On a similar theme of last week’s Global Awareness Campaign, I came across the developing idea of a “Global Earth Hour”. Surely it is a good idea to spend one hour a year thinking about the Earth?
Started in Australia in 2004, this BIG SWITCH OFF is now held annually on the last Saturday of March every year – so you have two days to prepare yourself!
Worth taking time out to think about how dependent we are on electricity – and it does not take much effort to join in. Just switch off all your electrical appliances from 20.30 to 21.30 this Saturday – and think about the Earth – or whatever else comes to mind!
The video below is so cute, I had to reproduce it. Might also convince you to vote for some of the pledges on the site:
I was chatting to Oscar the other night and he pointed me to a really interesting site:
If the frame above does not work for you, then you can link to the site HERE. It makes you think how extraordinarily small in the Universe we are. And how big we are too! If you did not see my previous entry, the great 1977 video from IBM: “The Powers of Ten”, then have a look at that too.
The day before, I had come across another rather more abstract view that sets a new world record for representing a Mandelbrot Set – which gives a bit more of a zany trip towards infinity.
Oscar liked it – and called it “trippy”!
I hope these two views stretch your mind to think a bit more about our place in the Universe, touching both your left and right brains.
A couple of weeks ago, I took one of my sons to London. He wanted to go and see the Occupy London site near St Paul’s – during time that the Church of England were digging deep into their consciences to work out how they should react. A few days later, I was in Edinburgh with my daughter and went to the equivalent tented camp. In both cases, I took the time to try to understand what was in the minds of those protesting. There was a peaceful atmosphere in both camps – but a surprising lack of practical things for people like me to do. However, the two experiences got me convinced that the system is broken and that things need to change.
A chance Tweet on Twitter this morning gave me the opportunity to explore the issues further. The Tweet alerted me to a new sort of Peer2Peer investment site called CrowdCube and a new sort of bank – called Civilised Money – who were looking for investors. The idea took my interest and I read to find out more.
I was particularly struck by the coincidence that the project is the brainchild of Neil Crofts. I have been a keen reader of Neil Croft’s weekly blog – and applaud his ideas on Authentic Leadership. On reading more about the Civilised Money idea, is struck me that this kind of Peer2Peer banking is just like Skype was in 2002 – only transposed onto the banking system. It made a heck of a lot of sense, so I took the plunge and invested!
By the way, I am definitely NOT an investment advisor. I am not even sure that by the time you read this, the investment opportunity will still be open. But I am so encouraged that there are those protesting (making the issues clear) as well as those who are trying to find new ways to design banks.
I hope it makes you think a bit more about what you opt in to – and out of.
I have always been fascinated by what makes up a good story and the effect that is has on the way we think about the world and our place within it. I have only recently came across the work of Joseph Campbell and his seminal work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. In the book he explores the underlying pattern of the heroic struggle from each of the great myths from around the world. He then goes on to uncover an underlying sequence of typical “hero-actions” which are embedded in each of these stories.
George Lucas (the creator of StarWars) was so impressed by Cambpell’s work that he wrote the StarWars epic using his ideas. We are very fortunate that a series of six programmes summarising Campbell’s work and his ideas were recorded just before he died. You can see the first (and subsequent) videos on the (rather whacky) internet site below – though it is obviously much better to buy “The Power of Myth” DVD on Amazon or elsewhere and watch it legally:
Campbell neatly summarises one of the heoric struggles with phrase early-on in the six-part documentary:
“where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world”
The orphan archetype is possibly the most common storyline that Campbell uncovered. Moses, Romulus and Remus, Cinderella, Oliver Twist, Mowgli, Tarzan, Superman, Annie, King Arthur, Frodo Baggins, and yes, Harry Potter – as well as Luke Skywalker.
As Terry Windling so succinctly puts it:
“The orphaned hero is not, however, a mere fantasy cliché; it’s a mythic archetype, springing from some of the oldest stories of the world. This archetype includes not only those characters who are literally orphaned by the death of their parents, but also children who are lost, abandoned, cast out, disinherited by evil step–parents, raised in supernatural captivity, or reared by wild animals.”
Christopher Volger (in his book The Writer’s Journey) created twelve distinct stages to a good story:
1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting the Mentor
5. Crossing the Frist Threshold
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies
10. The Road Back
11. Resurrection of the Hero
12. Return with the Elixir
So there you have it. The twelve stages to telling a good story based on Campbell’s “Monomyth” – or common pattern for all good stories. Try it. It really works. Whether you are narrating an important case study that is being used as an example to help you sell a product or service at work, or giving a bed-time story to children, the underlying drama always touches a chord. And it is fun to hold the attention when only you know where you are going to end up! Ah, yes. That is the other trick. It is important to know where you are going to end up (roughly) – though I find some of the fun of story-telling is that the story itself can unfold in unexpected ways. The Hero always finds his or her way through, though!
Oh, and by the way. Steve Jobs was an orphan. Which is probably why his real-life story has touched us in so many ways in the past week.
This week, the bees went to bed for the winter. Fed down with verroa treatment in the hope that most colonies will survive the winter.
I have also had three very different conversations this week about the importance of Business Processes. In each conversation, I came to a different set of conclusions. However, there was one over-riding idea that shone through from each conversation. The obsession with the current process-centric religion in management thinking has actually made many of our service-based organisations less, not more effective and less, not more efficient.
The first conversation came from an experience I had with a US-based hosting company I have used for about ten years. Last year they put SAP into the company. Two months ago the company was sold. The service has been declining for about a year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The new process involves forcing you to ring a US telephone number which is actually answered by someone in the Phillipines who filters you so they can direct you to the right department. The problem I had involved both Domain Names and Hosting – so I ended up being put through to two departments. In the end I was double-billed and had to ring back a week later to complain – when I went through the same rigmarole – and was sent an email to say I couldn’t reclaim the money because it was against company policy. I rang a third time and finally got through to someone who sorted me there-and-then. Sounds familiar? More like a telephone company? Yes, indeed. I then got hold of the Director for Customer Experience and Process Design on LinkedIn to share my story. He was a Harvard MBA. He saw my profile but ignored me. The company is called Network Solutions.
The second case was with a former colleague whom I had lunch with. He is an aspiring partner at one of the big five consulting practices. He told me he was writing a paper about the importance of process design in telecoms companies. I cited the above story and said that Presence was more important than Process. He looked quizzical. He could not compute. He was not sure how he could implement Presence and make money out of the idea from a consulting assignment.
The final conversation was with an enlightened ex COO of a Telecoms company with whom I had lunch with on Tuesday. He said he was process mad – yet when you listened to his stories of how he managed processes, there was a great deal of practicality and experience blended in with the importance of providing the right information to the right person at the right time to turn customer issues and questions around on the first call.
In the crusade to banish the obsession with Process centricity, I continue to marvel at the bees that I keep. They don’t have crazy processes to waste time. They have developed an approach that balances Process AND Content (or pollen/nectar collection) IN THE MOMENT so that they can respond with far more intelligence than just following a book of rules. Interestingly, the model they use shows that outsourcing is extremely wasteful and makes no sense at all. If you have to hand off, do it only once (not three times like ITIL). The models from the bees also demonstrates the sense of investing in small, agile “cells” of capacity and capability tuned to specific types of demand.
To summarise, I believe it is time to create a new management paradigm based on Presence (modelled much more on the natural world that the bees have developed over 50 million years). It creates a paradigm shift that takes us away from the insanity (or caetextic thinking) of process-obsession and into a new much more organic model based on cells or colonies that can respond to demand of various types a seasonal basis.
Just like the bees do.
I am writing a book on the idea – so expect more like this in future postings.
I have also posted Presence over Process on MIX – The Management Information Exchange – please add comments and vote for the idea there or add your comments here as you wish. Always valuable!
What joy! In the past week we have been taking off the honey and harvesting the goldengages and runner beans that have magically grown through the summer. It is a truly magnificent time of the year!
But our biggest success is the most ENORMOUS pumpkin – grown from two (out of nine) pumpkin seeds that I planted in July sometime. (The birds ate the other seven). Here is a picture of the triffid-like plant when we got back from holiday:
Great Oaks from little acorns grow, as they say. Even businesses have to start somewhere – but the natural powers of nature still let two out of nine seeds (for the pumpkin) and two out of nine hives (for the honey harvest) do SO much better than the rest.
I wonder if there is some formula that someone has noticed about productivity and two-ninths of any system being SO much more productive than the rest?
In the week that Steve Jobs gave up as CEO of Apple, I was reminded by a good friend, Cliff, of part of Jobs’ address to Stamford students in 2005:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
The idea that “dots will connect down the road” is such an interesting one. So many things become obvious with the benefit of hindsight. So it was, whilst on holiday in Sicily over the past ten days, that I was thinking about the importance of coincidences when looking back in life.
How many times in your life have you thought “That’s a coincidence!” – and the event or chance meeting has led to something important developing further down the road?
There is also the famous puzzle about how many people you need to gather together in a group for there to be less than a 50% probability that two in the group will share a birthday. The answer is not, as may would think 183 (or a half or 366) – but it is, in fact, a mere 23! Therefore coincidences are actually more common than we might at first think!
James Redfield in his book “The Celestine Prophecy” develops the main character with him beginning to notice instances of “synchronicity”, or the realisation that coincidences may have deep, sometimes spiritual meanings.
And, as Einstein charmingly said: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
To bring me back to Steve Jobs – his creations (or the creations of Apple) have been important at certain transition points in my life – whether they be the first Apple 2 I bought in 1980, or the Macbook Air I ordered today because my MacBook Pro that I got when I set up Objective Designers 3 years ago packed up last week!
Whether you believe these deeper meanings or not, REFLECT ON IT: When have coincidences changed your direction in life – or the decisions you have made? They have for me. Maybe they have for you?
Please think about these coincidences that have turned your life….and, if you think you have a good story, please put it in the comment box below!
Living in Kent in the UK, I have always been fascinated by local currencies and hop tokens. These were issued by local farmers to the hop pickers who came down from London – and could only be spent in the local village or on local beer (provided by the farmer!). However unfair, this really was localism in action!
So it is, as Europe and the US faces its currency crisis, trying to payoff old debts with a money system that is totally broken, it becomes so interesting to look to history and the so-called Wörgl experiment. This was conducted from July 1932 to November 1933 and is a classic example of the potential efficacy of local currencies in a time of financial crisis.
Wörgl, a small town in Austria with 4000 inhabitants, introduced a local scrip during the Great Depression. By 1932 unemployment in Wörgl had risen to 30%. The local government had amassed debts of 1.3 million Austrian schillings (AS) against cash reserves of 40,000 AS. Local construction and civic maintenance had come to a standstill. On the initiative of the town’s mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, the local government printed 32,000 in labor certificates which carried a negative 1% monthly interest rate and could be converted into schillings at 98% of face value. An equivalent amount in schillings was deposited in the local bank as cover for the certificates in case of mass redemption and earned interest for the government.
The certificates circulated so rapidly that only 12,000 were ever actually put into circulation. According to reports by the mayor and economists of the day who studied the experiment, the scrip was readily accepted by local merchants and the local population. It utilized the scrip to carry out 100,000 AS in public works projects involving construction and repair of roads, bridges, tanks, drainage systems, factories, and buildings. The scrip was also accepted as legal tender for payment of local taxes.
In the one year that the currency was in circulation, it circulated 13 times faster than the official shilling and served as a catalyst to the local economy. The heavy arrears in local tax collection declined dramatically. Local government revenue rose from 2,400 AS in 1931 to 20,400 in 1932. Unemployment was eliminated, while it remained very high throughout the rest of the country. No increase in prices was observed. Based on the dramatic success of the Wörgl experiment, several other communities introduced similar scrips.
In spite of the tangible benefits of the programme, it met with stiff opposition from the regional socialist party and from the Austrian central bank, which opposed the local currency as an infringement on its powers over the currency. As a result the program was suspended, unemployment rose, and the local economy soon degenerated to the level of other communities in the country.
So there is a way out of the currency crisis – if only we looked to history and suppressed the central banking systems. I cannot see the dollar and euro surviving in their current state for much longer without some re-thinking. Makes you think what we could do if we took localism to the next stage of its natural development.
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.