What do you do?

I am reading More Space (which I highly recommend). I just finished Rob May’s chapter. I enjoyed his overall theme "Why Business Matters", but I was particularly drawn to one particular point he made.

I don’t care about a job, I want more than that. Any time I am between
projects or businesses, people always try to find me a job. They don’t
get it. They ask me, “What do you want to do?” But I never give an
answer they expect. I don’t want to manage. I don’t want to program. I
don’t want to design products. I want to work toward a larger goal. If
those things are steps along the way, then fine, I will do them; some of
them I will even enjoy, but I do my best if I understand the greater

This made me realize how often I answer the question, "What do you do?" , with a job description. A few posts back, I was asking for advice on creating a new opportunity at my company. Some of the feedback I got was making the same point, "Why do we describe who we are in terms of tasks instead of outcomes?" I think that is a great question. The problem is that the western european mindset, under which many of us labor, is built around task orientation and problem solving. Maybe if we spent less time dealing with mechanics and tactics, and more time thinking and behaving with regard to vision, outcomes, and long-range goals, we would be better off. If we really engaged in conversations about the big picture, I think we would be amazed how many of those "tactical problems" would disappear or be easily resolved.

Thanks Rob.


Pegasus Day 2

As the day winds down, I am sitting here listening to the Stones play a concert down the street at SBC park…what a country.

As for the conference, today was an interesting day. The morning Keynote was by Marv Adams, CIO at Ford. Unfortunately I had to cut out early. His main theme was how to use systems and complexity theory in a practical way to help organizations.

Lunch was designed around topic tables. I thought I would see what the interest in blogs was with this group. I figured that blogs are a natural extendion of systems, interconnections, conversation, emergence, etc., and that it would be a topic of great interest. I seem to have been mistaken. Two people joined me and their interest was "tell me about blogs, I have heard about them, but…" Oh well, a long way to go.

The afternoon session was quite interesting. The keynote speaker was Mary Catherine Bateson. Here theme was intergenerational connections. She made a strong point that there is a wide gulf between the generations and that to make real progress in improving our society, we need to listen to everyone, the young and the elders. I attended an afternoon working session led by the World Cafe Foundation along the same topic.

Time to sign off to the sound of mick, keith and the boys playing "Magic Carpet Ride"…

Questioning how we do conferences

Seth points to how conferences are not as effective as they would like to be. (How did he know I was at a conference this week?)

Pegasus Day 1

The first day of the conference is done. There are about 500 attendees here this week. Yesterday’s highlights:

Opening Keynote by Peter Senge:

  • The main theme of the conference is Interdependency. He asked the "simple" questions "Who do I depend on?" and "who depends on me?" He used this to show how interdependent all citizens of the world really are through some simple metaphors ("where does your food come from?") and startling facts (photos showing the polar ice cap shrinking)
  • Western basis for thought is noun based. Systems are process/flow based. Since our fundamental language is not alignes with the appropriate language of systems, it is difficult for westerners to see systems.
  • Needs:
  • Understand that the world is in a unique circumstance. "We have never been here before".
  • Develop our language to facilitate the conversation of systems
  • Expand our horizon with regard to time and space

Workshops: I attended "Introduction to Systems Thinking"

  • Reviewed some basics, what could be called the language of systems. (e.g.,Behavior-over-time graphs, causal loops)
  • The language is a tool to facilitate the conversation, not the end itself. In other words, the process of trying to draw a causal loop creates the value more so than the finished product itself.
  • Archetypes are commonly recurring causal loops, and exist to serve as a starting point for jumpstarting the conversation.

The afternoon keynote was fascinating. Delivered by Rose von Thater-Braan, Leroy Little Bear, and Amethyst First Rider. They opened up the world of thought of Native Americans.

  • No dicotomy
  • Listen
  • Renewal of spirit
  • How would we change what we do if we knew that all things were animate?

These notes do not do justice to the richness of the content, it is intended to provide a quick overview to provide me with a marker and a place to renew the conversation.

On to dat 2…

Pegasus Conference

I am heading to San Francisco on Sunday to attend Embracing Interdependence:Effective and Responsible Action in Our Organizations and the World, sponsored by Pegasus Communications. It is being held at the Hyatt Regency. I haven’t seen much social net activity around this, which I find ironic, since I see the social web as the most visible instance of social systems theory currently in existence. Maybe I can start a new conversation there… I will let you know how it goes.

Lexicon, Oops, My Bad

I like the word "lexicon". When I have the opportunity, I like to use it. It makes me feel smart, or something I can’t quite label. It may be because it is a word that many people don’t use, and when I use it I am often asked to clarify its meaning in context. It makes me feel indispensable, or something.

What I am seeing here is that it is all about how I feel, not about communicating in the most effective way possible. Oops, that is not how it is supposed to be!

Stephen Baker has a post today called Why Jargon Leads to Dead-ends. I agree with him completely, even though I tend to dismiss that advise personally. It is easy for me to see how we got into this predicament.

We all tend to operate in such a way as to put ourselves in the best light possible. If I can show that I have value by virtue of my specialized area of expertise, I will tend to do so. Jargon helps to perpetuate the myth. Unfortunately the unintended consequence is that I make myself unintelligible.

If we can ever come to a collective understanding that what is better for the group is better for the individual, then as a society, we may start to turn the corner on the myriad problems that plague us.

This is a topic that I believe to be extremely important and should not be dismissed. Unfortunately as we move more and more into niches, both on the production and consumption sides of the equation, I believe that more jargon will be created, widening the gap between silos.

I have posted and commented on this previously.

Blog Evangelist

I want your help. I want to develop a position within my organization that is focused on the functional usage of blogs and other web 2.0 applications. I see this position as part Marketing (along the lines of Seth and Hugh), part technical (as an interface to IT, not as a developer), and part Internal Communications.

Oh yeah, I want the job for myself (no hidden agenda’s here).

I am using the following approach.

  • Listen throughout the organization for areas where I perceive the soil is fertile for consideration of engaging in conversations in the public domain, or "interactive social media".
  • In the course of my current day-job, put  new concepts on the table, ask  leading questions where the logical thought progression may lead to consideration of solutions not in the traditional communications tool set (i.e., press releases, mass media advertising, internal town hall meetings, etc.)
  • When interest is peaked, engage in a discussion around the opportunities inherent in interactive social media. And, of course, pointing out that the organization currently has little capacity to operate in this area.
  • Be ready with a proposal for building this organizational capacity if and when the opportunity arises.

To that last point I am working on a job description. I would also like to develop a start up plan along the lines of Slack Manager: The first 100 days. The first draft of my ideal job description is below. I have not yet started developing a "100 day plan".

My request is for your comments on the tactical approach listed above, the job description listed below or any suggestions on putting together a 100 day plan. A link would be great, and if anyone is really inspired to collaborate, I am setting up a JotSpot wiki to keep everything organized. Send me an email and I will send you the link.


Job Description
"Blog Evangelist"

  • Maintain current knowledge Interactive Social Media with respect to:
    • the state of the technology
    • trends
    • issues
  • Liasion with IT to develop appropriate infrastructure
  • Consult with areas where Blogging might be used:
    • marketing brand teams
    • reputation
    • public relations
    • internal communications
  • Lead activity to define relevant policies and guidelines
  • Advise Sr. Management regarding strategy and tactics related to Interactive Social Media

“Real” Leadership

Some of us communicate more clearly than others. Scott Adams does it extremely well. Only Dilbert can point to real issues of leadership so effeciently.

Fax analogy?

Seth’s post, Mine ours,everyone, brings to mind that old analogy about the Fax machine. The first Fax machine  was technically  fascinating and totally useless. Adding the second machine made it a novelty  and mostly useless. Add the millionth machine and you have an invaluable  business tool. Blogs seems to be following the same paradigm. It makes sense to apply this thinking to other processes as Seth suggests.

In the same vein as The Big Moo is More Space. Check it out, Seth wrote the Foreword.

Mainstream Awareness

In the last week or so it seems that every MSM (mainstream media) outlet is getting on the ‘Let’s talk about blogging" bandwagon. The most recent one I have seen is in today’s Financial Times, via Scoble. If the management of today’s big companies read this in earnest, maybe some of them will start to adjust their own  worldview (as defined by Seth Godin). A couple of my favorite quotes from the article:

Giving employees free rein to criticise their company’s own products or
to praise competitors is a big departure from the carefully constructed
messages of traditional brand management. But Ms Charman says companies
that insist on carrying the old ways of doing things into the
blogosphere are heading for trouble.

“Business is used to inhabiting a broadcast environment, and that is
not what the blogosphere is about,” she says. “Companies need to learn
that they can’t control the message any more, then they have to learn
that that’s good.”


Mr Jen argues that, used properly, blogging can help a company reach
out to its customers in powerful ways. “When you go to an individual’s
blog and read the content . . . people will actually take the
perception they get from an individual and project it on to the company
they work for,” he says. “That perception is often stronger than the
message that the company is trying to [get across].”

Such an
approach requires that companies place an immense amount of trust in
employees to act as capable ambassadors. Mr Jen says that companies may
have little choice. “You could say, ‘I’m not going to allow my
employees to blog,’ but any one of your employees can still go out and
start a blog anonymously,” Mr Jen says.

IMHO, there is a lot of world-shaking going on here and companies that choose not to see it are doing so at their own peril. It is not going to be easy:

For companies, the rising importance of blogging as a communications tool presents a difficult dilemma.

the one hand, avoiding the blogosphere altogether seems a bad idea.
Kryptonite, a maker of bicycle locks, was caught flat-footed last year
when an enterprising blogger discovered he could pick his expensive
Kryptonite lock with the end of a plastic pen. Kryptonite’s lack of a
significant blog of its own meant it had no efficient way to respond to
the original blogger’s claim. A video exposing the lock’s vulnerability
soon spread into the mainstream media.

On the other hand,
companies that wish to engage with the blogosphere face an intractable
credibility problem. Bloggers are an anti-establishment lot, and
messages from big business are automatically suspect. In bloggers’
eyes, most companies’ attempts to insert themselves into online
conversation come across as ham-fisted at best, and disingenuous at

Companies need to engage in the conversation now if they want to survive in a Cluetrain world.

[Editorial Comment: Labeling all bloggers as an "anti-establishment lot" is a bit of a broad-brush that I do not agree with. I think forcing the establishment to look at itself and re-evaluate its own existence is in fact pro-establishment. Too bad most of the MSM does not see this. If you haven’t read the Forbes article yet, you should.]