Archive for the ‘perspectives’ Category

Bankruptcy of Purse of Bankruptcy of Life?

January 7, 2009

 

SterlingHayden-Wanderer During some of my reading over the holiday I ran across the following quote of actor, author and fellow sailor, Sterling Hayden from his autobiography Wanderer.  It really resonated and stuck with me.  Partly because I am a “wanderer of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in” myself, and partly because it matched many of my sentiments as I reflected upon 2008.  I was struck by how especially relevant these observations are right now so I wanted to share them with you.

 

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea-"cruising," it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"I’ve always wanted to sail the South Seas, but I can’t afford it." What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the routine of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

                                              Sterling Hayden  1916-1986

One of the many benefits of being a snowflake is that if you truly practice being a unique individual I think you will get closer and closer to finding out what you really need and much more clearly seeing the “idiocy of the charade” that comes from conforming, fitting in, being “average” and like the rest. All very unsnowflake like!

So as we wander into 2009 it is my fondest hope that we all work harder and succeed at bringing out the unique snowflake in all of us and by so doing, make the world a much richer world for all of us to live in.

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Carlos is a Great Snowflake

December 12, 2008

Been meaning to post this since I first heard it a few months ago on an XM (satellite radio) “Artist Confidential” interview with Carlos Santana.  I’ve long been an admirer of the man, not just the musician, and two things he said stood out to me in the interview:

“Rather than going for the light at the end of the tunnel, BE the light in the tunnel”

and when asked about being a famous personality he responded:

“Its more fun to be a person than a personality”

Now THAT is my kind of snowflake!

Good Luck Trying to Copy a Snowflake!

December 5, 2008

In a previous posting I had mentioned a favorite quote from Jerry Garcia that;

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

I brought this up in a recent conversation with a business colleague in a discussion about his concerns that others were trying to compete or eliminate him by copying what he was doing.  This lead to a long conversation about how to not only be competitive but also to be true to yourself and a great frustration to those who may want to copy your work.  He said he found it to be extremely valuable and clarifying for him and so I thought I’d share the basic idea with you here.

The great thing about using the Snowflake Effect to guide your work is that you focus on being just what Jerry was referring to, the only one who does what you do.  This is NOT about being different for the sake of being different, this is about being true to yourself, your calling, your passion.  If you do that, you’ll be unique by design and essentially impossible to copy because your pursuit of your passion and getting to “just right” is a constantly evolving and changing process.

Something I’ve learned in practicing this for most of my life is that to you it all seems like a continuum and in that context it seems “the same” and there is not much change in that you are still following the same dreams, visions and values you always have.  However to everyone else, you will often be seen as constantly changing because you are trying many different things and different paths towards that end state you have in mind. 

In my past work on what I called “perfecting the irrelevant” I noted how it seems to be very common for people, organizations and business to confuse their actions, that which they do, with their value proposition, the true and lasting value of your actions.  I often cite examples such the case of ice delivery companies, none of which made it into the refrigeration business because they thought they were in the ice delivery business (what they actually did, their actions) when in fact they were in the “keeping things cold” or food preservation business. (their value proposition)  The trick is to have clarity and understanding of what your true value proposition is, as a person, and organization, or business and then be as innovative and creative as possible in ways to deliver on that value proposition.  Done successfully you are simultaneously very focused yet to most others you seem to be constantly changing and thus very difficult to copy.

Most recently Erik Duval, my favorite snowflake of all, has experienced an intriguing new form of “flattery” where someone has been copying his blog postings by literally cut and pasting them with no reference to their original source and thus appearing to be the content of this other blogger.  Unfortunately not a rare occurrence these days and very easy to do.  However I think we are now in an era where there is an inverse correlation of ease of copying with value.  In Erik’s case, ALL this other blogger is able to do is copy some of Erik’s content.  He certainly can’t copy Erik!  Erik is a snowflake and just about everything he does is similarly unique and different, yet very focused on a consistent vision and value proposition of (my interpretation only) assisting the world to be a better place through faster, better, deeper, learning. 

Good luck trying to copy that!  You might just as well try to copy an actual snowflake.

Exponential Change to the Same End

November 27, 2008

As I write, speak and think more about the Snowflake Effect and the use of mashups as an overarching conceptual model, the more I’m struck by how this is all a new acceleration along a very long standing continuum of human expression, communication, collaboration and learning.

What we now commonly refer to as mashups, which I’ll simply describe as taking small existing bits and pieces and putting them together to create a whole new whole, is a model we’ve been using for almost all time.  Consider for example how this can be a description of creating music, where everyone uses the same existing relatively small set of existing musical notes, chooses some number of these and assembles them in some new way to create a new song.  And how this could similarly describe the act of writing prose or poems by selecting words from a relatively small and finite set of words in the dictionary and assembling these to create new stories, poems and lyrics. 

It is worth noting that in all these cases the “magic”, the creativity, the brilliance is all in a combination of the selection of the pre-existing bits and pieces and the way in which these are assembled to create something new and different.  Maybe it is just me, but I find the simplicity of this to be profound and beautiful.  Best of all perhaps there is still no end in sigh as this model would appear to be  infinitely expandable, sustainable and scalable.

As I’ve been writing and speaking about more and more, the true power of mashups will be realized as we come to understand it as an overarching conceptual model which can be applied to almost anything and not “just” a technology or data application. For example the mashup model can and is being applied to as diverse a set of areas as maps, software, manufactured goods, music, video, people and organizations. 

I’ll be posting and exploring more details on mashups and their role in enabling the Snowflake Effect in future postings here and on Off Course – On Target.  In the interim I’d encourage you to consider how our pursuit of this continuum of human expression is now accelerating with the transition from a text dominated age to an age of rich media that includes visualization, audio, graphics, simulations, models and video. 

To help stimulate some of your thinking and creative juices I can strongly recommend that you read some of Kevin Kelly’s recent perspectives on all this such as his Nov. 21st article in the New York Times “Becoming Screen Literate” and his summary thoughts in his “book in progress” site called The Technium on “Screen Fluency”.  Kevin continues to be an unending source of inspirational and thought provoking ideas and perspectives for me and I think you will find his writing to be VERY much worth your while.

One gets MUCH Bigger!

November 21, 2008

I continue to find great fascination with the notion that “one is the biggest number” and with the thinking and writing of Kevin Kelly, and I believe that most of you share a similar interest in both as well.

Kevin has been writing and speaking for some time about his observations on the similarity between biology and technology and how as he puts it “technology is evolving to the point where it can be thought of as the 7th kingdom of life.”

When I was recently speaking with Kevin we discovered that we are both often use the “talk to think” model when giving presentations.  Thanks to TED Talks (Technology Entertainment Design) you can watch Kevin as he “thinks out loud” in this TED Talk from last year (Jan 2007) and see an excellent example of the power of inverted thinking, asking interesting questions and looking at things from different perspectives.  I particularly enjoyed how Kevin ponders the question “what does technology want?” and tried to look at it from technology’s view of the world.

These are very thoughtful ideas and Kevin is as prolific as every about them so I can heartily recommend that you spend some of your very valuable time watching this video and/or reading some of his writings on these and related topics such as this version on “The Seventh Kingdom” from his Technium writings.

You can also read Kevin’s views on how the combined networking of technology is creating a singular “computer” and covering the planet with its own “nervous system in his Technium article on “Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism” and his article from July 2008 Wired magazine “The Planetary Computer” where he comments:

“I suspect, but cannot prove, the seeds of progress lie not in increasing numbers of human minds, or artificial minds, or more powerful individual minds, but in the emergence of a more complex group mind, made of fewer humans, many more machines, and a new way of thinking.”

For me, this perspective on technology and our relationship with it are all part of the “perfect storm” that is emerging and enabling the Snowflake Effect to not only be possible but probable.  After you’ve spent some time considering these points of view please let me know your reactions and if you too see a future predominated by a snowstorm of mass personalization and design for uniqueness.

Snowflake Based New Economy?

November 7, 2008

Can’t help wondering (hoping?) if the current downturn in the overall global economy will provide the opportunity and perhaps the imperative to make some substantial changes in our approach to designing and producing products an services?  The one I’m thinking about the most of course is the Snowflake Effect permeating design such that the default design assumption is creating unique products and services which are just the right for each unique person and situation.

This transformation from a model of mass production to one of mass personalization will require a complete new rethinking of many of our fundamental assumptions, processes and infrastructure.  There are other examples in history of such transformations taking place such as the change to containers in the shipping industry, however in all these examples this degree of complete change required an almost “perfect storm” of conditions occurring at about the same time to create the imperative for such a wholesale change.  What can we learn from these previous examples?

Will the current collapse of the global economy combined with other global conditions and an  increased focus on uniqueness, be what it takes to create a new economy based on going after meeting the unique needs of billions of markets of one? 

One is the Biggest Number?

November 3, 2008

In our TWiST (This Week in Snowflake Talk) conversation last week Erik and I got to talking about scarcity and particularly the scarcity of control.  In our context scarcity was in reference to the reduction in control of authorities, suppliers, experts, publishers, producers, and the like. Erik mentioned for example how as a professor he has less and less control over his students.  We are seeing other examples all around us such as how producers and publishers of things like music and entertainment are having less and less control over our access to and use of media such as music and video. 

However I also look at this from a different perspective and see how control is becoming more abundant and being  ‘snowflaked” in that it is rapidly migrating towards the individual.  Consider the degrees to which each of us is in control of when, where and how we listen to the music for example or the powers you now have over viewing television content. 

Seems to me that ONE is becoming the biggest number of all as the Snowflake Effect takes hold and the focal point becomes each individual snowflake.  Let’s just keep in mind that as control shifts so too does responsibility.

What if the impossible isn’t?

November 1, 2008

More and more I see just how profound and accurate William Gibson’s famous quote is:

“The future is already here, it just isn’t very equally distributed.”

However it is also more and more troubling to me as I see one of the biggest barriers we have in going after things like the Snowflake Effect is our lack of awareness of the art of the possible. 

Going after any goal or vision has to be based on the belief that is it possible to achieve and based on my discussions with the many people I have the privilege to interact with around the world I think the lack of such belief is a fundamental reason why there is not more change and pursuit of what I am convinced is the very achievable vision of a world predominated by design for unique , mass personalization and the Snowflake Effect.  Possible in this context includes not only technically possible but also things like accessible, affordable, and most of all awareness of what is already possible.

It is understandable that this is a major challenge when we live in a world of exponential change, yet our ability to be aware and up to date has never been greater so this is a solvable problem I think.  I’ll be pondering this further and especially ways to raise the collective awareness of the art of the possible.  Or to Gibson’s quote, looking at ways to equal the distribution of the future. In the interim I have always found it to be extremely smart and successful to adopt the approach and attitude that pretty much anything is possible and always be asking

What if the impossible isn’t?

Indi-Groups?

October 30, 2008

As per many of my previous comments here, articles on Off Course – On Target and many of my presentations, I see more and more examples of a meta trend where basic human functions are being transformed from distinctly separate roles into a mashup of combined roles.  I credit Alvin Toffler with spotting and naming one of the first of these when he coined the term Pro-sumer in his book The Third Wave to describe what he saw as a future society where rather than being either a producer or a consumer we would all take on both roles simultaneously.  Toffler wrote about this back in the 60’s and 70’s and I think we can now clearly see how prescient he was as we live in just such a society in many parts of the world today.

I’ve been speaking about these trends for many years and noting more and more examples of the same kind of integration and blending of fundamental human roles.  I’ll be addressing more of these in coming postings, podcasts and articles but for today I wanted to reference one that came up in my discussions with Kevin Kelly yesterday.  Kevin noted how this is a very new and special time when we simultaneously have dramatic increases in the power of individualization AND the power of the group.  If we were to use Toffler’s example of creating a new dual term word we could call this Indi-Groups. 

A few days ago I wrote about how the Snowflake Effect applies equally to both individuals and groups in the posting “Pluralization of Personalization” and yesterday Kevin went on to point out things like the need to distinguish between “the wisdom of the crowd and the stupidity of the mob”.  I pondered whether things like focus groups might now represent “the stupidity of the mob” or group think, which so typically end up concluding the opposite of what the larger group they are supposed to represent will actually prefer and choose (Erik has talked and blogged about this extensively in some of his previous postings)

To my perhaps biased perception these are all further examples of the growing influence and affect of the The Snowflake Effect and precisely why Erik and I are so passionately pursuing it.

How Far Can We Go?

October 28, 2008

Had a fantastic time with Kevin Kelly today here at the Learning 2008 event when I was privileged to be his “escort” and host.  Had a chance for some very stimulating discussion with him as well as the chance to listen to him on stage as well as in a one hour Q&A session afterwards.  In the next few days I’ll post a number of other topics and observations that emerged from these various discussions and interactions .

for now the one I’ll just post the short question he posed which was “How far can we go with linking and assembling small pieces together? “ and his own answer which was “We don’t know” 

This was in reference to the continuous ramp up of piecing small things together to make larger yet single functioning things and systems.  We had a great discussion on our mutual view of the power of mashups and the expansion of this term to be a much larger conceptual model.  Wikipedia was used as an example and covered in some depth as we also had the benefit of having Sue Gardner from Wikipedia with us.  However Kevin shares a fascination with mechanical things and tools and how these too have more and more examples of being mashups.  His point was that we continue to find that these can be larger and larger and more and more functional end results that come about largely on their own, quite unexpectedly and we really don’t know what the upper limit is to the pattern.  Kevin noted how this is very similar way that living organisms evolve to larger and larger more complex species.

My favorite comment though was his observation that we are witnessing more and more examples of things which are as he put it:

Impossible in theory and possible in practice.

Sure matches with my experience and our need to focus on increasing our awareness of the art of the possible.  Stay tuned, more to follow.