be a disruptive innovation to higher ed that will prepare it's "customers" for that next economy. Traditional colleges cannot do better than new course offerings in social entrepreneurship, green technologies and network science because their structures, strategies and policies are predicated on the legacy economy. The life long, self-taught, social and informal learning appears undisciplined, impossible to grade, unrelated to authoritative knowledge and unworthy of diplomas.
  • The migration into this disruptive innovation calls for a disruptive approach to college advising. The current practitioners guide applicants into the current offerings that prepare students for the previous economy. This new approach to advising will provide a preview of the next economy and the educational experiences that prepare for it. The departure from authoritative guidance and repression of self expression will make it clear what lies ahead. The parallels with social networking spaces, user content generation and collaborative projects will become obvious to the applicants.
  • Success in the replacement college system requires self starters who can self-structure their own learning and responding to other learners. This capability get impaired by emotional baggage. The practice of innovative college advising needs "baggage handling" as a core competency to transition its clients out of the damage they experienced in their toxic family systems, dysfunctional classroom schooling and mismanaged employment experiences.
The innovative advising will initially upgrade the college choices of a few applicants and their parents who are currently framed as misfits and likely dropouts of higher ed in its present form. Their successful experiences with learning on their own and together will generate stories that get shared with others. As conventional colleges devolve and the next economy shows signs of emergence, a mass migration off the old bandwagon is likely. This end game appears plausible to me.


Picturing baggage as habits

Recently, I've been picturing the self-maintaining dynamics of our emotional baggage as habits. Our baggage persists just like habits that are hard to break. We get locked into routines that offer no escape, no relief and no learning to change with the times. When we've got baggage interfering with what we claim we want, the desires are some new deal fighting against what remains unchanged. We're trapped by whatever worked in our past history, just like behavior patterns we got into the habit of doing long ago.

Picturing baggage as habits also provides another way to bring baggage to a useful ending. We can form a new habit as if we don't have the old habit. We can simply begin to act differently than before and finding out if it works for us. We can experiment with different ways to interpret, act in and react to familiar situations. We then fit my favorite definition of creativity:
Seeing the familiar in a unfamiliar way and seeing the unfamiliar in a familiar way
When we're stuck in a habit, everything is set in cement. We already know what everything is and how to deal with it. Our mind is made up and our conduct is predictable. However, when we're tentatively forming a new habit, nothing is for certain just yet. We're wondering about options and exploring different ways to see things. Our minds are open and our actions keep others guessing.

Eventually we face a choice between viable alternatives. Our old habit and new routine both work in some situations. We consciously consider which works the best and at the least cost. We make a tradeoff between what comes most easily and what makes the most difference. Once we choose wisely, the new choice will become our new habit. The new routine wins out over the old habit. A piece of our baggage has come to a useful ending.