Category Archives: connecting

Watch Out for Bouncing ideas!

We labor under a great misconception about group dynamics. That misconception is that groups need a strong leader.

In fact, strong leaders do only one thing. They set the vision and enforce it. The group then needs to work on its own to bring that vision to reality.

This works best when members of the group know how to talk to one another.  That knowledge is not intuitive. To the contrary, it must be learned. Greg Satell offers a glimpse of this.

Most important — we need to mast the art of making high-powered exchanges.

Communal Foundations for Proprietary Ventures

This quote from DT got my attention today

incredible value can be unlocked through communal effort and that value can be used for proprietary purposes. In the years to come, that’s something that every industry will have to learn. Here are three key aspects what makes open source communities valuable.

The article focuses on the communal effort in the “open source2 movement. But why would this be true? The answer appears to be that collaboration in the “pre-competition” phase can more rapidly create a framework that everyone needs. With that framework in place, every can build on it whatever they want.

Very interesting.

Innovation Starts with Talk Then Moves to Tinkering

Matt Ridley has an interesting idea. Matt thinks that we have radically underestimated the idea of evolution. You can  hear him talk about this below

His thesis is simple. Ideas evolve from the bottom up, not the top down.They do that via exchanges that combine and re-combine technologies. We are fortunate to live in a time when we benefit more and more from those exchanges. And so we see an acceleration of the evolution of ideas.

This can be translated into a vocabulary of activities. The first activity is conversation about challenges or problems. When we nurture these conversations, we create the opportunity to build focus, which can lead to exchanges of the sort we desire. Where we inhibit these conversations, we see have less opportunities.

As an aside, this is why the current spat over “fake news” and “conspiracy theories” is important. They channel attention into dead ends instead of productive uses.   And when we get consumed over fake issues, we stop talking about real ones.

The second activity is tinkering with technologies. Once we see a need, we can start thinking about what types of technologies address the need, both the strengths and weaknesses. We can start talking about how to combine technologies that solve our problem.

Here is an example of how this works. Elon Musk has managed to nurture a conversation about electric vehicles by creating the Tesla. There is now lots of talk about why EV’s are nice and not so nice. And a main focus is on battery technology.  EV’s are less attractive because they take time to charge and cannot go far enough between charges. Also, the car batteries are way to big and heavy.

Some have been distracted by data that shows that the public does not yet consider the EV to be a substitute for gas powered cars. That may be true, but the conversation now is about batteries, not carburetors.

The talk about batteries leads us to consider two technologies.  Supercapacitors charge very quickly. But they do not retain the charge. Batteries charge slowly and do. Can these technologies be combined? Lo and behold, we see talk of “hybrid capacitors”.

My basic point is that we would not likely see the idea for hybriud supercapacitors emerge so quickly if it were not for Tesla and the conversation about batteries.

Takeaway –  if we can understand how to mange the flow of conversation so that it is issue based, we can acceleratethe speed of innovation.

Trump is a Wake Up Call on Social Dialogue

This US presidential election cycle has been unique in many ways. One of them has been the rhetorical tactics of Donald Trump.

Like it or not, one has to admit that Trump has found an audience. While his comments are often divisive and even devoid of logic, certain voters gravitate to him because of the way he speaks to them.

How does this work? How could it be that voters connect with this type of messaging? The answer may be simpler than it appears on the surface.  From BI

Research has shown that since the 1960s, the length of the average news sound bite has shrunk from more than 40 seconds long to about eight or nine seconds. Much of the extra time is now devoted to punditry and analysis of short clips,

Trump exploits this by using divisive nicknames and very simple calls to action. It matters not whether the message is superficial or even nonsense. It breaks through in the 9 second attention span.

That tells us something about ourselves. If we continue down this road, we may find that social discourse becomes more and more difficult. That is sobering.

If this is the problem, what is the solution? What can we do to provide incentives to develop smarter discourse?

Good question. Stay tuned on that one.

A Negotiated Culture

Culture is a bit, big word. It encompasses everything that affects our belief structure.  We might even say that culture is the link we have to community. It is the conversation that either inspires us to closer connection or  pushes us away.

In this sense, it is a negotiation between me as an individual, and the group as community. We negotiated what standards are consistent with the culture we share. And if that negotiation is engaging, culture can be highly creative. If not, it can be destructive.

So how can we enhance culture to bring out its more creative possibilities? Good question.. As far as I understand this challenge, we need to start with an assumption. That assumption is that we have a vision about how to add value. If we have no vision, we are indifferent to what we do. Any road is fine if we don’t know where we are going.

Ok. Let’s assume that we have this vision. Taking Bruno Aziz’s model, we are concerned with 3 aspects of the negotiation

  • is your vision clear?  Clarity is essential to enable focus (setting aside those things that we are not working on)
  • Can you communicate it? Communication is not just about talk, It is also about roles and decision making
  • Do you act in a manner that is consistent with it?  We live  with our decisions, becoming the people we are talking about. Or we are wasting our time.

Bruno then, is obsessed with clarity, communication and consistency. I would add one more value. All negotiations are about forming a story line. That story is only coherent if it is tracked over time. So that we do not forget what has been done and what has been learned by the collaboration.

This last element — the tracking element — is not well defined in modern life. We do, do do, but we do not remember, remember, remember. As a result, we do not learn, learn, learn.


Individual and Group Strategies

By and large, we think of strategy in either one or the other terms. We are either talking about how I can achieve something, or we are talking about how we can achieve something.

In fact, the two are inter-related. We do not form a “we” until I am satisfied that becoming part of “we” suite me. And I cannot achieve very much alone, so my individual strategies by and large involve dealing with groups.

And yet, we do not think very systematically about how this interchange works. Advisors and teachers either focus on how to realize your own potential or how to get along. Not how to do both at the same time.

In the old days, this was not all that important. We were by and large, coerced into being in groups. That would include being citizens, employees, and so on. Indeed, in the ancient Greek way of thinking, there was no greater punishment than banishment – being cast out of the group.

But these days, we see the rise of networking and platforms. We join and leave groups more frequently. Groups therefore, have less of a hold on our precious attention.

I think it is time to develop a model for how the two should interact. With a model like this, we can get beyond talking about “labor markets” and start talking about “idea markets” based on shared interests.

Stay tuned!

Some Quick Thoughts on Strategic Alignment

Fred Wilson wrote this in his blog today.

the longer I work in VC, the more I see misalignment between investors and founders.

And misalignment gets in the way of getting somewhere.

This is true more broadly as well. “alignment” is a great word to describe shared strategies, as in a team. But usually, we only worry about alignment when something bad happens. We don’t work on improving our alignment. Perhaps we assume that alignment is automatic. The sad news is that it is not. It is something that you have to work on.

I am thinking here of aligned strategies between people in a network. The networks we use these days are generally rather loose and do not promote alignment. So, for example, you see outrageous and hurtful comments to a rather innocent blog post.

So how do you promote alignment? This is something that was taught “on the playing fields of Eton”. It is less in vogue these days. We value our independence and autonomy more.

But my guess is that we will be talking about it more. Let’s see

Kickstart your Career with Training

One of the more interesting trends these days relates to how “work” is changing. In the old days, the world of work was pretty well fixed. One found a job that started him or her on a career track. And one hoped that with high levels of job performance, the employer would offer the tools to get ahead — including, but not limited to mentoring and training.

Employers still want great workers. But employer needs are changing. They are looking for different things that they used to. More precisely, they are looking for technical knowledge and soft skills. And with a more rapidly changing workplace, employers are less able to guarantee that they can offer you the knowledge and skills that you need to get ahead in your career.

Here is an example. A statement from the CEO of ProtoLabs on who they want to hire.

(we recognize) how important STEM fields are within manufacturing today, and it’s why Proto Labs actively reaches out to college grads who may not be familiar with the current state of manufacturing — a tech-driven industry that is undergoing a digital renaissance

This is a brave new world. And targeted training will play a greater role to upgrade worker skills sets and knowledge bases for workers to fit in. That may be for entry level technical positions. And it may be for ongoing skills development.

Where will you get this? Good question.  Probably not from your school or university. Academics are not that well connected to the above world of work. We are talking about a private intermediary who is networking with employers and offering programming for workers.

I will be searching for the best of these around the globe and bring back reports as I go.

Stay tuned!

Celebrating Neurodiversity

I will come clean. I did not see the term “neurodiversity” before yesterday. I had not even considered the idea that is behind it very carefully.

So what is that idea? The idea is that not all humans think alike. Not all of us have the same capacity or even use the same processes to become who we are. Some of us, such as folks with autism or dyslexia or assbergers, have issues that force them to deal with reality in different ways. In the old days, these folks were considered to be sick. They were pitied, but not accepted.  But should it be that way?

Some would argue that the answer is “no”. Even if these folks may not be able to achieve at the highest level, it does not mean that they cannot achieve at all. It does not mean that they should be ostracised, And yet they are. Check this article out to consider this issue in more detail.