Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Video Newsletters

I have been on a quest to learn how to develop video and send it via the internet for my Creative Thinking Business. I plan to send out monthly “Video Newsletters” that are short 3-5 minutes pieces that talk about creativity and innovation. I am also in the process of making a “Video Press Kit” for my business as well as some e-learning/distance learning programs.

You can view my 1st one here;

Solar Sailor - Combination Creativity

I have learned more about Flash, QuickTime, .flv, .fla., .swf. HTML wrappers, skins, Sorenson Squeeze, video converters, Cameras, Lighting, Audio, RSS, Ipod casting and a host of other stuff no sane businessman should ever have to learn. My wife said it is official;….you have become a computer nerd. Ouch! I vouched never to do that :)

Obviously I am still learning; I have been playing with pop up windows, html delivery, compression, various players, browsers, etc. trying to find what works best for the actual delivery of the video. That is the hardest part. Trust me I have done a lot or research on this and there are no “agreed on” best practices, that I can find.

As of today, I think (hope) I have figured out most of the web delivery issues. This has taken me several hundred hours :(

I will pass on all of my findings in a future post for those who are interested in how to do it themselves.

If you would like to receive future Video Newsletters from me, simply download my free e-book at and that will put you on the list. You can opt- out anytime.



Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The World is Flat

This book is a must read for anyone interested in an innovation commons. Much of the book revolves around and depends upon the successful creation of innovation commons in many different forms. The following are some excerpts from the book that seem to me to be most directly related to the subject of the innovation commons.

"…Satyam Cherukuri, of Sarnoff, an American research and development firm, has called ‘the globalization of innovation" and an end to the old model…" p29-30

His premise is that the "world is now flat", i.e. the global competitive playing field is being leveled. The world is being flattened. He identifies ten driving forces for leveling of the competitive playing field. The first three are events that marked the change:
  1. When the walls came down and the windows went up
  2. When Netscape went public
  3. Work flow software

The next six represent the new forms of collaboration, which the new platform created by the first three forces made possible:

  1. Self organizing collaborative communities
  2. Outsourcing Y2K
  3. Offshoring
  4. Supply chaining
  5. Insourcing
  6. In-forming

The last force is an enabler:

  1. The steroids: Digital, mobile, personal and virtual

Quoting Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM, "This emerging era is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working together in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius." p93

In discussing some of the problems of an innovation commons, he raises the following question:
"If everyone contributes his or her intellectual capital for free, where will the resources for innovation come from? And won’t we end up with in endless legal wrangles over which part of any innovation was made by the community for free, and meant to stay that way, and which part was added on by some company for profit and has to be paid for so that the company can make money to drive further innovation." p96

"How do you push innovation forward if everyone is working for free and giving away their work?…if innovators are not going to be rewarded for their innovations, the incentive for path-breaking innovation will dry up and so will the money for the really deep R&D that is required to drive progress in this increasingly complex field." (Paraphrasing Microsoft) p100

"Open source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have had to buy in order to use, and because open source network associations – with their open borders and come-one-come-all approach – can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a growing number of areas." p102

Writing about the power of search engines for collaboration: "How does searching fit into the concept of collaboration? I call it ‘in-forming’. In-forming is the individual’s’ personal analog to open sourcing, outsourcing, insourcing, supply chaining and offshoring. In-forming is the ability to build and deploy your own personal supply chain – a supply chain of information, knowledge and entertainment. In-forming is about self collaboration…" p153

"…this tenth flattener - the steroids – is going to amplify and further empower all the other forms of collaboration. These steroids should make open-source innovation that much more open, because they will enable more individuals to collaborate with one another in more ways and from more places than ever before." p 170-171

He then introduces the concept of the triple convergence: "First, right around the year 2000, all ten flatteners…started to converge and work together in ways that created a new, flatter, global playing field. As this new playing field became established, both businesses and individuals began to adopt new habits, skills and processes to get the most out of it. They moved from largely vertical means of creating value to more horizontal one. The merger of this new playing field for doing business with the new ways of doing business was the second convergence, and it actually helped to flatten the world even further. Finally, just when all this flattening was happening, a whole new group of people, several billion in fact, walked on the playing field from China, India and the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the new flat world, and its new tools, some of them were able to collaborate and compete directly with everyone else. This was the third convergence." p175

Writing about the parallel between the work of economists of the impact of major technologies on productivity, he stated: "The same thing is happening today with the flattening of the world. Many of the ten flatteners have been around for years. But for the full flattening effects to be felt, we needed not only the ten flatteners to converge, but also something else. We needed the emergence of a large cadre of managers, innovators, business consultant, business schools, designers, IT specialists, CEOs and workers to get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field. In short, the convergence of the ten flatteners begat the convergence of a set of business practices and skills that would get the most out of the flat world. And then the tow began to mutually reinforce each other." p178

"In the future globalization is going to be increasingly driven by individuals who understand the flat world, adapt themselves quickly to its processes and technologies, and then start to march forward…They will be of every color of the rainbow and from every corner of the world." p183
"The flatter the world gets, the more we are going to need a system of global governance that keeps up with all the new legal and illegal forms of collaboration." p217

"In the flat world, the division of labor is steadily becoming more and more complex, with a lot more people interacting with a lot of other people they don’t know and may never meet. If you want to have a modern complex division of labor, you have to put more trust in strangers." p326

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Friedman

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2005

A Simpler Way

This is a beautiful book with beautiful pictures and mental images. It is a hopeful book, and it is a profound book. Its mission is no less than to change our paradigm from competition to collaboration in how we perceive, think and act in all that we do. The authors opening line is "We want life to be less arduous and more delightful. We want to be able to think differently about how to organize human activities."

They question the "survival of the fittest" paradigm for evolution and our mechanistic view of the world. "The mechanistic image of the world is a very deep image, planted at subterranean depths in most of us. But it doesn't help us any longer."

The authors pose the question, "How could we organizes human endeavor if we developed different understandings of how life organizes itself?" They have six beliefs about human organizations and the world in which they come into form:
  1. "The universe is a living, creative, experimenting expereince of discovering what's possible at all levels of scale from microbe to cosmos.
  2. Life's natural tendency is to organize. Life organizes into greater levels of complexity to support more diversity and greater sustainability.
  3. Life organizes around a self. Organizing is always an act of creating an identity.
  4. Life self-organizes. Networks, patterns, and structures emerge without external imposition or direction. Organization wants to happen.
  5. People are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, and meaning seeking.
  6. Organizations are living systems. They too are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, meaning-seeking."

They argue that life has a natural and spontaneous tendency towards organization. "Whatever chaos is present at the start, when elements combine, systems of organization appear. Life is attracted to order - order gained through wandering explorations into new relationships and new possibilities."

The central part of the book is organized around a poem by A. R. Ammons:

"I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in
so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:
I look for the forms
things want to come as
from what black wells of possibility
how a thing will
not the shape on paper - though
that, too - but the
uninterfering means on paper:
not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours."

The authors write, "Life is creative. It plays itself into existence, seeking new relationships, new capacities, new traits. Life is an experiment to discover what's possible."

They believe Darwinism has led us to believe that life wasn't supposed to happen, that it was an accident, and that life has to fight to continue to exist. In their view, "Life is about invention, not survival. We are here to create, not defend."

They point out that all of us are trying to describe our reality to others. But reality outside of us, in an absolute sense, evades us. "We peer out through our senses, describing our experiences of what we think reality to be. We choose images to convey our expereince. We create metaphors to connect what we see. We explore new ways of understanding what seems to be happening and what we think it means."

Peering out at the world, they describe seven principles of life's process of creating:

  1. "Everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating. Everything is changing all the time: individuals, systems, environments, the rules, the processes of evolutions. Even change changes. Every organism reinterprets the rules, creates exceptions for itself, creates new rules.
  2. Life uses messes to get well-ordered solutions. Life doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness. It uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, unending trials and errors to find what works.
  3. Life is intent on finding what works, not what's 'right'. It is the ability to keep finding solutions that is important; any one solution is temporary. There are no permanently right answers. The capacity to keep changing, to find what works now, is what keeps any organism alive.
  4. Life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities. There are no 'windows of opportunity', narrow openings in the fabric of space-time that soon disappear forever.
  5. Possibilities beget more possibilities; they are infinite.
  6. Life is attracted to order. It experiments until it discovers how to form a system that can support diverse members. Individuals search out a wide range of possible relationships to discover whether they can organize into life-sustaining system. These explorations continue until a system is discovered. The system then provides stability for its members, so that individuals are less buffeted by change.
  7. Life organizes around identity. Every living thing acts to develop and preserve itself. Identity is the filter that every organism or system uses to make sense of the world. New information, new relationships, changing environments - all are interpreted through a sense of self. This tendency toward self-creation is so strong that it creates a seeming paradox. An organism will change to maintain its identity.

Everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors. There are no unaffected outsiders. No one system dictates conditions to another. All participate together in creating the conditions of their interdependence."

"There is no ideal design for anything, just interesting combinations that arise as a living thing explores it space of possibilities", Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers write, a combination of words that could be used to describe how an organization innovates.

Their assertion is that "life tinkers itself into existence". "It tinkers toward order - toward systems that are more complex and effective...Almost always what begins in randomness ends in stability...generates systems that sustain diverse individuals." But they conclude, "Life seeks order in a disorderly way."

"All this messy playfulness creates relationships that make more available...," they write. "Who we become together will always be different that who we were alone. Our range of creative expression increases as we join with others. New relationships create new capacities."

"Life invites us to create not only the forms but even the process of discovery," they conclude.

"The environment is invented by our presence in it. We do not parachute into a sea of turbulence, to sink or swim. We and our environments become one system, each influencing the other, each co-determining the other." Living systems they believe create more possibilities and more freedom for individuals.

In this systems behaviors emerge. "Science writer Kevin Kelly describes these systems as a 'messy cascade of interdependent events ...What emerges from the collective is not a series of critical individual actions but a multitude of simultaneous actions whose collective pattern is far more important'."

One of the important features of viable living systems is simultaneity. "Simultaneity reduces the impact of any one error. More errors matter less if the actors are not linked together sequentially. The space for experimentation increases as we involve more minds in the experiment, as long as they can operate independently. What links people together is their focus on a needed solution. But in discovering what works, they are not waiting for one another to act."

They very carefully describe the discipline of play required for success. "Playful tinkering requires consciousness. If we are not mindful, if our attention slips, then we can't notice what's available or discover what's possible. Staying present is the discipline of play. Great concentration and focus are required." As a result, "Playful enterprises are alert. They are open to information, always seeking more, yearning for surprises."

Over and over again they stress the role that diversity plays in creation. "Parallel process requires both diversity and freedom. There is more than one workable solution, and these solutions arise from many different forms of self-expression...Life is not driving us toward one solution. The world is interested in pluralism. Only in this way can it discover more about itself...The world's desire for diversity compels us to change."

Systems offer the possibility for more stability. But in a curious paradox, that stability for the system depends upon its member's ability to change. "When individuals fail to experiment or when a system refuses their offers of new ideas, then the system becomes moribund. Without constant, interior change, it sinks into the death grip of equilibrium. It no longer participates in coevolution. The system becomes vulnerable; its destruction is self-imposed...This broad paradox of stability and freedom is the stage on which coevolution dances. Life leaps forward when it can share its learnings. The dense web of systems allow information to travel in all directions, speeding recovery and adaptation."

If systems of life are self-organizing then we don't have to design how they will organize. We live in a universe where we get order for free. "If order is for free, we don't have to be the organizers. We don't have to design the world. We don't have to structure its existence."
And, in a prescription for systems that has a lot to do with an innovation commons, "As we organize, we need to keep inquiring into the quality of our relationships. How much access do we have to one another? How much trust exists among us? Who else needs to be in the room?"

"Stability is found in freedom - not in conformity and compliance. We may have thought that our organization's survival was guaranteed by finding the right form and insisting that everyone fit into it. But sameness is not stability. It is individual freedom that creates stable systems. It is diffferentness that enables us to thrive," they propose.

In writing about self, they suggest, "Life wants to happen. It calls itself into existence. Out of all information and all possibilities, an entity comes into form. An identity emerges. A self has created itself...No externally imposed plans or designs are required. The process of invention always takes place around an identity. There is a self that seeks to organize and make its presence known. The desires of self set a self-organizing world into motion."

Research suggests that we perceive the world based on who we have decided to be, " any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be...At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain." The corollary to this is that "We will change our self if we believe that the change will preserve the self."

In answering the question about what conditions will allow self-organization to flourish, they state "We need to trust that we are self organizing...We live in a world where attraction is ubiquitous. Organization wants to happen. People want their lives to mean something. We seek one another to develop new capacities. With all these wonderful and innate desires calling us to organize, we can stop worrying about designing perfect structures or rules. We need to become intrigued by how we create a clear and coherent identity, a self that we can organize around...Identity includes such dimensions as history, values, actions, core beliefs, competencies, principles, purpose, mission...Identity is the source of organizations. Every organization is an identity in motion, moving through the world, trying to make a difference."

In search of that illusive concept of emergence, they write, "Emergence is the surprising capacity we discover only when we join together. New systems have properties that appear suddenly and mysteriously. These properties cannot be predicted. They do not exist in the individuals who compose the system. What we know about the individuals, no matter how rich the details, will never give us the ability to predict how they will behave as a system. Once individuals link together they become something different.

One of the current quandaries facing free, open collaboratives is compensation. It is very clear that participants benefit in many other tangible and intangible ways from the collaboration. However, in our present form of capitalism, no standard form of monetary compensation has emerged. The authors don't provide much hope of one being developed, "Once systems are called into the world by our individual explorations, it becomes impossible to work backwards. Systems cannot be deconstructed. We can't figure out cause and effect or who contributed what. There are no heroes or permanent leaders in an emergent, systems creating world. There are too many simultaneous connection; individual contributions evolve too rapidly into group efforts."

We often talk about synergy in a group, where 1 + 1 > 2. Their paradigm revolutionizes the way to think about a system, "A system is an inseparable whole. It is not the sum of its parts. It is not greater than the sum of its parts. There is nothing to sum. There are no parts. The system is a new and different and unique contribution to its members and the world. To search backwards in time for its parts is to deny the self transforming nature of systems. A system is knowable only as itself. It is irreducible. We can't disentangle the effects of so many relationships. The connections never end. They are impossible to understand by analysis."

In amplifying their concept that self-organizing systems merge through trust, they write, "Every act of organizing is an experiment. We begin with desire, with a sense of purpose and direction. But we enter the expereince vulnerable, unprotected by the illusionary cloak of prediction. We acknowledge that we don't know how this work will actually unfold. We discover what we are capable of as we go along. We engage others in the experiment. We are willing to commit to a systems whose effectiveness cannot be seen until it is in systems of trust, people are free to create the relationships they need. Trust enables the system to open. The system expands to include those it had excluded. More conversations - more diverse and diverging views - become important. People decide to work with those from whom they have been separate."

We long for meaning in our lives. "Each of us embodies the boundless energies of life. We are creating, systems-seeking, self-organizing, meaning-seeking beings. We are identities in motion, searching for the relationships that will evoke more from us."

A Simpler Way
Margaret Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers
Berrett-Koehler, 1996

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fourth Turning

This book by Strauss and Howe proclaims itself on the cover as "An American Prophecy", and the book has the subtitle of "What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny". Those are strong words when speaking of the future. H. G. Wells commented that demography is destiny. I believe that. For example, we know a lot about all the 20-year-olds in the U.S. in 2025. Why? Because they've all been born, even those that will immigrate into the U.S. But when you couple demography with social trends, I become less sure. Humans have a nasty habit of doing the unexpected, as well as responding to events in unexpected ways. Strauss and Howe couple demography with sociology and add in some ideas about generations to produce a prophecy. In doing so I think they fall prey to a weakness we all succumb too occasionally, especially me, of pushing their insights too far into specifics and detail. However, if their prophecy is 10% right, they still deserve to be listened to, and maybe even to take actions to prepare for the America they prophesize.

The book begins with a summary of their prophecy in Chapter 1. Winter Comes Again. "America feels like it's unraveling. Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business cycle can buoy our public spirit. The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from our youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness...We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment. Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less."

Remember as you read this that the book was published in 1997 - before 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The authors' views have been developed through several books including Generations and 13th-GEN. To understand their work, I recommend that you read all three of these books. However, The Fourth Turning is the best of the three.

The fundamental building block of their paradigm is that there are cycles in history of society called the saeculum by the "ancients".

According to the authors, there are three ways of thinking about time*: chaotic, cyclical, and linear. "In chaotic time, history has no path. Events follow one another randomly, and any effort to impute meaning in their whirligig succession is hopeless."

*Authors' note: I think that their description of chaotic time is really confusing. There are really four ways of thinking about time - random, cyclical, linear and chaotic. The characteristics they ascribe to chaotic time really apply to random time. In chaotic time, there is order, events are not random, but follow a higher order of organization not easily perceived. I think that the paradigm progression is from random to cyclical to linear to chaotic.

"Cyclical time originated when the ancients first linked natural cycles of planetary events (diurnal rotations, lunar months, solar years, zodiacal precessions) with related cycles in human activity (sleeping, waking; gestating, birthing; planting; harvesting; hunting, feasting). Cyclical time conquered chaos by repetition..."

"...linear time - time as a unique (and usually progressing) story with an absolute beginning and an absolute end...The Persian, Judaic, Christian and Islamic cosmologies all embraced the radically new concept of personal and historic time as a unidirectional drama."
The saeculum is approximately 80 years long and, according to the authors, is observable in Anglo-American history for seven cycles since 1435. The saeculum is divided into four turnings, each about 20 years long - a generation:

1. "The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays." In the current saeculum, this was the American High (1946 - 1964)

2. "The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when civic order comes under attack from a new values regime." In the current saeculum, this was the Consciousness Revolution (1964 - 1984)

3. "The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants." In the current saeculum, this was, and still is, the Culture Wars (1984 - 2005?)

4. "The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one." In the current saeculum, this era is left unnamed but would start around 2005 and end around 2026.

If Strauss and Howe are correct, at this point in time, we are at the cusp of entering a crisis era. The previous crisis era was introduced by the great depression and W.W.II. Prior crisis eras also began with wars - Civil War (1860), American Revolution (1773), Glorious Revolution (1675), Armada Crisis (1569) and Wars of the Roses (1459). Are the wars we are in right now the catalysts for our next crisis era?

The second building block in Strauss and Howe's model is the concept of generations. "Of all the cycles known to man, the one we all know best is the human life cycle. No other societal force - not class, not nationality, not culture, not technology - has a predictable a chronology. The limiting length of an active life cycle is one of civilization's great constants...Biologically and socially, a full human life is divided into four phases: childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood. Each phase of life is the same length as the others, capable of holding one generation at a time. And, each phase is associated with a specific social role that conditions how its occupants perceive the world and act on those perceptions." And, each phase is about 20 years long:

  • Childhood (0-20) - social role is growth, receiving nurture, acquiring values
  • Young Adulthood (21-41) - social role is vitality, serving institutions, testing values
  • Midlife (42-62) - social role is power, managing institutions, applying values
  • Elderhood (63-83) - social role is leadership, leading institutions, transferring values

Late Elderhood (84+) - social role is dependence, receiving comfort from institutions, remembering values

In this model, only the first four are considered active in shaping American society. This assumption is certainly suspect as the late elderhood bracket swells and people remain mentally and physically active longer.

These two building blocks of the Strauss and Howe model, the saeculum and generations, act together to create the engine for social change. Consider for example childhood. A childhood spent during a first turning, a high, would be vastly different than one spent during a crisis or fourth turning.

But the key thing to consider is the mix of generations in any turning of the saeculum. For example, in a fourth turning, the crisis era the author's predict we are now in:

  • The Midlife generation, whose role is power, experienced Childhood during a second turning, an awakening
  • The Elderhood generation, whose role is leadership, experienced Childhood in a first turning, a high
  • The Young Adulthood generation, whose role is vitality, experienced Childhood during an Unraveling
  • The Childhood generation, whose role is growth is getting its first life expereince during a Crisis

The Late Elderhood generation, whose role according to the authors, is dependence is the only generation to have experienced the last crisis.

The third building block of the Strauss and Howe model is the naming of generations, depending upon their place in the saeculum at different life stages. The naming implies that we can, to a first approximation, group people in a generation and ascribe some common characteristics. This is a dangerous assumption, but useful if you're going to make any sense of generations and social change. The characterizations are general tendencies and do not apply to individuals within a generation.

The fourth building block of the model is the concept of archetypes. Strauss and Howe identity four archetypes - Hero, Nomad, Prophet and Artist. These four archetypes cycle through our society as generations.

The generations in play right now are:

  • The Silent Generation (1929-1946) - an Artist archetype, suffocated during childhood, sensitive during youth adulthood, indecisive during midlife and empathetic during elderhood
  • The Boomers (1946-1964) - a Prophet archetype, indulged during childhood, narcissistic as a young adult, moralistic in midlife
  • The Thirteen Generation (1964-1984) - also called GenX, a Nomad archetype, abandoned during childhood, alienated during young adulthood
  • The Millennials (1985-2005) - Hero archetype, protected as a child

If the authors are correct, we have just entered a Crisis that will last for the next 20 years. In this Crisis the elders will be Prophets, those in midlife will be Nomads, young adults will be Heroes and our children will be Artists. According to the authors, families will be strengthening and we will over protect our children. The gap between genders will widen. Ideals will be championed, new institutions will be founded and our culture will be practical. Our interest in community will be growing and our social structure will begin to unify. Our worldview will be moving from complexity to simplicity. What will motivate us socially will be a concern over blots in our record. We will develop a sense of urgency and a sense that we need to fix our outer world. If wars occur, they will be total.

The morphology of a crisis era will is:

  • "A Crisis era begins with a catalyst - a starting event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood"
  • "Once catalyzed, a society achieves a regeneracy - a new counter entropy that reunifies and reenergize civic life"
  • "The regenerated society propels toward a climax - a crucial moment that confirms the death of the old order and birth of the new."
  • "The climax culminates in a resolution - a triumphant or tragic conclusion that separates the winners from the losers, resolves the big public questions, and establishes the new order."

While I am reluctant to present their recommendations, I do so for your own analysis. To me the recommendations appear to have a political bias. According to the authors to prepare for the fourth turning, or crisis, America should:

  • Prepare values - forge the consensus and uplift the culture, but don't expect near-term results
  • Prepare institutions - clear the debris and find out what works, but don't try building anything big
  • Prepare politics - define challenges bluntly and stress duties over rights, but don't attempt reforms that can't now be accomplished
  • Prepare society - require community teamwork to solve local problems, but don't try this on a national scale
  • Prepare youth - treat children as the nation's highest priority, but don't do the work for them
  • Prepare elders - tell future elders they will need to be more self sufficient, but don't attempt deep cuts in benefits to current elders
  • Prepare the economy - correct fundamentals, but don't try to fine tune performance
  • Prepare the defense - expect the worse and prepare to mobilize, but don't precommit to any one response

For individuals they recommend:

  • Rectify - return to the classic virtues
  • Converge - heed emerging community norms
  • Bond - build personal relationships of all kinds
  • Gather - prepare yourself (and your children) for teamwork
  • Root - look to your family for support
  • Brace - gird for the weakening or collapse of public support mechanisms
  • Hedge - diversify everything you do

It is incredibly important that we as a society understand the predictions in this book. We must decide not only if they are right or wrong, but also even if they are right, are we predetermined to this future, or can we through collective decisions and actions avoid the future they say is inevitable. Is technology a wild card in their scenario? Will it accelerate the Crisis or help us avoid it? And, for all the cases, what are we going to do about it?

The Fourth Turing - An American Prophecy
What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny
William Strauss and Neil Howe
Broadway Books, 1997

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Being There

It was Sunday. Chance was in the garden. He moved slowly, dragging the green hose from one path to the next, carefully watching the flow of the water. Very gently he let the stream touch every plant, every flower, every branch of the garden. Plants were like people; they needed care to live, to survive their diseases, and to die peacefully.

Yet plants were different from people. No plant is able to think about itself or able to know itself; there is no mirror in which a plant can recognize itself its face; no plant can do anything intentionally; it cannot help growing, and its growth has no meaning, since a plant cannot reason or dream.

It was safe and secure in the garden, which was separated from the street by a high, red brick wall covered with ivy, and not even the sounds of the passing cars disturbed the peace. Chance ignored the streets. Though he had never stepped outside the house and its garden, he was not curious about life on the other side of the wall.

Thus begins this amazing novel by Jerzy Kosinski. This 1971 book has stayed mostly dormant in my brain for over thirty years only occasionally popping to the surface. However, in my recent studies of McLuhan, it surfaced and requested that I reread it. I believe after rereading the book that Kosinski was drawing a metaphor for the impacts of electronic media on perception and thinking, and the emergence of the post-literate man.

Chance went inside and turned on the TV. The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot and cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man.

By changing the channel he could change himself. He could go through phases, as garden plants went through phases, but he could change as rapidly as he wished by twisting the dial backward and forward. In some cases he could spread out onto the screen without stopping, just as on TV people spread out onto the screen. By turning the dial, Chance could bring others inside his eyelids. Thus he came to believe that it was he, Chance, and no one else, who made himself to be.

Chance, you find out in the story, is a person of unknown origin who lived his entire life tending the garden of a very wealthy man. His education was TV and the garden. When the old man died, his life was abruptly changed.

He rose early as always, found the breakfast that had been left at his door by the maid, ate it, and went into the garden.

He checked the soil under the plants, inspected the flowers, snipped away dead leaves, and pruned the bushes. Everything was in order. It had rained during the night, and many fresh buds had emerged. He sat down and dozed in the sun.

As long as one didn't look at people, they did not exist. They began to exist, as on TV, when one turned one's eyes on them. Only then could they stay in one's mind before being erased by new images. The same was true for him. By looking at him, others could make him clear, could open him up and unfold him; not to be seen was to blur and fade out. Perhaps he was missing a lot by simply watching others on TV and not being watched by them. He was glad now, after the Old Man died, he was going to be seen by people he never been seen by before.

Chance is called in to meet with the executors of the Old Man's will. He is found to have no papers, no record of his existence. The executors are unbelieving and fear a scam. Chance retorts,

"But you have me. I am here. What more proof do you need?"

He is told that the house and garden will be locked the next day and he must leave. On the morning of the next day, he dresses and packs his suitcase with the old, very expensive suits that the Old Man had given him, now back in style, and prepared to leave.

He turned on the TV, sat down on the bed, and flicked the channel changer several times. Country houses, skyscrapers, newly built apartment houses, churches shot across the screen. He turned the set off. The image died; only a small blue dot hung in the center of the screen, as if forgotten by the rest of the world to which it belonged; then it too disappeared. The screen filled with greyness; it might have been a slab of stone.

Chance got up and now on the way to the gate, he remembered to pick up the old key that for years had hung untouched on a board in the corridor next to his room. He walked to the gate and inserted the key; then, pulling the gate open, he crossed the threshold, abandoned the key in the lock, closed the gate behind him. Now he could never return to the garden.

Chance is now on the hero's journey described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

He almost immediately has an accident. A chauffeur driven limousine crushes his leg. The wealthy man's wife, Eve or EE, brings Chance back to her house to care for him. There through a series of misunderstandings his name gets changed to Chauncey Gardiner. Her powerful husband is old and very ill. The doctors already in the house care for Chance.

Chance thinks,

"When one was addressed and viewed by others, one was safe. Whatever one did would then be interpreted by the others in the same way that one interpreted what they did. They could never know more about one than one knew about them."

Chance wondered whether Mr. Rand would ask him to leave the house. The thought that he might have to leave did not upset him; he knew that he would eventually have to go but that, as on TV, what would follow next was hidden; he knew the actors on the new program were unknown. He did not have to be afraid, for everything had its sequel, and the best that one could do was to wait patiently for his own forthcoming appearance.

Benjamin Rand has a meeting with the President. He is prepared for the meeting by his handlers. Chance comments:

"I hope that you're feeling well, sir. You do look better."

Rand moved uneasily in his chair. "It's all makeup, Chauncey - all make-up. The nurse was here all night and through the morning, and I asked her to fix me up so the President won't feel I'm going to die during our talk. No one likes a dying man, Chauncey, because few know what death is. All we know is the terror of it. You're an exception, Chauncey, I can tell. I know that you're not afraid. That's what EE and I admire in you: your marvelous balance. You don't stagger back and forth between fear and hope, you're a truly peaceful man! Don't disagree; I'm old enough to be your father. I've lived a lot, trembled a lot, was surrounded by little men who forgot that we enter naked and exit naked and that no accountant can audit life in our favor."

Chance participates in the meeting with the president. The President and Rand are discussing the economy, which has recently taken a turn for the worse. Chance observes trying to emulate what he has seen on TV about how to act making sure that he looks straight into the President's eyes. The President turns to Chance and asks him a question.

"And you, Mr. Gardiner? What do you think about the bad season on The Street?"

Chance draws on the only knowledge he possesses, gardening, and replies.

"In a garden, growth has its seasons. There are spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well."

Rand and the President are pleased. The President incorporates Chance's philosophy into his thoughts and in a national TV speech quotes him. This leads quickly to a TV appearance for Chance on a talk show.

Chance turned on the TV. He wondered whether a person changed before or after appearing on the screen. Would he be changed forever or only during the time of his appearance? What part of himself would he leave behind when he finished the program? Would there be two Chances after the show: one Chance who watched TV and another who appeared on it?

When Chance went to the studio for his telecast, Kosinski observes and comments.

Chance was astonished that television could portray itself; cameras watched themselves and, as they watched, they televised a program. This self-portrait was telecast on TV screens facing the stage and watched by the studio audience. Of all the manifold things there were in the world - trees, grass, flowers, telephones, radios, elevators - only TV constantly held up a mirror to its own neither solid nor fluid face.


Facing the cameras and the audience, now barely visible in the background of the studio, Chance abandoned himself to what would happen. He was drained of thought, engaged, yet removed. The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world - into rooms, cars, boats, planes, living rooms and bedrooms. He would be seen by more people than he could ever meet in his entire life - people who would never meet him. The people who watched him on their sets did not know who actually faced them; how could they, if they had never met him? Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear.

When Chance gives his garden answer to the host's question on the economy, he becomes an instant national, and later even an international, celebrity. The story concludes with Chance being considered as a presidential candidate.

Chance is attending a large party for international dignitaries as the novel ends.

He crossed the hall. Chilled air streamed in through an open window. Chance pushed the heavy glass door open and stepped out into the garden. Taut branches laden with fresh shoots, slender stems with tiny sprouting buds shot upward. The garden lay calm, still sunk in repose. Wisps of clouds floated by and left the moon polished. Now and then, boughs rustled and gently shook off their drops of water. A breeze fell upon the foliage and nestled under the cover of its moist leaves. Not a thought lifted itself from Chance's brain. Peace filled his chest.

Marshal McLuhan wrote about three stages in the development of mankind - preliterate, literate and post literate. Preliterate society existed until the development of an alphabetic phonetic language. Literate society's development was accelerated by the invention of the moveable type printing press. Post literate society began developing with the invention of the telegraph and was accelerated by the development of TV and computers. Most of what we know is based on literate perceptions and means of communication.

McLuhan believed that the real impact of a change in a medium is in the medium's ability to alter our perception of reality. This altered perception of reality is nearly impossible for anyone to consciously notice, and therefore its impacts are profound. Media, which are extensions of man's senses, alter the ratio of our sense usage. Kosinski opens and closes the book with sense driven descriptions of reality.

McLuhan's post literate society has many of the characteristics of the preliterate society of the distant past. He labeled the society "acoustic", not that it was going back to being only an oral - aural environment of the preliterate age, but that it was going to be more "wavelike", as in the wave nature of matter. However, the post literate age was going to rely more heavily on the spoken word, rather than the written word of the literate age. And, instead of gathering around fires, we gather around the TV screens (TV or computer), in our caves.

Chance is Kosinski's conception of what someone would be like if they skipped the literate age entirely. Chance's learning is preliterate and post literate. He learned from nature and TV.

He draws a distinction in the second paragraph between nature and humankind in the ability to be aware and have intention. Later he points out that TV could portray itself, a feat unmatched in nature.

Kosinski gives hints about TV's ability to alter our sense ratios and it's impact on our perception of reality when he writes, "The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot an cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man."

The last phrase is a particularly important piece of advice about how to cope with the changes when he advises the perception of nature as a way to achieve balance.

Chance is so altered by his TV education that he's not sure of his existence outside of the TV, and he thinks that he can change himself by changing channels.

In a literate world, existence is proven through demonstration of literacy and a written record. In Kosinski's post literate world, existence is proven by being seen.

"The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world," writes Kosinski. "Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear." In a chaotic post literate world where electronic media have altered our perceptions of time, space, sequence, cause and effect, past and future, the present moment and temporality, Chance appears to be a wise man. He is "post literate" and wise in the way of the garden.

Being There
Jerzy Kosinski
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971

Also the movie:
Being There
Lorimar Production
United Artists, 1979
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski

For more information about McLuhan read my article The Wave of the Future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

McLuhan's Ghost

Author's Note: This story was written to introduce a workshop on story telling.

Marshall McLuhan has haunted me for 41 years. Ever since reading Understanding Media in 1964 and Culture is Our Business in 1970, McLuhan's insights and diabolic turns of phrase have lain dormant in my brain, occasionally surfacing to interrupt a train of thought. Like a virus whose genetic structure takes over it's host's, McLuhan's memes have infected my brain, flitting around like ghosts, multiplying and modifying the way I perceive and think.

"The medium is the message."

"Media are the extensions of man."

"Hot and Cool media."

I think I am possessed.

My infection was dormant. Why now has it developed into a full-fledged haunting?

The short answer is that I was called.

The Wizard of Ads sent the first call. No, really, he's an honest to goodness wizard who practices his wizardry on a hill between Austin and Buda in his castle. He pretends to be a normal human who goes by the name of Roy Williams, but he is a wizard never-the-less.

His wizard-o-gram arrived mysteriously on my computer on November 22, 2004. Its title was "Marketing Without Media", an insightful piece about the declining effectiveness of mass media advertising. McLuhan's ghost started to stir.

The second call came from a guru, friend of mind. He asked me to call the Wizard of Ads. Nick G., also a friend and colleague of the Wizard, had spoken to the Wizard about me and the Wizard would like to talk with me.

In our telephone conversation, the Wizard mentioned an e-mail that he had gotten from someone who had also read his wizard-o-gram and commented that McLuhan had predicted that media technology always reverses itself. The Wizard asked if I knew what that meant. I said no. The challenge was given. The haunting started.

The last call came from a most unexpected source. A Wiccan brought me an article written by Norman Mailer published in, of all places, Parade, in January 2005. Donna P. knew that I was on this quest, and thought I should read it. Mailer's article, "One Idea", outlined his concern about the impact of television, and the increase of advertising, on the attention span of children and their declining ability to read. All the forty-year-old McLuhan memes were activated. This didn't sound right to me and I wrote back to Mailer telling him so. I was committed.

And, I was possessed.

I read and reread all of the books by McLuhan that are still in print. I began to write and talk about what I was learning. I am now beginning to understand what I knew 40 years ago. And, I still have a lot more to integrate and understand.

If this sounds like a mythological quest, it is. I'm not a hero, but this true story, follows all of the major elements of Campbell's "Heroes Journey" in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

When called on a quest, the hero has many choices. The mythological quest is really a journey into the self, the subconscious. Having accepted the call, and acting upon that call, if you reach the true understanding, your choice is whether to stay there (and become a shaman) or to travel back (and become a teacher) and teach others what you have learned. My quest is the latter.

McLuhan began to warn us over fifty year's ago in his first book, The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man, that we were transitioning from the literate to the post-literate age. He called the post-literate age "acoustic" as he struggled to explain what he was perceiving.

As the Wizard of Ads has been saying, "A picture is not worth a thousand words. A word is worth a thousand pictures."

The post literate age has many similarities with the pre-literate age, including the power of the spoken word, and mimesis. Like the preliterate age that was filled with mystery and things that went bump in the night, our world is incomprehensible, and equally frightening. And, as pre-literate peoples gathered around a fire* in the dark of night and told stories that explained life's mysteries, so do we now gather. We live in a mosaic world of events for which there is no apparent cause and no apparent meaning. Stories provide the meaning.

* Author's note: This was not planned. Unknown to me, the facilitators arranged the workshop in a semicircle around a large candle.

My Quest for Beauty

In 1995, Donna Prestwood, Barbara Benjamin and I, created, produced and hosted 8 two-hour live satellite TV broadcasts for the National Technological University (NTU) on leadership, which we entitled "Leadership in the Interactive Age."


In the session called, Personal Ingenuity and Emerging Technologies, we described three characteristics of inevitable opportunities in technology:

  1. The space between
  2. Synergy
  3. Beauty

My point was, as I presented these three criteria, that if a technology operated on the space between people (things, ideas, concepts), enhanced synergy, and was beautiful (elegant), it probably had a good chance of being a success. I would probably add time shifting now, and still think it's a pretty good list.

I want to focus on beauty right now, because I think it is imperative that we keep our eye on this criteria as we move to more collaborative, emergent behavior types of human systems.
Rollo May was an existential psychologist and a philosopher. I read several books of his in the 1980s.

In My Quest for Beauty, May wrote, "Poincare, the great contemporary mathematician, sounds like Plato when he asks the question of how new mathematical discoveries are made. Then he answers,

'The useful combinations are precisely the most beautiful, I mean those best able to charm this special sensibility that all mathematicians know...But only certain ones are harmonious, consequently, at once useful and beautiful.'

Writing about Shiller, May comments, "...we best let him speak for himself.

'Beauty alone confers happiness on all, and under its influence every being forgets that he is limited.'

Shiller hastens to add that this forgetting is temporary, however, for the sense of limitations is crucial to our creating beauty. We actually create beauty out of the endeavor to come to terms with the paradox on the one hand of freedom and on the other of destiny. Our limits come from both nature and spirit, finite and infinite, objective and subjective."

May agrees with Shiller that beauty is born in play. "Play is the one activity where the fusion of inner vision and objective facts is achieved. Out of this comes the living form which is beauty. This living form is vital, alive, dynamic; and at the same time it gives serenity and repose..."

May remarks, "Artists wrestle with fate in the endeavor to make objective their inner subjective vision." And, in order to do that people must be psychologically healthy. Beauty is a result of creativity that is driven by the engine of paradox, the duality of opposites (finite/infinite, life/death, yin/yang, right/left brain). "Death is the mother of beauty", wrote Wallace Stevens.
"Thus creativity brings together what Freud summed up as the two purposes of life: to love and to work. (Otto) Rank was only going further than Freud by pointing out that both of these, love and work, are aspects of creativity."

May later writes, "Let us explore the human mind as it engages in the creative act. The capacity to create - which we all have, although to varying degrees - is essentially the ability to find form in chaos, to create form where there is only formlessness. This is what leads to beauty, for beauty is that form.

Beauty reveals a form in the universe - the harmony of the spheres, as Kepler called it. It is a form which is present in the circling of the planets. It is a form which is felt in the curves and balance of our own bodies. And it is present especially in the way we see the world, for we form and reform the world in the very act of perceiving it. The imagination to do this is one of the elements that make us human beings."

But what is form? "Form is a pattern, an image and an order given to what would otherwise simply be chaos. Form is the nonmaterial structure of our lives, on the basis of which we live and on which we base our own particular character." Henry Miller wrote of creative people that they want "to make of the chaos about them an order that is their own."

In another seeming paradox, May points out that "the form dictates the content." We select a form "because the content can best be formed out of the chaos" and put into "whatever form seems to fit." "Form", he continues, "is nonmaterial, and has its existence only as things are related to other things." Writing about Pythagoras, he explains, "he held that the fundamental element (of the universe) was no substance at all, but was really the form in which everything in nature is related to everything else."

At a personal level, our own quest for beauty through our creativity gives us grace. May writes, "Creativity gives us grace in the sense that it is balm for our anxiety and a relief from our alienation. It is grace by virtue of its power to reconcile us to our deepest selves, to lead us to our own depths where primary and secondary functions are unified. Here the right brain and the left brain work together is seeing the wholeness of the world."

Chaos is essential for creativity and thus beauty. Too much order will stifle creativity. The role of the artist changes depending upon the environment. If too much chaos exists, the artist creates new order. If too much order exists, the role of the artist is to create chaos.

If you have any doubt about beauty being a serious objective of any undertaking, listen to what Rollo May has to say. "Beauty is the expereince that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases one's sense of being alive. Beauty gives us not only a feeling of wonder; it imparts to us at the same moment timelessness, a repose - which why we speak of beauty as being eternal.

Beauty is the mystery which enchants us. Like all higher experiences of being human, beauty is dynamic; its sense of repose, paradoxically, is never dead, and if it seems to be dead, it is no longer beauty."

Innovation commons, as well as other open, collaborative systems, are by their very nature chaotic systems. The goal is to find the order in the chaos through the individual and collective creativity of its members. This will happen if their is a shared vision, will and significance in the group. The balance of order and chaos is extremely important, as well as the timing of that balance, which should change from more chaotic to more ordered over time, or else the effort will not be productive. The group has to collectively and individually be on a quest for beauty, in addition to functionality, in order to avoid building a termite mound.

My Quest for Beauty
Rollo May
Saybrook, 1985

Understanding Comics

This book is a pleasure to read and it contains valuable insights. It is a book about comics written and drawn in comic book form. The principles of comics are related to story telling. After all, they both are stories. McCloud defines comics as "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an esthetic response in the viewer." The difference between comics and an animated movie is that "each successive frame of a movie is projected on exactly the same space - while each frame of comics must occupy different space. Space does for comics what time does for film."

McCloud demonstrates without a doubt the power and validity of comics to tell a story and to explain extremely complex ideas. My interpretation of McLuhan's idea of the post literate age leads me to believe that comics will be a growing form of communication.

Chapter 1 traces the history of comics from early cave art to the present. In Chapter 2 he develops a rather complete model for human written/drawn communication. In doing so, he considers the four dimensions of:

  1. Complex - Simple
  2. Realistic - Iconic
  3. Objective - Subjective
  4. Specific - Universal

From this he develops a model that relates reality, abstract and symbolic types of communication in a triangle. He also populates this triangle (which he alter expands into a pyramid) with examples of the many comic artists of history indicating how they relate to one another.

In Chapter 4, the author explains "closure". Closure is the mind's power to complete an image or an idea with incomplete information. Closure can be involuntary or voluntary. With many modern technologies, McCloud points out that closure is involuntary. However, with comics, the reader is a participant in completing the action or thought. He writes that there are six different types of closure employed in comics:

  1. Moment to moment
  2. Action to action
  3. Subject to subject
  4. Scene to scene
  5. Aspect to aspect
  6. Nonsequitur

He gives examples of each type. In addition he has statistics on which type is used by what artist and the differences between cultures. American and European comics rarely use the aspect to aspect transition, whereas Japanese artists use this type of transition frequently. This may be due to fact that art, like the Japanese garden, changes as you walk through it. With each new aspect, you get a different composition. In the West, the dominant transition is type 2 - action to action.

In a striking example, McCloud shows how different it is to view strips of cartoon, realistic images and abstractions. Closure is easy with cartoon images, very difficult with realistic images (tend to view each image alone), and almost impossible with abstract images (tend to look at the whole strip as a single piece of art).

Chapter 4 discusses time in comics. "Just as pictures and the intervals between them create the illusion of time through closure, words introduce time by representing that which can only exist in time - sound." In comics, it is the panel that is an icon that "acts as a general indicator that time or space is being divided." As a result, the size, shape and arrangements of panels on a page are an integral part of the creative effort for the artist to get the reader involvement he or she wants. The content of a silent panel (without words or action) "offers no clues as to its duration. It can also produce a sense of timelessness." The effects of such a panel can "bleed over" into subsequent panels creating a mood or sense of place. In this chapter he also treats the subject of motion in comics - multiple images, action lines, subjective (putting the reader in the action) and the use of a continuous background.

The techniques of conveying emotion are described in Chapter 5. In comics, emotions are conveyed through the character and spacing of the lines, by icons, the character of the word balloon and of course, the words themselves.

In Chapter 6, McCloud discusses the subject of the combination of words and pictures in comics through time - history and future.

In Chapter 7, he explains the seven steps of creating comics (or any form of art):

  1. Idea/purpose
  2. Form
  3. Idiom
  4. Structure
  5. Craft
  6. Surface

McCloud discusses the use of color in Chapter 8 and in Chapter 9 ties all the elements together. In the closing chapter he writes about the difficulties of an artist getting the ideas on paper and the viewer getting an approximation of the original idea. This is the dilemma of any artist and comics are no different. He sees a great future for comics, best told in his word and image:

After reading this book, you may want to read his second book, Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology are Revolutionizing an Art Form, Harper Perennial, 2000.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Scott McCloud
Harper Perennial, 1993

Friday, November 11, 2005

Prisoner of Our Thoughts

I was looking forward to reading this book when I found that Alex Pattakos had written it. I was not disappointed. I looked forward to reading the book because it was based, at least in part, upon Frankl's classic Man's Search for Meaning. I read and studied Frankl's book 25 years ago at a particularly low spot in my life - my younger brother, Bill, had died suddenly of a heart attack when he was only 40. My father was quite ill with heart disease, and I was about to be diagnosed with cancer. What was the meaning of life? Frankl's answer to that question influenced me in many ways, more than I ever realized until I read Pattakos's book. Since I had not read Frankl in over twenty years, I could now see how his teaching had informed my life.

This is a great book - probably one of the best books on work life yet written. I read the book in one sitting (something I've never done before), marking the book and making numerous notes. I intend to give it to my friends as gifts.

Pattakos writes in his preface, " This book deals with the human quest for meaning and, therefore, was written with you in mind. It is grounded firmly in the philosophy and approach of the world-renowned psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, author of the classic bestseller, Man's Search far Meaning (named one of the ten most influential books in America by the Library of Congress). Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, is the founder of Logotherapy, a meaning-centered and humanistic approach to psychotherapy. His ideas and experiences related to the search for meaning have significantly influenced people around the world. In this book, you will find a conceptual foundation, as well as practical guidance, for examining your own questions about meaning in your work and everyday life.

The goal of this book, moreover, is to bring meaning to work-that is, to do for the domain of work what Frankl, as a psychiatrist, was able to do for psychotherapy. Because I am defining the notion of "work" very broadly, the message in this book applies to a very broad audience as well. In fact, it applies to volunteers as well as to paid workers; to people working in all sectors and industries; to retirees; to individuals beginning a job search or career; and to those in "transition." And, because this book demonstrates how Frankl's principles actually work in a generic context, its message can be applied to everyday living too. In this regard, besides introducing you to Frankl's core ideas about life, the book is filled with examples, stories, exercises, and practical tools that can help guide you on your path to finding meaning at work and in your personal life.

"It was in a meeting with Frankl at his home in Vienna, Austria, in August 1996, when I first proposed the idea of writing a book that would apply his core principles and approach explicitly to work and the workplace, to the world of business. Frankl was more than encouraging when, in his typically direct and passionate style, he leaned across his desk, grabbed my arm, and said: "Alex, yours is the book that needs to be written!" As you can imagine, I felt that Frankl's words had been branded into the core of my being, and I was determined, from that moment forward, to make this book idea a reality. And so it is."

We are by nature, creatures of habit. We seek to identify and stay within comfort zones. These comfort zones are patterns of thoughts. As we repeat these patterns of thought over and over again. We begin to believe that life happens to us and limit our own potential. We become prisoners of our own thoughts.

"Viewing life as inherently meaningful and literally unlimited in potential requires a shift in consciousness," writes Pattakos. "It also requires responsible actions on our part for, as Frankl points out, the potential meaning that exists in each moment of life can only be searched for and detected by each of us individually. This responsibility he says is 'to be actualized by each of us at any time, even in the most miserable situations and literally up to the last breath of ourselves.'"

We choose how we respond to life. " doesn't happen to us. We happen to life; and we make it meaningful."

Pattakos discusses not only personal transformation, but also the transformation of work itself.

"The transformation of work in the twenty-first century is, in many respects, a call for humanity - a new consciousness that suggests more than simply trying to strike a balance between our work and our personal life. It is a call to honor our own individuality and fully engage our human spirit at work - wherever that may be."

"The goal of this book is to bring meaning to work...," writes Pattakos. I believe he does an excellent job in this 187-page book full of wisdom and insights. It is a must read.

The book is divided into eleven chapters - Life Doesn't Just Happen to Us, Viktor Frankl's Lifework and Legacy, Labyrinths of Meaning, Exercise the Freedom to Choose Your Attitude, Realize Your Will to Meaning, Detect the Meaning of Life's Moments, Don't Work Against Yourself, Look at Yourself form a Distance, Shift Your Focus of Attention, Extend Beyond Yourself and Living and Working with Meaning.

Pattakos has synthesized more than just Frankl's Search for Meaning. He has read and studied most of Frankl's work and interviewed Frankl himself. He occupies a unique position to write this book.

He has created seven principles from his work:
  1. Exercise the freedom to choose your attitude-in all situations, no matter how desperate they may appear or actually be, you always have the ultimate freedom to choose your attitude
  2. Realize your will to meaning-commit authentically to meaningful values and goals that only you can actualize and fulfill.
  3. Detect the meaning of life's moments-only you can answer for your own life by detecting the meaning at any given moment and assuming responsibility for weaving your unique tapestry of existence.
  4. Don't work against yourself-avoid becoming so obsessed with or fixated on an intent or outcome that you actually work against the desired result.
  5. Look at yourself from a distance-only human beings possess the capacity to look at themselves out of some perspective or distance, including the uniquely human trait known as your "sense of humor."
  6. Shift your focus of attention-deflect your attention from the problem situation to something else and build your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and change.
  7. Extend beyond yourself-manifest the human spirit at work by relating and being directed to something more than yourself.

"All human beings, Frankl would say, ultimately have both the freedom and responsibility to position themselves along two key dimensions of life," writes Pattakos. These two key dimensions are success-failure and despair-meaning. Where are you right now in this continuum? Are you where you want to be?

"There is something in us that can rise above and beyond everything we think possible. Our instinct for meaning, at work and in our daily life, is ours right now, at this very moment. As long as we are not a prisoner of our thoughts," concludes Pattakos.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather recognize that it is he who is being asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and only he can answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
Viktor Frankl

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness.

Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, Simon and Schuster, 1984

Prisoner of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl's Principles at Work
Alex Pattakos
Berrett-Koehler, 2004

Future Frequencies

This is the first really new book about a different way to look at the future in quite some time. It's creative and original. And, it offers the potential of a methodology to stimulate non-linear thinking that could lead to breakthroughs. It is not a book that can be used to forecast the future. The authors are less interested in forecasting the future than in creating a future for their clients - a future that might include disruptive innovations.

The process appears like many other processes:

1. Future Framing: Establishes the context for the present and potential leverage points for the future
2. Future Pulsing: Using leverage points, identify influences and influencers to provide an insight into future triggers.
3. Future Mapping: Sculpting the triggers into future platforms.
4. Future Scaping: Creating the future scenarios from the selected platforms.
5. Future Tuning: Arriving at a preferred future.
6. Future Fabbing: Implementing the preferred scenario.

But looks are deceiving. The words used are unique in this context and have to be studied to be understood.

The key that weaves itself through the entire book and process is the author's encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of international avant-garde arts (music, sculpture, "paintings", writing, visual effects, sonic effects, etc.). They deconstruct the art and artist to get at how they think. Since by definition the avant-garde is radically different from the common, the ways of thinking are also different. If these ways of thinking can be used to help clients see their world in a different way and after perceiving the world differently, think and act differently, the seeds of disruptive innovation may be planted.

Woodgate writes, "In attempting to create a broader initial context and vision for a futures project, it is essential to break out of the framework set by the client's expectations and agreed deliverables. Otherwise we might replicate what the client could achieve without futurist input. Creating future visions is about breaking down traditional thinking, both ours and the client's. In our work at The Futures Lab, we are looking for revolutionary, not evolutionary, outcomes. As such, the process of "thinking the unthinkable" is a crucial part of this initial stage in terms of providing more "out there" input into the "wide angle lens" and systems dynamics models that we use. It is a mindset, not a "mouthset." Having an unfettered frame of mind at the beginning of a project is critical to the final output.

My basis for adopting the "thinking the unthinkable" concept stems from my early contacts with the Fluxus movement. In 1962, I attended the Festival of Misfits in London, an event organized by Daniel Spoemi and Robert Filliou. At the time, I thought of it as simple absurd fun. Later, as I got more involved in the movement, I realized its complexity and the fact that it was about the inclusion of everyday actions, and in doing so, breaking down the values held among traditional artistic disciplines. I was inspired by the power of Claes Oldenburg's statement: I am the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man's metal stick."

The book is filled with great quotes and the descriptions of many avant-garde artists and their work - some mind-blowingly different what is consider normal. It is not an easy read, but a book well worth the investment of time and mental energy to comprehend.

"The impossible attracts me, because everything possible has been done and the world didn't change." - Sun Ra

Future Frequencies
Derek Woodgate with Wayne Pethrick
Fringecore, 2004

Free the Beagle

This is probably one of the most creative business or personal development books you will ever read. Free the Beagle can be interpreted on many levels and can be read by entrepreneurs, business people, innovants, inventors, change agents, children, women and men. Each person who reads it will likely take away a different message, but all the interpretations I've heard are positive.

Free the Beagle is the Hero's Journey described by Joseph Campbell. It is a trip into the workings of our mind. It demonstrates the power of culture and convention to limit our capacity for growth. It is philosophy. It's uncommon sense. Is it autobiographical?

Peering over the rims of his glasses, the towering judge said, "You have questions, Counselor Intellect?"

"What about my cases?"

As he strode toward the exit behind his bench, Judge Grey answered over his shoulder: "They have all been reassigned."

"Surely there is a schedule - charts, maps, a budget?"

Framed now in the doorway to his private chambers, Judge Grey turned to face the lawyer. "Your journey will take what it takes."

And he was gone.

The lawyer is ordered on an unwanted journey with a Beagle in his care, a gift to the Son of the King in Destinae. On his trip he encounters a variety of strangers who befriend him or hurt him, but each teaches a lesson.

A shadowy gentleman in a formal riding coat slipped quietly from behind a tree. "Well, well, well," he said in an elegant whisper. "What brings a man like you so deep onto the Forrest of Confusion?" Seeing that the lawyer was somewhat taken aback, the shadowy fellow bowed like an aristocrat and, with a calculated flourish, produced a card from his ruffled sleeve. "My name is Worry," he smiled, "and I'm here to help you."

Drawing himself quickly up to his full height and straightening his clothes as best he could, the lawyer asked in his best lawyer voice, "Do you know the way through this forest?"

Worry replied softly, "Oh, but I was born in this forest."

Worry introduces the lawyer to Fear and Fear brings in Panic. They rob him of everything that he has. He is left unconscious. He awakens with the Beagle on his chest - the one he had tied to the tree - wondering how the beagle had gotten free.. He still has his duty and obligation to fulfill, but nothing else but the clothes he was wearing and a Beagle named Intuition.

Intellect, the lawyer, and Intuition, the beagle, encounter many adventures together on their way to Destinae as their partnership grows.

If I tell you much more, you won't have to read it and I want you to read the book. It's a fun read with only 125 pages and CD recording of a reading of the book in character.

The Origins of Virtue

To make the next step in our organizations and societies, we need to develop cooperation within ever widening systems. And, if we are ever to develop "innovation commons", we must master cooperation and trust. An "innovation commons", calling on the old idea of a common pasture for a town where all the residents could graze their animals, is a place where ideas can exist, like the early molecules in the primeval sea, free to combine and reproduce to create even more complex ideas. A place where the stability of the complex ideas can be tested and their survival gauged. "Innovation commons" will be required to foster the trans-disciplinary innovation necessary for the merging of information, biological and nanometric technologies on our horizon. Innovation commons are needed now to handle the sociopolitical, economic and demographic problems we face amidst growing partisanship and yes, even hatreds. And, we must assure that we don’t fall prey to the "failure of the commons" where an individual or entity exploits the commons to the detriment of all others, and eventually themselves.

Dawkins writes, "In the beginning was simplicity. It is difficult enough explaining how even a simple universe began. I take it as agreed that it would be even harder to explain the sudden springing up, fully armed, of complex order – life, or being capable of creating life. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows us a way in which simplicity could change into complexity, how unordered atoms could group themselves into ever more complex patterns until they end up manufacturing people."

Dawkins uses the phrase "selfish gene" not in the sense that the gene has a motive or emotion, but in the sense that it is convenient to express the actions of genes in human terms. Genes behave as though they were selfish. His perspective is that we humans are "survival machines" for our genes. His revolutionary concept is that genes use our bodies for reproduction and not the other way around. Dawkins asks the question, is there a general principle of all life, even radical life forms unknown now? He answers his own question writing, "…all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating machines."

If our bodies are survival machines for the genes within us, that does explain a lot of human behavior. Some individuals kill, steal, rape, dominate and otherwise consider only their own survival and well being. But, on the surface it does not seem to explain other, higher forms of human behavior – altruism, care for others, cooperation, collaboration and other humanistic traits we have.

These three books address this issue from various viewpoints and offer at least two different perspectives. In addition they provide an insightful look at human behavior in general, and worthy of your study.

"Think of it: zillions and zillions of organisms running around, each under the hypnotic spell of a single truth, all these truths identical, and all logically incompatible with one another: ‘My hereditary material is the most important on earth; its survival justifies your frustration, pain and even death’. And, you are one of these organisms, living your life in the thrall of a logical absurdity" comments Robert Wright.

The basis for cooperation according to Wright and Ridley depends upon our awareness of with whom we share genes. Clearly we share genes with our children and it is advantageous to the survival of our genes that we care for our children and assure their survival. But we do not share genes with our mates. We care for them because they can help in the survival of our own genes through our children. We also share genes with our extended families and likewise will help them survive because it increases the probability of the survival of some of our genes.

I’ve done a lot of consulting work with small towns and I often hear the same phrase, "I like it in a small town because people care for one another. You don’t get that in big cities." In a small town "everyone is related." This is of course not strictly true, but is largely true. People in a small town do share a lot of the same genes. It’s in the gene’s interest to help assure the survival of people who share some of the same genes. This is not true of large cities.

The next factor that comes into play is that our genes dictate cooperation when it is beneficial to the survival of our genes if the group survives. "If a creature puts the greater good ahead of its individual interests, it is because its fate is inextricably tied to that of the group: it shares the group’s fate," writes Ridley. He continues, "A sterile ant’s best hope of immortality is vicarious reproduction through the breeding of the queen, just as an aeroplane passenger’s best hope of life is through the survival of the pilot." This also explains cooperative behavior in families and small towns. And, it is useful in understanding why people come together under threat or attack.

One of the more successful of the "innovation commons" experiments is Open Source. Open Source is a project to collaboratively develop software operating systems and applications that are free, available to anyone and not controlled by Microsoft. It has been successful in part probably because the group that joined together to create these programs felt threatened.
The more that you perceive that you as an individual are part of an interconnected web of life, the more likely you are to act selflessly. Random acts of kindness, heroic loss of life in a cause and ecological mindedness are all examples of this enhanced sense of interconnectedness and dependence.

"Our minds have been built by selfish genes," writes Ridley, "but they have been built to be social, trustworthy and cooperative. That is the paradox that this book has tried to explain.

Human beings have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with the predisposition to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labor. In this we are on our own. No other species has been so far down this evolutionary path before us, for no species has built a truly integrated society except among the inbred relatives of a large family such as an ant colony. We owe our success as a species to our social instincts; they have enabled us to reap undreamt benefits from the division of labor for our masters – the genes. They are responsible for the rapid expansion of our brains in the past two million years and thence our inventiveness. Our societies and our minds have evolved together, each reinforcing trends in the other."

These thoughts lead to two conditions for a successful "innovation commons". Participants must perceive that cooperation in the commons – the exchange of ideas and information – helps the individuals assure their genes thrive, and their own genes' survival depends upon the group’s survival. Secondly, a system of trust must exist within the network of participants. The development of workable trust systems will be an essential building block to a successful "innovation commons".

Game theory plays an important role in understanding the types of trust systems that will work. Several different people have proven that the "tit for tat" game survives best in computer simulations. "Tit for tat" says that everyone starts with trust in the participants. Sharing occurs until there is demonstration that an individual is not giving back the equivalent to what they are taking. When this occurs, the person taking more than they are giving is no longer trusted. This is exactly how it worked in a real commons. If someone overgrazed the common meadow, he or she was shunned by the community cutting them off from the benefits of the community and possibly imperiling they ability to survive.

Dawkins writes, "What has all this to do with altruism and selflessness? I am trying to build up the idea that animal behavior, altruistic or selfish, is under the control of genes in only an indirect, but still very powerful sense. By dictating the way survival machines and their nervous systems are built, genes exert ultimate power over our behavior. But the moment to moment decisions about what to do next are taken by the nervous system. Genes are primary policy makers; brains are the executive."

The basis for cooperation according to Dawkins goes beyond. Dawkins introduces the concept of "meme", an idea replicator. Memes are the thought equivalents of genes. Genes last only a few generations before individual gene combinations that make up a characteristic of a person are lost. J. S. Bach’s genes, as prolific as he was (he had 20 children) are no longer present in any recognizable way. But his music continues to exist. Not only does it exist, it continues to replicate itself through all composers that have ever studied his music even after over 300 years. And, even a Bach music lover, has some of his melodies embedded like a virus in their brains ready to spring forth when prompted. Whether this is immortality or not is inconsequential. The point is that memes, the creations of our minds, once released from our minds, join in the generative dance of replicators in the primordial sea of memes awash in the world.

Dawkins writes, "But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong."

"Once the genes have provided their survival machines with brains that are capable of rapid imitation, the memes will automatically take over," Dawkins remarks. He stops short of concluding that the sharing of ideas is the equivalent of the sharing of our genes through sexual reproduction in order to secure their survival, but it does not seem much of a stretch to postulate that. We have many cases where individuals were so driven to spread their memes into the world that they gave up their lives to do so. Artists and writers who live in poverty in order to pursue their art. Zealots who gave their lives to promote an idea. Inventors who died broke because they dedicated their lives to their invention.

The individuals who have dedicated their lives to their memes strive for their survival. They also seek to be identified with their memes. It isn’t enough just to have the meme live beyond them. An "innovation commons" must have some system for tagging the meme with the person who originated it. In the scientific world there is a strict cultural code of referencing and footnoting the work. Like a family tree, with this kind of system, the heredity of the idea can be traced. The more often a meme is referenced the more important the meme is likely to be. Plagiarism usually results in severe shunning.

Memes can bind people together. Musical pairs like Gilbert and Sullivan, and Rogers and Hammerstein created many successful meme complexes. Business partners are often held together by meme complexes that tightly bind like genes. Business and entrepreneurial teams are also held together by their memes. Musical groups like the Beatles are also bound together by their memes and the promise of the creation of many more. These teams, pairs and groups stay together as long as the magic is there (the creation of meme complexes) and there is continued trust among the members. When one or more of the members begins to feel that others are taking more than they are giving, the bond is usually broken. "Innovation commons" will hold together as long as the magic is still in the air. A successful "innovation commons" will either be one that has a known limited life or his built in mechanisms to keep it fresh.
Very powerful meme complexes can keep many people together for long periods of time. This is probably another reason why Open Source has been successful. Its vision is very grand. Think of the metaphor of the movie "The Fifth Element" where a cab driver, a young boy, a "priest" and a woman from outer space join together to bring down Zorg and his "evil empire." Other movies like Star Wars and The Ring have similar elements. The United States has been held together by a meme complex created over 200 year’s ago. Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman upon leaving the constitutional convention what type of government we had. He replied, "A republic madam. The question is, can we keep it?" Another principle for a successful "innovation commons" is that the meme complex must be grand to achieve longevity.

Memes can also control us like genes. We are inculcated with meme complexes through our families, tribes and our cultures. These memes can unconsciously control our actions with respect to cooperation and altruism, making an "innovation commons" difficult to obtain.
An ESS (evolutionary stable strategy) in evolutionary genetics is a strategy that does well against copies of itself. There are four generally recognized conditions for ESS – longevity, fecundity and copying-fidelity. Fecundity is more important than longevity of a particular copy. If memes are like genes, then how many brains it can infect is critical to its survival. Unlike genes, that have a particulate nature and high copying-fidelity, memes seem to be quickly morphed into new forms, just as I am writing this and putting my own thoughts into the writing and shading it to make the points I wish to make. But the fundamental ideas are those of the original authors.

There are therefor then two additional principles for a successful "innovation commons". It must be a safe environment constructed with the tools and methodologies that allow individuals to breakthrough their limiting memes to become an active member of the network. And, it must provide the equivalent of the primordial sea to allow the memes to freely combine. Survival of individual memes or meme complexes will in all likelihood be governed by ESS.

"We do not have to look for conventional biological survival traits like religion, music and ritual dancing though these may also be present. Once genes provided their survival machines with brains that are capable of rapid imitation, the memes will automatically take over," writes Dawkins.

He continues, "One unique feature of man, which may or may not have evolved memically, is his capacity for conscious foresight. Selfish genes (and if you allow the speculation of this chapter, memes too) have no foresight. They are unconscious blind replicators."

This leads us to another principle of a successful "innovation commons". It has to include and foster foresight.

Later Dawkins writes, "… even if we look on the dark side and assume that individual man is fundamentally selfish, our conscious foresight – our capacity to simulate the future in imagination – could same us from the worst selfish excesses of the blind replicators. We have at least the metal equipment to foster our long-term selfish interests rather than merely our short-term selfish interests. We can see the long-tem benefits of participating in a ‘conspiracy of doves’, and we can sit down together to discuss ways of making the conspiracy work. We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism – something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We alone on earth can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

Our problems today have a high degree of complexity. In the future, they will be even more complex. We do need "innovation commons".

The Origins of Virtue
Matt Ridley
Penguin Books, 1996, paperback, 295 pages

The Moral Animal
Robin Wright
Vintage Books, 1994, paperback, 466 pages

The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins
Oxford University Press, 1976 (1990), 368 pages