Tag: culture

Proud To Be American (Once Again)

November 5th, 2008 — 7:47am


Comment » | Civil Society

Is American Culture Healthy?

October 10th, 2008 — 4:27am

Try­ing out the Ask500People polling / sur­vey / crowds­marts (col­lec­tive intel­li­gence is too clean a term for this) ser­vice, I thought I’d throw out a com­pli­cated ques­tion, but ask for a sim­ple answer.
In light of the col­lapse of Amer­i­can — and now global - finan­cial mar­kets [which are melt­ing faster than the polar ice caps, if anyone’s inter­ested in what may prove to be a telling envi­ron­men­tal par­al­lel with dire impli­ca­tions for our col­lec­tive future], I’m won­der­ing “Is Amer­i­can cul­ture healthy?“
Here’s the responses so far — join in!

2 comments » | Curiosities

Cultural Clouds: A New Kind of Commons?

September 21st, 2008 — 8:29am

There’s a lot of buzz about cloud com­put­ing in the tech­nol­ogy world these days, but I think some­thing much more inter­est­ing is the emer­gence of cul­tural clouds as the newest kind of pub­lic com­mons. By cul­tural clouds, I’m talk­ing about the new layer of the human cul­tural stack we’re busy lay­ing down as a by prod­uct of all our social and cre­ative activ­i­ties in the inof­verse.
To be clear, I’m not refer­ring to the IT infra­struc­ture layer wherein cloud com­put­ing is defined as the “style of com­put­ing where mas­sively scal­able IT-related capa­bil­i­ties are pro­vided ‘as a ser­vice’ across the Inter­net to mul­ti­ple exter­nal cus­tomers.” [Thanks Gart­ner, via Busi­ness­Week]
These new cul­tural clouds appear in the ever grow­ing col­lec­tions of crowd­sourced col­lec­tively or socially accu­mu­lated judge­ments, cul­tural prod­ucts, knowl­edge, his­tory, rela­tion­ships, etc., encoded in the form of man­aged dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion. This quick illus­tra­tion shows some of the pools of activ­ity and judge­ment that that make up these cloud com­mons; includ­ing wikis, pub­lic media, rep­u­ta­tion state­ments, read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, social net­works, wish lists, music lis­ten­ing his­to­ries, shared pho­tos, films and videos, cita­tion net­works, geo­t­ag­ging and mem­ory maps, com­ments and pub­lic dis­course, hash­tags and tags for pho­tos, URLs, and songs, link streams, sub­scrip­tion and feed lists, blogrolls, etc. These are social, cul­tural, and con­ver­sa­tional resources, not min­eral deposits or phys­i­cal topogra­phies.
New Cul­tural Clouds / Com­mons
The com­mons is an old con­struct that embraces nat­ural resources — think land, air, water, the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum — and the more recent pub­lic domain of cul­tural mate­ri­als not gov­erned by copy­right law.
Ven­er­a­ble insti­tu­tions of cus­tom and law, such as sea­sonal access to pas­turage, the right of pas­sage across bor­ders for nomadic peo­ples, and com­mon law, define and reg­u­late the rec­og­nized forms of com­mons.
But socially col­lected, dig­i­tal, rei­fied human cul­tural prod­ucts and judge­ments are a new *type* of com­mons. I think they’re a new type of resource, brought forth largely by the cog­ni­tive sur­plus we enjoy. And as pro­found tech­no­log­i­cal per­me­ation and ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing bring on the age of every­ware, the cloud com­mons will grow (and frag­ment / spe­cial­ize / mul­ti­ply?).
Who and what will gov­ern the new cloud com­mons? How will we define and man­age these resources?
By form and makeup, the cloud com­mons is ephemeral and dis­trib­uted. But as dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion, it is emi­nently tan­gi­ble and action­able. Our basic social struc­tures and mech­a­nisms — sci­ence, the law, eco­nom­ics, art, agri­cul­ture, reli­gion, tech­nol­ogy — will rec­og­nize the emer­gence of cloud com­mons, and respond accord­ingly. APML (Atten­tion Pro­fil­ing Markup Lan­guage), from the APML Work­ing Group, is an exam­ple. The Dat­a­Porta­bil­ity project — “a group cre­ated to pro­mote the idea that indi­vid­u­als have con­trol over their data by deter­min­ing how they can use it and who can use it. This includes access to data that is under the con­trol of another entity.” — is another. [Advo­cat­ing for the right to free move­ment of data is a dig­i­tal ana­log of the ancient idea of right of way.] OpenID, OpenSo­cial, OAuth, OPML, and the rapidly evolv­ing Cre­ative Com­mons licens­ing sys­tem are other exam­ples of responses to the appear­ance of cloud com­mons.
What does the future hold? As recog­ni­tion of cloud-based com­mons grows, expect to see all the pat­terns of activ­ity typ­i­cal of new fron­tiers and zones of insta­bil­ity: wild­cat­ting, pio­neer­ing, piracy, squat­ting, pri­va­teer­ing, enclo­sure, slums and shanty towns (infor­mal set­tle­ments in the par­lance of archite­cuter and urban plan­ning) extrac­tive indus­tries, sov­er­eign claims, col­o­niza­tion, spec­u­la­tion, etc.
With his­tory as a guide, I’m espe­cially wary of enclo­sure move­ments, and extrac­tive indus­tries. Both prac­tices can rapidly dimin­ish the present value of a com­mons or commons-based resource. Worse, enclo­sure and extrac­tive prac­tices act as neg­a­tive feed­back mech­a­nisms, decreas­ing cur­rent esti­ma­tions of a com­mons or commons-based resource’s future value, mak­ing the tragedy of the com­mons a likely out­come sce­nario.
The U.S. radio spec­trum, as enclosed by the FCC
Is this fram­ing of recently formed clouds of infor­ma­tion and activ­ity data as a new kind of com­mons accu­rate? Use­ful?
More on the idea of cul­tural clouds as the new com­mons forthcoming.

3 comments » | Ideas, Social Media

The Organizational Architecture of Failure

March 23rd, 2008 — 12:42am

The cul­ture, struc­ture, and work­ings of an orga­ni­za­tion often pose greater chal­lenges for User Expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers than any tech­ni­cal or design ques­tions at hand. If you’d like to know more about the fac­tors behind these sit­u­a­tions, be sure to check out We Tried To Warn You: The Orga­ni­za­tional Archi­tec­ture of Fail­ure, by Peter Jones, just pub­lished by Boxes and Arrows.
Peter is an inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant with deep exper­tise in research, prod­uct design, and strat­egy. His talk for the panel on fail­ure at the 2007 IA Sum­mit was insight­ful and in-depth, and this two-part series offers quite a bit more very use­ful mate­r­ial on the roots and warn­ing signs of orga­ni­za­tional fail­ure (by com­par­i­son, con­sider the very brief post I put up on the same sub­ject a few years ago.)
Peter’s is the sec­ond writ­ten fea­ture to come out of the fail­ure panel (my mis­sive on the par­al­lels between entre­pre­neur­ial and soci­etal fail­ure was the first). I’m look­ing for­ward to part two of We Tried To Warn You, as well as addi­tional fea­tures from the remain­ing two pan­elists, Chris­t­ian Crum­lish and Lorelei Brown!
Here’s a snip­pet, to whet your appetite:
How do we even know when an orga­ni­za­tion fails? What are the dif­fer­ences between a major prod­uct fail­ure (involv­ing func­tion or adop­tion) and a busi­ness fail­ure that threat­ens the orga­ni­za­tion? An organizational-level fail­ure is a rec­og­niz­able event, one which typ­i­cally fol­lows a series of antecedent events or deci­sions that led to the large-scale break­down. My work­ing def­i­n­i­tion: When sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives crit­i­cal to busi­ness strat­egy fail to meet their highest-priority stated goals.”

Comment » | Enterprise

Dawdlr: Slow Media?

November 29th, 2007 — 8:00pm

In a world that’s mov­ing so fast it’s hard to keep track of when you are, let alone where, there’s a need for expe­ri­ences that move at more relaxed paces. This basic need for delib­er­ately mod­er­ated and human-speed expe­ri­ences bet­ter tuned to the way that peo­ple make and under­stand mean­ing is the ori­gin of the Slow Food move­ment.
Nat­u­rally, there’s room for a vir­tual ana­log of slow food. I’m call­ing this kind of medi­ated expe­ri­ence that flows at a kinder, gen­tler pace “slow media”. Dawdlr, “a global com­mu­nity of friends and strangers answer­ing one sim­ple ques­tion: what are you doing, you know, more gen­er­ally?” is a good exam­ple.
Assem­bled one post­card at a time, Dawdlr exem­pli­fies the col­lec­tive form of Slow Media, one you can con­tribute to by cre­at­ing some con­tent using a stan­dard inter­face and then sub­mit­ting it for pub­li­ca­tion, as long as it car­ried the proper postage. The paper blog — now updated and known as paper­cast — might be a pre­cur­sor.
What are some other exam­ples of Slow Media? Back in Jan­u­ary of 2007, AdBusters asked, “Isn’t it time to slow down?” dur­ing their national slow­down week.
Slow food has a web­site, annual gath­er­ings, pub­li­ca­tions, a man­i­festo, even a mas­cot / icon — the snail of course. What’s next for slow media? Maybe a slow wiki, made up of image-mapped screen shots of chalk­boards with writ­ing?

Comment » | Uncategorized

Next Frontiers For Design: New Economic and Cultural Models

July 29th, 2007 — 12:06pm

In The next fron­tiers for Design and User Expe­ri­ence Jess McMullin offers:

I believe that the oppor­tu­nity for design and user expe­ri­ence to increase our influ­ence is not about find­ing bet­ter meth­ods for work­ing with users, but in bet­ter meth­ods for work­ing with busi­ness. Not that new meth­ods for gen­er­at­ing insight, pro­to­typ­ing, and defin­ing solu­tions aren’t use­ful. But that’s not where the real bar­ri­ers are in my prac­tice. The real bar­ri­ers are about build­ing con­sen­sus, buy-in, bridg­ing com­pet­ing view­points, and actu­ally exe­cut­ing. In that envi­ron­ment, we need to cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency, and use our design toolkit to work with stake­hold­ers, not just cus­tomers.

This a solid assess­ment of the obsta­cles design and user expe­ri­ence face, and sound advice on how to increase the influ­ence our dis­ci­pline com­mands. Think­ing prag­mat­i­cally, the busi­ness has power and money, mak­ing it essen­tial for design to “cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency”.
It’s impor­tant to build on this sound advice, and under­stand that to be well-positioned for the long term, design and user expe­ri­ence must rec­og­nize that new eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion mod­els — commons-based, open source, net­worked / col­lab­o­ra­tive, and likely oth­ers yet to be seen — blur the for­merly sharp dis­tinc­tions between busi­nesses and users / cus­tomers, and con­se­quently open new roles and chan­nels of influ­ence for design.
This blur­ring is most vis­i­ble in sec­tors of the econ­omy such as soft­ware and media, but is also hap­pen­ing in other sec­tors as well, and even for ser­vices tra­di­tion­ally seen as the respon­si­bil­ity of the pro­ducer. The bal­ance of power is chang­ing. Though far from out­right demo­li­tion, the old high ram­parts divid­ing pro­duc­tion processes from con­sump­tion are show­ing some wear.
This blur­ring (con­ver­gence might be a bet­ter (albeit overused…) word) means busi­ness also has clear and increas­ing incen­tive to cul­ti­vate design flu­ency. User expe­ri­ence, and other dis­ci­plines ori­ented toward under­stand­ing and work­ing with — even work­ing for — users and cus­tomers are essen­tial for sur­vival and suc­cess in these new eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion mod­els.
One out­come of this con­ver­gence of meth­ods, frames, and approaches might be, as Janko Roettgers sug­gests, using a com­bi­na­tion of busi­ness and design per­spec­tives to pro­to­type a busi­ness, instead of just the prod­ucts and expe­ri­ences that are tra­di­tion­ally seen as the touch points or inter­faces con­nect­ing busi­nesses with cus­tomers.
To close the loop, design and user expe­ri­ence should indeed cul­ti­vate busi­ness flu­ency, but also keep in mind that those things which make design dif­fer­ent from busi­ness — such as core approaches, frames, and meth­ods — will remain crit­i­cal to insur­ing the value of user expe­ri­ence in the future. Good exam­ples of these dif­fer­ences, as Peter Morville recently sug­gested, are the holis­tic per­spec­tives and tech­niques that help design and user expe­ri­ence imag­ine and describe the future.
What could be more influ­en­tial than defin­ing the future?
Finally, what does this future look like? Open design may be an early exam­ple of a new model and approach to eco­nomic and cul­tural pro­duc­tion, one that was both con­ceived with the aid of, and also struc­tured to rely upon, design and user expe­ri­ence perspectives.

Comment » | User Experience (UX)

The Rise of Holistic Thinking

July 24th, 2007 — 5:22pm

Good design is the result of an unusual mix of two very dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing that must work together to a com­mon end; reduc­tive approaches (to define a prob­lem) and holis­tic approaches (to solve — or rede­fine — the prob­lem by con­sid­er­ing every aspect). The com­bi­na­tion is a pow­er­ful syn­the­sis which relies on a bal­ance between com­pet­ing forces.
Design­ers have under­stood the impor­tance of this bal­ance — and thus the indis­pens­able role of holis­tic think­ing in design meth­ods — for a long time. But as a con­se­quence of the long-standing dom­i­nance of indus­trial pro­duc­tion processes and log­ics, which elim­i­nated or severely restricted oppor­tu­ni­ties for most peo­ple to design any part of the fab­ric of their every­day lives, holis­tic approaches and think­ing have had min­i­mal vis­i­bil­ity in the mod­ern cul­tural land­scape.
That seems to be chang­ing, and I sus­pect few would dis­pute the rise in vis­i­bil­ity and impor­tance of design within the cul­tural land­scape. Some might say we are in the midst of a renais­sance of design (that com­par­i­son breaks down under a crit­i­cal lens, in the end demon­strat­ing more the pos­i­tive aspi­ra­tions of design advo­cates than any­thing else).
Look­ing at the cul­ture as a whole, the rise of design is one aspect of a larger and much more impor­tant cul­tural shift: the rise of holis­tic think­ing. This shift towards holis­tic views is chang­ing the things we talk about and think about, and hold cen­tral as the ele­ments of our basic frame of ref­er­ence — in short, the way we con­ceive of the world.
The con­cepts in the list below are good exam­ples of the rise of holis­tic think­ing across dis­ci­plines and fields. Seem­ingly willy-nilly (which is exactly the point!), all these ideas rely on, include, or enhance holis­tic view­points at some level:

It’s no acci­dent that this list is also an index of many of the major ideas and con­cerns of our day. What does it mean? Well, it’s good for design at the moment. And maybe there’s a book in it for some­one with the time to syn­the­size an idea and work up a solid treatment…

3 comments » | Ideas

Why Failed Societies Are Relevant to Social Media

June 18th, 2007 — 10:08am

For reg­u­lar read­ers won­der­ing about the recent quiet here, a notice that Boxes and Arrows will shortly pub­lish an arti­cle I’ve been work­ing on for a while in the back­ground, titled, “It Seemed Like the Thing To Do At the Time: The Power of State of Mind”. This is the writ­ten ver­sion of my panel pre­sen­ta­tion Lessons From Fail­ure: Or How IAs Learn to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bombs from the 2007 IA Sum­mit in Las Vegas.
I’ve writ­ten about orga­ni­za­tions and fail­ure — Signs of Cri­sis and Decline In Orga­ni­za­tions — in this blog before (a while ago, but still a pop­u­lar post­ing), and wanted to con­sider the sub­ject on a larger level. With the rapid spread of social soft­ware / social media and the rise of com­plex social dynam­ics in on-line envi­ron­ments, explor­ing fail­ure at the level of an entire soci­ety is timely.
In The Fish­bowl
Failed or fail­ing soci­eties are an excel­lent fish­bowl for observers seek­ing pat­terns related to social media, for two rea­sons. First, the high inten­sity of fail­ure sit­u­a­tions reveals much of what is ordi­nar­ily hid­den in social struc­tures and pat­terns: Impend­ing col­lapse leads peo­ple to dis­pense with care­fully main­tained social con­struc­tions.
One source of this height­ened inten­sity is the greatly increased stakes of soci­etal fail­ure (vs. most other kinds), which often means sud­den and dra­matic dis­rup­tions to basic liv­ing and eco­nomic pat­terns, the decline of cities and urban con­cen­tra­tions, and dra­matic pop­u­la­tion decrease. Another source is the very broad scope of the after­ef­fects; because a fail­ing soci­ety involves an entire cul­ture, the affects are com­pre­hen­sive, touch­ing every­one and every­thing.
Sec­ondly, soci­eties often com­mand sub­stan­tial qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive resources that can help them man­age cri­sis or chal­lenges, thereby avert­ing fail­ure. Smaller, less sophis­ti­cated enti­ties lack the resource base of a com­plex social organ­ism, and con­se­quently can­not put up as much of a fight.
Exam­ples of resources avail­able at the level of a soci­ety include:

  • Lead­ers and plan­ners ded­i­cated to focus­ing on the future
  • Large amounts of accu­mu­lated knowl­edge and experience
  • Sophis­ti­cated struc­tures for deci­sion mak­ing and control
  • Mech­a­nisms for main­tain­ing order dur­ing crises
  • Col­lec­tive resilience from sur­viv­ing pre­vi­ous challenges
  • Sub­stan­tial stores of resources such as food and mate­ri­als, money, land
  • Tools, meth­ods, and orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing economies of scale, such as bank­ing and com­merce networks
  • Sys­tems for mobi­liz­ing labor for spe­cial purposes
  • Con­nec­tions to other soci­eties that could pro­vide assis­tance (or poten­tial rescue)

Despite these mit­i­gat­ing resources, the his­tor­i­cal and arche­o­log­i­cal records over­flow with exam­ples of failed soci­eties. Once we read those records, the ques­tion of how these soci­eties defined them­selves seems to bear directly on quite a few of the out­comes.
I dis­cuss three soci­eties in the arti­cle: Easter Island, Tikopia, and my own small startup com­pany. We have insight into the fate of Easter Island soci­ety thanks to a rich arche­o­log­i­cal record that has been exten­sively stud­ied, and descrip­tions of the Rapa Nui soci­ety in writ­ten records kept by Euro­pean explor­ers vis­it­ing since 1722. Tikopia of course is still a func­tion­ing cul­ture. My startup was a tiny affair that serves as a use­ful foil because it shows all the mis­takes soci­eties make in a com­pressed span of time, and on a scale that’s easy to exam­ine. The Norse colonies in North Amer­ica and Green­land are another good exam­ple, though space con­straints didn’t allow dis­cus­sion of their failed soci­ety in the arti­cle.
Read the arti­cle to see what hap­pens to all three!
Semi Ran­dom Assort­ment of Quo­ta­tions
In the mean­time, enjoy this sam­pling of quo­ta­tions about fail­ure, knowl­edge, and self, from some well-known — and mostly suc­cess­ful! — peo­ple.
“Tech­no­log­i­cal change is like an axe in the hands of a patho­log­i­cal crim­i­nal.” — ALBERT EINSTEIN
“It is not the strongest of the species that sur­vives, nor the most intel­li­gent, but the one most respon­sive to change.” — CHARLES DARWIN
“It is impos­si­ble for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” — EPICTETUS
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — THOMAS EDISON
“It is on our fail­ures that we base a new and dif­fer­ent and bet­ter suc­cess.” — HAVELOCK ELLIS
“Life is a process of becom­ing, a com­bi­na­tion of states we have to go through. Where peo­ple fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.” — ANAIS NIN
“We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.” — RABINDRANATH TAGORE
“Who­ever longs to res­cue quickly both him­self and oth­ers should prac­tice the supreme mys­tery: exchange of self and other.” — SHANTIDEVA
“Fail­ure is instruc­tive. The per­son who really thinks learns quite as much from his fail­ures as from his suc­cesses.” — JOHN DEWEY

2 comments » | architecture, Ideas, The Media Environment

Signs of Crisis and Decline In Organizations

April 21st, 2006 — 12:23pm

A few months ago I came across a pre­sen­ta­tion titled Orga­ni­za­tions in Cri­sis and Decline, by Ran­dall Dun­ham. After giv­ing exam­ples of orga­ni­za­tions in cri­sis and decline that include Kmart, Gen­eral Motors, United Air­lines, and Michael Jack­son. (inter­est­ing exam­ple of an enter­prise…), Dun­ham goes on to sum­ma­rize typ­i­cal symp­toms of cri­sis, the strate­gic con­se­quences of decline, and 10 behav­iors of unhealthy orga­ni­za­tions.
I came across this while doing some research on how the struc­tures and cul­tures of orga­ni­za­tions influ­ence modes of think­ing, resilience, and deci­sion mak­ing, so this is related to some of my post­ings on enter­prise soft­ware. It might be a while before I have the chance to write up all the ideas, so I’ll share Dunham’s mate­r­ial now.
Why is this of note to IAs? Quite a few Infor­ma­tion archi­tects (prac­ti­tion­ers, not just those with the title…) are actively look­ing for effec­tive tools and modes of under­stand­ing to help frame and man­age enter­prise prob­lems.
Under­stand­ing the signs of decline and cri­sis in orga­ni­za­tions can help infor­ma­tion archi­tects and other change agents under­stand the envi­ron­men­tal con­text of a sit­u­a­tion in the crit­i­cal early stages of set­ting expec­ta­tions and roles, and before it’s “too late”, when every­one at the man­age­ment table has strong opin­ions they must defend. In other words, before mak­ing a leap is into an active project, a plan­ning and bud­get­ing cycle, a strate­gic vision ses­sion, etc.
I see (at least) two very impor­tant aspects of a sit­u­a­tion that Dunham’s warn­ing signs could help iden­tify; how healthy an orga­ni­za­tion is, and what lat­i­tude for activ­ity and change is avail­able. Build­ing on this, these cri­te­ria can help iden­tify sit­u­a­tions to avoid or be wary of. Of course, orga­ni­za­tions in cri­sis and decline can present oppor­tu­ni­ties as well as risks, but some­times the ship is going down no mat­ter how much you try to patch the holes…
For those with­out pow­er­point, I’m going to present some of the mate­r­ial here as text, with acknowl­edg­ment that I’m bor­row­ing directly from Dun­ham, who him­self cred­its this source: Mis­che, M.A. (2001). Ten warn­ing signs of strate­gic Decline. In Strate­gic Renewal: Becom­ing a High-Performance Orga­ni­za­tion (pp. 25–30). Upper Sad­dle River, NJ: Pren­tice Hall.
Typ­i­cal Symp­toms of Crisis/Decline

  • Lower earn­ings & revenues
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Reduced mar­ket presence
  • Decrease in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion & interest
  • Increas­ing costs & high struc­tural costs

Strate­gic Con­se­quences of Crisis/Decline

  • Lower mar­ket value
  • Incon­sis­tent strategies
  • Mis­align­ment of inter­nal strate­gies & exter­nal goals
  • Dimin­ished capac­ity to attract top talent
  • Increased vul­ner­a­bil­ity

10 Behav­iors that Sig­nal Decline

  • The orga­ni­za­tion exhibits a lack of under­stand­ing the envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic real­i­ties con­fronting it, or is in denial
  • The man­age­ment of the orga­ni­za­tion is arro­gant with regard to its view of the world & assess­ment of its inter­nal com­pe­ten­cies. Ex: Icarus Paradox
  • The orga­ni­za­tion has lost per­spec­tive with respect to cus­tomers, prod­ucts, sup­pli­ers, and competitors
  • Man­age­ment and employ­ees have an insu­lar focus or pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with inter­nal processes, inter­nal mea­sure­ments, and politics
  • The orga­ni­za­tion has lost its sense of urgency and lacks an atti­tude of self-determination
  • The orga­ni­za­tion is rely­ing on his­tor­i­cal and poorly con­cep­tu­al­ized or inap­pro­pri­ate busi­ness strate­gies and tra­di­tional man­age­ment meth­ods to address new & dif­fer­ent challenges
  • The orga­ni­za­tion has the propen­sity to repeat mis­takes and fails to learn from past experiences
  • The orga­ni­za­tion has low or slow inno­va­tion prac­tices and is late to mar­ket with new products/services
  • The orga­ni­za­tion has a ten­dency to recy­cle mar­gin­ally per­form­ing managers
  • The orga­ni­za­tion relies exclu­sively on inter­nal tal­ent as a source of leadership

Key Fac­tors that Con­tribute to Decline

  • Age of the orga­ni­za­tion: Older, more estab­lished firms may rely on legacy practices
  • Size of the orga­ni­za­tion: Large firms with many ver­ti­cal lev­els can have trou­ble adapting
  • Finan­cial suc­cess and past per­for­mance: Past suc­cess can lead to desire to fol­low same path in hopes of future success
  • Own­er­ship and equity struc­ture: Is there account­abil­ity at all times to out­side agents?
  • Envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences: Exter­nal shocks
  • Abil­ity to learn and dis­cern pat­terns: Lack of learn­ing orga­ni­za­tion culture
  • Certainty/uncertainty: Effec­tive­ness of change management
  • Lead­er­ship: Young & inex­pe­ri­enced with­out desire to learn

Suc­cess Can Drive Crisis

  • The same processes that lead to suc­cess in an orga­ni­za­tion can also lead to failure
  • This is because suc­cess pro­motes rigid­ity, resis­tance to change, and habit­ual response
  • Biggest prob­lem — peo­ple learn the ‘right’ way to solve a prob­lem and do that over and over again, even if that way will no longer solve the problem

It’s true these are quite gen­eral. Nat­u­rally, the art is in know­ing how to apply them as cri­te­ria, or inter­peret what you found. As a quick test of accu­racy, I’ve used the behav­iors and warn­ing signs to ret­ro­spec­tively review sev­eral of the orga­ni­za­tions I’ve seen from the inside. When those orga­ni­za­tions showed sev­eral of the behav­iors and warn­ing signs at an aggre­gate level (not nec­es­sar­ily my group, but the whole enter­prise) then the strate­gic con­se­quence dun­ham men­tioned were vis­i­ble at the same time.
From a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive, a rat­ing scale or some indi­ca­tors of rel­a­tive degree would be very use­ful. In order to gauge whether to stay or go, you need to under­stand the inten­sity of the decline or cri­sis and what action you can take: for exam­ple, do you have time to go back to the cabin to save your hand­writ­ten screen­play before the ship sinks?

1 comment » | Information Architecture

Metaphors for Web 2.0? Web as ENVIRONMENT

March 22nd, 2006 — 5:49pm

I just read Dan Brown’s post­ing Web 2.0, refram­ing Web 1.0 on metaphors for the new Web.
I had three thoughts when I read this (nicely done) piece for the first time:

  1. Web itself is or implies a metaphor — I’d start with this when con­sid­er­ing any of the poten­tial metaphors of Web 2.0
  2. I think many metaphors will be nec­es­sary to give us some set of (barely) ade­quate lin­guis­tic tools for shar­ing our think­ing about some­thing as emer­gent, com­plex, and inter­con­nected with daily life as Web 2.0
  3. How about: WEB AS ENVIRONMENT (“the cir­cum­stances, objects, or con­di­tions by which one is surrounded”)

WEB AS ENVIRONMENT => Set­ting for (vir­tual) life => enabler of goals / needs / pat­terns [thus bring­ing the social aspect into focus]

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