Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hot, Flat and Crowded: How We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America

Hot refers to global warming; flat refers to access to wealth almost anywhere in the world; and crowded refers to exponential population growth. His book, The World is Flat, covers the flat concept completely and he only mentions it in passing in this book. Population growth is described, but no real solutions are offered. The book is mostly about global warming and how that trend is being accelerated by the other two trends.

Normally I write long reviews of books like this one because the subject is important and complex. I’m not going to do that here, and it isn’t because this isn’t well written. It is. I think that the book is so important that everyone should read it for themselves. It’s a tough read with almost 450 pages of analysis and prescriptive suggestions to solve global warming. And, I’m concerned about some the detailed solutions. I personally would have preferred a shorter book with more discussion of strategy. However, Friedman is one of the best thinkers and writers on complex subjects, and this topic is one he’s been working on almost his entire professional life.

What I am going to do, is to write a short summary here and then a series of blogs on specific topics or quotes. And this book is very quotable. Every few pages I found an insightful comment suitable for quotation.

Why should we (America) be concerned about global warming? Four reasons: green solutions save money, will create incredible wealth, will be the basis for global leadership, and will improve the quality of life of our grandchildren.
Friedman believes that if we can shape and price protect markets for green products; America will invest in the research and development, market creation, manufacturing and distribution of green products and services. Other countries have begun this journey, and he fears that we will lose moral and economic leadership if they succeed and we don’t. And, if none of us succeed, our grandchildren will suffer.

I do not disagree with anything I read in the book. However, I have two fears. Without a new monetary system that is not built on debt, we will stay trapped in a consumer based society. And, we need a new way to judge the worthiness of an enterprise other than economic value added to its owners. They both must somehow be based on value to society and the future.

Hot, Flat and Crowded: How We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America, Thomas Friedman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,2008, 438 pages

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Vision for America

The Obama-Biden transition team is seeking citizen input on what they want for America. You can enter yours at This is my view.

My vision for America is stated in the present tense, but describes a condition I think we should aspire to:

America is a country where we have three strong and independent systems that provide stability and energy for growth –a political system, an economic system and a cultural system. The political system is a democratic republic with a high amount of citizen engagement and involvement. The economic system is built on a new monetary system that is not fueled by debt but on true value added to society as a whole. We have abandoned economic value added to stockholders as the only measure of an enterprise’s worth. The cultural system is pluralistic, and religions, as part of the cultural system, do not seek to impose their will, rather they seek through conversations with each other and the other elements of the cultural system to find common cause and values. These three systems are supported by technology.

Leaders in each of these three systems ennoble, enable, empower and encourage citizens to collaborate within the system, and across the systems. They seek not to dominate or to compromise but to create new.

Citizens are constantly aware of the past, present and future in all decisions they make, and leaders are aware of their role as caretakers of the past, present and future.

We continually seek to expand our concept of the systems within which we solve problems, and avoid solving problems within subsystems.

We embrace change and foster innovation.

We share an ennobling vision for America.

Snap Shot of the Future

A client of mine asked me for a quick snap shot of the future. This is what I gave them:

Thinking and writing about the future is a lot like groping around in a heavy fog. Shadowy images appear and are identified as objects familiar to the observer. As the shadows draw closer, what the objects appear to be often shifts and are named something else. When a shadow is touchable, there is often no name for the object because it is new to experience.

So, when asked for a snap shot of the future, I can only express in the words I have now, how that picture appears to me, and the viewer, through the lens of their experience, has to understand what the picture means.
With that preamble, what do I see?

Disruptive innovation: Sustaining innovations improve the performance of existing services. Disruptive innovations generally result in worse performance. However, they bring to the market a different value proposition than had previously been available. Disruptive technologies almost always result in the demise of the leading organizations. The information technologies have resulted in a lot of sustaining innovations in the past, but they are now introducing disruptive innovations in almost all industries.

Complexity: Things now are more complex. This isn’t just a truism. I’m using complexity in the mathematical sense. In a complex system, there is no correlation between cause and effect, but the past matters. Complex systems are in non-equilibrium. A small change can cause no result or a massive change. Within complex systems, you cannot predict the future. The best you can do is describe statistical probabilities of an effect, if you have a long history on the system. As most markets and people are complex systems, complexity is a threat to the destruction of a lot that we take for granted.

Systems: Everything will be perceived as a system. Old systems of organization (people, work, information etc) are being replaced by new systems. Of particular importance is the emergence of systems of intelligence (as new ways to organize information) and open collaborations (as new ways to organize people and work). Both of these are threats and opportunities.

Perception: Our perceptions are being shifted by the technologies we employ. This is resulting in new conceptions of reality. We’ve had three major epochs of perception in the western world – pre-literate, literate and now post literate. In the literate society, the visual sense dominated. The characteristics of a post literate society will in some ways be similar to a pre-literate society. What drives the similarities is that a pre-literate society was shaped predominately by the hearing sense while the post literate society is driven by both the hearing and visual senses, but the visual sense information is being processed like the hearing sense. One of the major perceptual changes is that we will sense everything as field (mathematical). (An example: Instead of perceiving a group of people as a network with interconnections, we will view them as system that creates a field.) Describing the characteristics of something driven by the media is not an exact science. It is impossible to escape the impacts of the media themselves in attempting to describe their impacts. We are truly inside the jar and trying to read the label. However, organizations and individuals that do not attempt to perceive the new reality will become irrelevant.

I also gave them some information about how each of these could impact their organization.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

nnovation Watch
by Seth Godin

New York: Portfolio, 2008

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have joined tribes, be they religious, ethnic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.

Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All these blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger and enabling new tribes to be born -- groups of ten or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming.

Who is going to lead all these tribes?

The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals -- people just like you who have passion about something. Anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at her fingertips.

If you think leadership is for other people, think again -- leaders come in surprising packages. Consider Joel Spolsky and his international tribe of scary-smart software engineers. Or Gary Vaynerchuck, a wine expert with a devoted following. Chris Sharma leads a tribe of rock climbers up impossible cliff faces while Mich Mathews, a VP at Microsoft, runs a tribe of marketers from her cube.

If you ignore this opportunity to lead, you risk turning into a "sheepwalker" -- someone how fights to protect the status quo at all costs, never asking if obedience is doing you (or your organization) any good. Sheepwalkers don’t do very well these days.

Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities for leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, readers…It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you probably imagine.

Seth Godin is the author of ten international bestsellers, including the New York Times bestseller The Dip. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and include Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Meatball Sundae.He is also the founder and CEO of (a huge and fast-growing tribe) and the most popular business blogger in the world. Visit and click on his head to read his blog.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Disruptive Social Innovation

Powerpoint presentation by the Disruptor's for the session 'Disruptive Social Innovation' - Chain Reaction 2008

The Disruptors
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Viktor Frankl

Interview with Dr Viktor Frankl about logotherapy and existencialism

Speaks about situations that awake the meaning in tragedy

Finding meaning in despair

** These videos belongs to ** you may find full length recordings of most interviews.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Capitalism's Missing Link

Gurteen Knowledge Letter

I love the concept of the Social Business as defined by Muhammad Yunus. Here is an excerpt of what Karl Weber has to say about it in a recent article Why Social Business Is Capitalism's Missing Link on the Harvard Business Blogs website.

I think over the coming years we are going to see more and more social businesses as capitalism evolves and they will go a long way towards alleviating many of the sustainability issues we face in the world!

For most of us, business means one type of organization--the for-profit company that is the backbone of the free enterprise system. Ranging in size from a one-person corner store to a giant corporation like Wal-Mart, such companies recognize one fundamental purpose: to maximize profits. To be sure, they create other benefits along the way: they employ workers, provide useful goods, and pay taxes. But the bottom line is, precisely, the bottom line--the profits generated for owners and shareholders.

But we all know this is an incomplete picture of human nature. People are driven by the profit motive, of course. But they are driven by many other forces as well. Among these are the desire to do good for others, to help the needy, to make the world a better place--in fact, to solve all the unsolved problems that challenge humanity around the world. Yet today's capitalism is powerless to act on these motives, because it makes no place for them.

Unlike an NGO or a charity, a social business produces goods and services, sells them for a fair price, competes in the market for customers, and strives to cover its costs through revenues generated. But unlike a traditional profit-maximizing business, it exists to serve a social goal: to feed the hungry, house the homeless, provide health care for the sick, or clean the environment. What's more, it does not generate profits. Instead, any surplus generated goes right back into the business, enabling it to serve more customers and expand the benefits it provides. Hence this simple definition of a social business: a non-loss, non-dividend business with a social objective.

Credit: Karl Weber

You can see Muhammad Yunus talking about the Social Business Model below.

Innovation Pandemics

The virus of innovation may or may not make you sick, but it will ultimately determine the fate of the earth.

Michael Schrage, Technology Review

In my very last column for the dead-tree Technology Review, I wrote, "I now believe that the dominant global issue of our time is the accelerating diffusion of innovation. Period. Full stop. The diffusion of innovation--not the 'spread of ideas' or the 'clash of civilizations' or even 'globalization'--is the dynamic driving today's world and tomorrow's."

I still stand by that. That's why the innovation cliché "The best way to predict the future is to invent it" is rubbish. The future isn't "invented" by superbly educated cognitive elites; it's interactively shaped by the individuals, institutions, and communities that actually adopt and use the innovations--in their own time and in their own way. Users--not inventors--determine value in the innovation marketplace. Diffusion defines innovation success.

Bob Metcalf's bon mot that "Invention is a flower; innovation is a weed" remains bon. But as with "viral" marketing, the bio-metaphor doesn't go far enough. I prefer evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins's insights about the "extended phenotype": the notion that our tools, technologies, and artifacts may enhance our evolutionary fitness. Much as bird's nests--rather a clever bit of vernacular technology--may enhance avian reproductive fitness by better sheltering fragile eggs, might not clever technologies like Lasik surgery, hybrid automobiles, implants and--yes--even Google enhance our own by making us more attractive, effective, and desirable?

The question is rhetorical; its implications are not. Innovations that make us more attractive, more effective, and more desirable are more likely to diffuse than those that don't. Just as significant, innovations we think will make us more attractive, more effective, and more desirable are likely to be disproportionately diffusive.

Want to predict the future of innovation? Simply predict the future of attractiveness, effectiveness, and desirability. Then act accordingly.

Actions always speak louder than words. Thinking about a particular innovation isn't innovating any more than thinking about a particular diet or bariatric surgery means losing weight. Immunity or resistance to a virus--or a viral innovation--shapes the future health and wealth of people as surely as susceptibility. Both literally and figuratively, innovation is a global public-health issue that more than rivals AIDS, malaria, avian flu, or climate change.

Media and mechanisms like the Internet and desktop fabrication virtually guarantee futures filled with potential innovation pandemics. I'm less interested in how they'll start than in how they'll spread. It's not a global innovation unless it's catching.


Money as Debt

Paul Grignon's 47-minute animated presentation of "Money as Debt" tells in very simple and effective graphic terms what money is and how it is being created. It is an entertaining way to get the message out. The Cowichan Citizens Coalition and its "Duncan Initiative" received high praise from those who previewed it. I recommend it as a painless but hard-hitting educational tool and encourage the widest distribution and use by all groups concerned with the present unsustainable monetary system in Canada and the United States.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Capitalism after the ‘credit crunch’: what is it good for?

Society has found it increasingly difficult to interpret or give meaning to the current global recession. So far, the dominant response has been to seek refuge in mechanistic, formulaic phrases: ‘The world will never be the same again.’ That tired old line, echoing similar facile pronouncements made after 9/11, is of course so vague and meaningless that it can never be proved wrong.

There have been numerous variations of this portentous diagnosis. Joseph Stiglitz argues that recent events will be to ‘market fundamentalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to communism’. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France says American-style capitalism is finished, soon to be replaced by a more benign etatist alternative. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and one of the public figures most associated with neo-liberalism, has acknowledged that he ‘made a mistake’ and that, quite possibly, the markets do not regulate themselves.


Five tests of a Good Strategy

From ExecuNet

Some companies are adjusting their strategies to compensate for the current economic conditions, but if "strategy" is the long-term blueprint for an organization, why change it for temporary insecurity?

Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor and leader of the University's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, told the senior-level executive audience at HSM's World Business Forum in late September that many leaders are misinformed about how to develop long-term competitive strategy plans for their companies. They often confuse strategy with some type of action, such as merging, internationalizing or outsourcing. Other flawed concepts are strategy as aspiration (becoming the "tech leader" or to "grow"), and strategy as mission/vision statement. "Companies spend days arguing over which six words go in the sentence. It's a concept. Don't confuse it with strategy," said Porter.

A simple, yet accurate, way to test whether your organization is on the right strategic track is to see if your entire management team would be able to independently articulate the same thing. If they can't, Porter said, you don't have a true strategy.

There are five tests of a good strategy, Porter outlined:

* A unique value proposition. "If you don't have one, you're competing on operational excellence but unlikely to achieve superiority."

* A different, tailored value chain. "If not, you are competing on operational excellence — who can do the same thing better?"

* Clear tradeoffs, and choosing what not to do. "If you choose what to do, you have to also choose what not to do because they are incompatible. It's very hard because tradeoffs limit opportunity."

* Activities that fit together and reinforce each other. Porter said to harness the synergies across the value chain instead of discrete advantages.

* Strategic continuity with continual improvement in realization. "Strategy takes about three years to kick in. If you shift strategy every year, year and a half, you'll never get there."


Towards an Energy Revolution

AlwaysOn, Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Our world is not lacking for Grand Challenges - that is, complex problems of great importance to society whose solutions require breakthroughs across multiple dimensions. I am sure that improving the productivity and quality of health care is in just about everyone's list. The effective management of our global, integrated, unpredictable economies and financial systems is probably going to be a newcomer to many Grand Challenge lists. But, most experts will likely agree that the search for clean, plentiful energy is the single biggest problem facing humanity and will be at the very top of Grand Challenge lists for the foreseeable future.

Why are breakthroughs in energy so critical? First of all, we face major challenges in finding reliable supplies of energy, and reducing the environmental impact of energy production and use. But, energy is also directly linked to some of the toughest problems we face in the 21st century, such as water, food, poverty, transportation, terrorism and war. Energy likewise plays the dominant role in determining the quality of our environment. It is a key factor in the quality of life for people around the world, arguably the single most important factor that impacts the prosperity of any society.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Wave of the Future: Revisiting Marshall McLuhan

This presentation summarizes the printed work of Marshall McLuhan and applies it to understanding our present environment, and to forecast some of the future.

It's your Move

A review of the past and present of market research, and a look into its future. The market research profession is undergoing disruptive innovation.

It\'s Your Move
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