In a week where the Murdoch media empire appeared to lose its power, I came across this video “The Story of Stuff”- perhaps the most important “News of the World” that Murdoch’s empire was at the heart of ignoring.
Even if you have seen it, watch it again: it will make you think again about how the world works.
It is interesting how, with the launch of Apple’s Lion operating system we are still seeing “Design for Obsolescence” as one of the main design principles from what many say is the best design company in the world. It’s time for Apple (and the rest of us) to re-think design for the 21st century so that we can close the circle, not keep pushing the 99% waste down the pipe. Designing for Pull has to be a major factor in this redesign philosophy – and something I will come back to in future posts.
Although this is almost exactly a year old and quite US-centric, the video below “Innovation at the Edge of Electricity” was made. It has some great stories that may well make the minds of anyone living in the US or Europe boggle at how true innovation is happening in the developing world without any “help” from regulators or lawmakers.
As technology is forcing industry convergence, it is not just the Western-style Telecoms regulation that is getting in the way, but the rules and regulations from the Electricity and Banking Industries too. For instance, look to Africa, not Europe or the US if you want to see what true innovation is on mobile payments.
Many of the stories are particularly helpful when we think at how we should rollout faster broadband to the so-called “Final Third”. Innovation has always happened on the edge of the network. Surely it is time for us to include some of these new ideas from the “edge of electricity” and adapt them to our own requirements. Or will we let the regulators carry on regulating our service industries to die a slow, painful death?
Funny thing is that in the UK we have to decide between the current so-called “First Past the Post” system and the “Alternative Voting System”. Pretty bi-polar. Pretty bonkers.
What would the bees do? The scouts would look at many and several voting systems and would (depending on the amount of energy exhibited for each system) come back to the 95% in the swarm and dance the story with a waggle.
It is such a strong idea that a guy called Thomas.D. Seeley actually wrote a book about it last year called “Honeybee Democracy”.
Here is extract from a review:
“In the late spring and early summer, as a bee colony becomes overcrowded, a third of the hive stays behind and rears a new queen, while a swarm of thousands departs with the old queen to produce a daughter colony. Seeley describes how these bees evaluate potential nest sites, advertise their discoveries to one another, engage in open deliberation, choose a final site, and navigate together–as a swirling cloud of bees–to their new home. Seeley investigates how evolution has honed the decision-making methods of honeybees over millions of years, and he considers similarities between the ways that bee swarms and primate brains process information. He concludes that what works well for bees can also work well for people: any decision-making group should consist of individuals with shared interests and mutual respect, a leader’s influence should be minimized, debate should be relied upon, diverse solutions should be sought, and the majority should be counted on for a dependable resolution.”
So I vote for a new kind of democracy based on 50 million years of wisdom! The trouble is, I don’t think such an option will be on the ballot paper in the UK elections this Thursday! I am still not sure whether AV is a step in the right direction – but it seems to be closer to the system that the bees have developed than the current First-Past-The-Post system.
If the internet age is going to really impact democracy in a useful way, then the Delphi Method is a much closer match with what the bees do than the currently proposed AV system. Here is an extract from Wikipedia:
The Delphi method (pronounced /ˈdɛlfaɪ/ DEL-fy) is a structured communication technique, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.
In the standard version, the experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the “correct” answer. Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of consensus, stability of results) and the mean or median scores of the final rounds determine the results.
Other versions, such as the Policy Delphi, have been designed for normative and explorative use, particularly in the area of social policy and public health. In Europe, more recent web-based experiments have used the Delphi method as a communication technique for interactive decision-making and e-democracy.
The outstanding issue for me is how do we reform democracy quickly and effectively to keep pace with the challenges the planet faces? The bi-polar choice we have been given in the UK elections avoids the issue of how we reshape the Western democratic system to become much better at decision making. I would vote for the bees or the Delphi system over any First-Past-The-Post or AV system. But this Thursday we are not being given that choice! All of your thoughts gratefully received!
I live in the country. I live in the so-called Final Third. Ofcom call it a “Market 1” area – because BT is the only fixed-line service provider providing the physical lines that broadband and telephony run across.
This week, three different views hit me that have changed my whole view on how we roll out broadband to the final third. I expect many of my readers will have switched off by now – but bear with me – because I think it might interest you.
The first view was from Adrian Wooster’s blog – where he has produced a really interesting picture of what the spread of the UK’s broadband looks like by postcode – one image of which I have copied below:
Click on the image on Adrian’s blog site to see each scenario – it loops back at the end to highlight the gulf between where we’re starting from to where we need to get to. Each spot of light represents a postcode.
At the moment the image only covers England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own statistical output area systems which individually need resolving to postcode level.
The interesting thing is that most of the “final third” remains in the dark – even at 95% coverage!
That got me thinking. What will be available from WiFi/Mobile/Radio technologies by 2015? Regular readers will know that I am interested in LightPeak – but there have been two other announcements this week that are very interesting and makes you think differently about broadband for the final third in 2015.
The first was from Alcatel Lucent – who have just announced the launch of the lightRadio cube which can be installed wherever there is electricity.
So this little device will dramatically reduce the costs of deploying mobile phone base stations – whilst allowing extended coverage of 3g networks to areas that are currently far too expensive to cover.
The second was from an In-Stat Report – stating that a new Wi-Fi technology standard called 802.11ac has been developed to provide Gigabit speeds across WiFi networks. The report predicts 1bn devices shipped with this technology by 2015 – which will allow streaming of high quality video to the TV set – or downloads of BlueRay DVDs in 6 seconds.I expect that many, if not most, will be mobile devices of some sort.
Add these two developments together and you get a very interesting set of technologies that may be able to provide 1Gbps speeds (depending on availability of backhaul) to most households in the country that are not provided with a direct link – i.e those who are in the dark areas on the map. That is 500 times faster than our current unambitious target for 2Mbps….and will require the cooperation of mobile operators and fixed-line operators who can provide much faster backahual speeds.
Exciting stuff – but I wonder if today’s #digitalbritain thinking is really embracing such ideas as these to create a truly competitive infrastructure for those in the power of the Dark Lord? As these new technologies are enabled, the bottleneck may well move to the backhaul. Which is why the current ideas around Fibre to the Community or “Digital Village Pumps” will become even more important. Then again, I would prefer to redefine FTTH as Fibre to the Hamlet – like the one I live in – or Fibre to the Clachan – as they say in more Celtic countries!
It is the time of year that many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. As the snows have melted and the weather has warmed, tiny spears of spring-green shoots from the bulbs that I planted in the Autumn are now starting to appear in the garden.
It is a time of the year to reflect on some of the natural cycles as we (in the Northern Hemisphere) move from shorter, darker days to longer, brighter days. We also have the confluence of a New Political Cycle, a New Decade, a New Earth Year as well as many companies having New Financial Years. The beginning of the current cycle is also probably one the most fundamental shifts that we have seen in a while – exacerbated by the very cold winter spells and financial crisis. Some would see it as a the start of a revolution with the new coalition government (in the UK) which is set on decentralisation and localisation.
It is strange that the term “revolution” has become to be associated more with revolt than with revolving. Yet the two ideas of revolution and resolution are inextricably linked. Yet there is only one letter that is different in each word and that one letter changes everything:
From my own point of view, I have one New Year’s Resolution: I have resolved to reduce my body weight. Nothing new there, you might say! After the excessive eating I have done over the holiday period, I now weigh more than I have ever done. The position is unsustainable and I have now decided to go on a diet. But a diet with a difference. Actually, I prefer to call it conscious living, rather than dieting.
I have downloaded this great application onto my i-Phone called My Fitness Pal (www.myfitnesspal.com) and I am already shedding pounds – just by being conscious about (and recording) everything I eat in the day.
So by becoming conscious of the food we eat (and where it comes from), we can really make a difference – one letter at a time.
In a sense, mankind weighs more on the planet than it has ever done:
More people on the planet than history has ever seen
More consumption of raw materials (especially oil)
More overweight people than we have ever seen
More pressures of financial debt than we have seen in several ifetimes
Perhaps it is time for us all to start living more consciously…
Perhaps this is the start of the real revolution….
Anyway, the good thing about the beginning (and end) of any new year is that it makes you think…
Twenty years ago, I was sent by my company to do an MBA. It was a qualification that every young and inspiring manager wanted to do. I was fortunate to be selected.
Looking back, there are a few tools and techniques I remember being taught. One was the infamous Boston Consulting Group Matrix. The BCG matrix relates to marketing. The BCG model is a well-known portfolio management tool used in product life cycle theory. It is often used by big companies to prioritize which products within company product mix get more funding and attention.
It struck me that this tool is probably one of the things that has done most to encourage the other myth that I learnt on the course: Economies of Scale.
It has taken me the past 20 years to both challenge and prove these institutionalised models to be wrong. not just wrong, but actually very damaging.
So firs, the BCG matrix. The theory is that you should prioritise your investments into stars and further invest in your cash cows. You should divest questionable parts of your portfolio and kill-off any dogs you have.
I live in the country, and killing off dogs is definitely not the answer. Although we don’t have one, I think my neighbours would be very upset with me if I went on a dog-killing spree.
And therein lies the problem with the Matrix. It has encouraged what one of my City friends calls “rolling up” or aggregation. It creates industry consolidation and actually destroys innovation. A good example is Toyota – and this article which is well worth reading.
The matrix also creates right brained caetextic thinking (see previous entry “Why do some organisations drive us totally bonkers?” ) as Fat Cats sit on top of Cash Cows and ultimately caused the corruption that turned into the financial crisis. I saw this picture of fat cats this week and laughed:
At the same time, the cash cows were herded into larger and larger fields with more and more cows to create the financial equivalent of modern “economies of scale” farming techniques in the US milk production industry. The industrialisation of cash-cows and the murder of dogs.
It might have made some bankers and investors a lot of money – but has it left the planet a richer place?
We have a similar struggle with Broadband in the UK. The government, by all accounts, has given into the “economies of scale” argument that BT has produced a plan to protect the cows and kill the dogs (local schemes). Cash cows don’t innovate. Only Dogs and Question Marks make Stars. BCG didn’t understand the true value of dogs.
And this economies of scale argument is probably the myth that is at the centre of the whole melt-down of both the financial framework AND the way in which the UK government has been mismanaged in the past 10 years.
No clearer was this brought out for me than when I attended the Vanguard Leaders Summit a few weeks ago. If we continue to believe in the myth of economies of scale and encourage the industrialisation of cows and the murdering of dogs, we are surely doomed. Images of witches being burnt at the stake in the middle ages come to mind.
John Seddon of Vanguard says it is Economies of Flow, not Economies of Scale that actually deliver true growth and sustainable, effective organisations. So rather than cows and dogs, perhaps a better model is a fish in water?
But if we have to choose between cows and dogs, then I’m for the dogs. And in the case of broadband and media, it is the dogs I support. New, local organisations that don’t want to scale. New social enterprise structures to do local things that are not necessarily highly profitable. Voluntary organisations that are creating new energy in societies that have been sucked dry by global industrialisation. They are changing the world for the better far quicker than the industrialised cash cow machines. They will become the more interesting investments in the future and some will become stars.
I would rather kill the cows off and have a dog as a companion. For starters, you can’t keep a cow in your sitting room!
At the end of the week where Julian Assange was locked up and everyone has been commenting on the value (or threat) of Wikileaks, I thought I would reflect on what I see is going on here.
Assange is a deep thinker – perhaps even an Autistic Savant.
In researching the subject I came across a quote which summarises what Assange is trying to do with Wikileaks (from piece of writing (via) (via):
“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”
Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
It struck me that Julian Assange’s reasoning above was very similar to some of the ideas of another great thinker of our time – Chris Argyris.
I often use Argyris’ ideas (particularly single loop and double loop learning) in the work that I do – and I know that they have helped many others in creating effective change over the past fifty or so years.
For those who are interested, there is a good summary of Argyris’ work HERE.
Basically, Argyris outlines two two models – Model I (Single Loop Learning Organisation) and Model II (Double Loop Learning Organisation) to highlight the potential for organisational learning:
The governing Values of Model I (Single Loop Learning) are:
Achieve the purpose as the actor (or boss) defines it
Win, do not lose
Suppress negative feelings
Primary Strategies are:
Control environment and task unilaterally
Protect self and others unilaterally
Usually operationalised by:
Unillustrated attributions and evaluations e.g.. “You seem unmotivated”
Advocating courses of action which discourage inquiry e.g.. “Lets not talk about the past, that’s over.”
Treating ones’ own views as obviously correct
Making covert attributions and evaluations
Face-saving moves such as leaving potentially embarrassing facts unstated
Low freedom of choice
Reduced production of valid information
Little public testing of ideas
Most of the larger organisations that I consult with exhibit many, if not most of these Model I characteristics and I am sure that most governments around the world are not that much different. It is not unsurprising, therefore, that the current concerns over the latest Wikileaks are clouded in language that is imprecise and have overtones of Julian Assange being a “traitor” as well as the actions of Wikileaks being seen to be threatening to existing command and control establishments.
Aristotle had a similar set of ideas in his ethics.
He differentiated between technical thinking and practical thinking and the similarities with Argyris and Schön are striking…
“The former (technical thinking) involves following routines and some sort of preset plan – and is both less risky for the individual and the organization, and affords greater control.
The latter (practical thinking) is more creative and reflexive, and involves consideration notions of the good. Reflection here is more fundamental: the basic assumptions behind ideas or policies are confronted… hypotheses are publicly tested… processes are disconfirmable not self-seeking….”
So, in one sense, the Wikileaks drama is acting-out an age-old problem: How can we rise above the inadequacies of what Aristotle called “technical thinking“ within an organisational system and encourage more “practical (or ethical) thinking”. This is what Argyris called the attributes of Model I organisations and what Assange calls “the aspect(s) of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove”.
Aristotle’s view was that the development of “practical wisdom” cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.
Interesting. Try and explain those ideas to someone with autism…
So enough of the analysis. What makes an effective learning organisation?
Argyris cites the following attributes for a Model II organisation:
The governing values of Model II (Double Loop Learning) include:
Free and informed choice
Participation in design and implementation of action
Attribution and evaluation illustrated with relatively directly observable data
Surfacing conflicting view
Encouraging public testing of evaluations
Consequences should include:
Minimally defensive relationships
High freedom of choice
Increased likelihood of double-loop learning
Which brings us back to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. It is clear, for me, that Assange’s has developed a reasoned approach to changing the attributes of what might be called Big Government and Big Business. The main question for me, is, could he be more effective? Has he created his own Model I organisation to effect the changes he outlines he wants to achieve? Or is Wikileaks a new model II organisation for journalism that uses the internet to help change the belief system of the organisations that information is leaked about?
Argyris & Schön (Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1978) Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley) say that change only comes through a collaboration between the change agent or interventionist and the Model 1 organisation. They suggests moving through six phases of work:
Mapping the problem as clients see it.This includes the factors and relationships that define the problem, and the relationship with the living systems of the organisation.
The internalization of the map by clients. Through inquiry and confrontation the interventionists work with clients to develop a map for which clients can accept responsibility. However, it also needs to be comprehensive.
Test the model. This involves looking at what ‘testable predictions’ can be derived from the map – and looking to practice and history to see if the predictions stand up. If they do not, the map has to be modified.
Invent solutions to the problem and simulate them to explore their possible impact.
Produce the intervention.
Study the impact.This allows for the correction of errors as well as generating knowledge for future designs. If things work well under the conditions specified by the model, then the map is not disconfirmed.
Given that most of the work that I do is, in one way or another, trying to deliver effective (and collaborative) change, I wonder whether the latest developments in the Wikileaks drama will become the most effective way to use modern internet technology to bring about the changes so vitally needed in this world to challenge the corruption, waste and continuation of so many Model I organisations…..
…….or whether there is another, better, more effective internet-based Type II model which creates a collaboration between the change agents and the Model I organisations to make the change happen more quickly and effectively….
I suppose only time (and more thinking and action) will tell……
I spent yesterday at Vanguard Consulting’s Leaders Summit on Systems Thinking. John Seddon chaired the day brilliantly, with eight case studies on Systems Thinking. It is not really systems thinking the way that Peter Senge created – it is more a method for improving service organisations – with roots in Demming and Taichi Ohno (the master behind the Toyota Production System).
It is difficult to describe each of the cases in such a small space, but one animated video was shown to everyone by Advice UK that is fun to watch and gives a real-life example of Systems Thinking as applied to the public sector. Enjoy!
It is so important that we get more organisations both understanding and using these ideas and I will be digging deeper into John Seddon’s work in later posts.
I have posted on the DCMS website, commenting on their recently published Business Plan for Broadband. Interesting to see if they actually publish it. In any case, they cannot vet what I put on my own blog – so here is what I wrote:
“A perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterise our age” as Einstein so rightly said.
These milestones are mere inch-pebbles…..
Jeremy Hunt’s ambition of only five months ago that: “within this Parliament we want Britain to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe” has been diluted to a set of muddled objectives and easily-achievable short-term meetings, studies, consultations and (yet-to-start) round tables. And the heading of “super-fast” has been subtly changed to “universal” which is muddling the Universal Service Obligation with what the best superfast broadband network in Europe should really be…
Meanwhile, BT has gone public on a very effective campaign which is designed to create a very un-level paying field for Next Generation Access. BT, Virgin Media and the other so-called ISPs will continue to compete in the same (urban and semi-urban) areas that they have on the current LLU regime. A “completed” milestone of examined barriers has clouded the fact that the recently announced business rates regime has put more barriers in place for new networks – not removed them. We can examine barriers until the cows come home. We need the barriers removed, not examined!
Ambitions for open access infrastructure (ducts and poles) are riddled with practical issues that will mean BT will continue to play a waiting game.
Openreach is not “open’, yet we continue to use the word “open” without defining any new structures required for the fibre revolution and relying on old structures that were created for copper networks – simply because it is easier.
And the market testing community-led pilots are out-of-phase with the infrastructure sharing milestone – such that BT is far more likely to be able to give a compelling bid for each scheme and wipe the slate clean than if the infrastructure was truly open. Well constructed plans need to understand that certain milestones will have dependencies on others. The project plan needs to be laid-out rather than created as a list, so that these dependencies can be understood and the milestones phased accordingly.
We MUST get our purpose, objectives and milestones better aligned in this critical programme! This is a matter of national survival on the increasingly competitive landscape of the global internet economy – and we have very little time (perhaps six months to a year) to get our act together.
These milestones are very unlikely to achieve what we need by when we need it.
However, not to be over-critical, there has been some good work. The recently published Digital Scotland report for a far more ambitious and coherent plan with some great ideas on how to connect Broadband to Big Society and provide speeds much closer to what “the best superfast broadband network in Europe” might look like. But it is not clear that Westminster can hear Edinburgh down the communication lines of two countries with different political parties in leadership positions and with Scotland coming up to Elections and the rest of the UK trying to work out what they actually voted for!
It is time to wash-away these inch-pebbles and create a national debate and a coherent joined-up plan on this important subject with real, competitive milestones that will create a national, shared, fibre infrastructure (such as has recently been announced by Italy) as well as to bridge both the geographic and social digital divides with real connections and real training and participation rather than the political verbiage that we have become used to over the past few years.
If Big Society is to happen (and be supported by the necessary digital infrastructure required), then this part of the Business Plan needs re-thinking – particularly if we are really going to deliver on the excellent ambition set out by Jeremy Hunt in June.
Thank you for being open enough to allow me to comment and please take the comments as a constructive contribution to what is a truly vital part of the government’s business plan.