Monthly Archives: October 2016

Wirearchy and the opposite of patriarchy

I do think that women could make politics irrelevant; by a kind of spontaneous cooperative action the like of which we have never seen; which is so far from people’s ideas of state structure or viable social structure that it seems to them like total anarchy — when what it really is, is very subtle forms of interrelation that do not follow some heirarchal pattern which is fundamentally patriarchal. The opposite to patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity, yet I think it’s women who are going to have to break this spiral of power and find the trick of cooperation.

Germaine Greer

I first heard this quote when Sinéad O’Connor used it as the first track, an intro of sorts, to her 1994 album Universal Mother. (Maybe my favorite album of hers, we saw her at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on the tour, great show.) The quote has stuck with me over the years and pops its head up at various times. Like now.

In one of those stereotypical “I wasn’t thinking of anything and it just popped into my head” moments, the phrase “the opposite to patriarchy is … fraternity” and Jon Husband‘s  concept of wirearchy came together and presented themselves to my conscious mind. Obviously the full quote refers to political, not business, organization and is from “one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement in the latter half of the 20th century” about the role of women in the transformation of politics, and this reference to fraternity has nothing directly to do with business or the organization of work.

But I can’t help thinking there is something here to explore.

 

The next adventure (take 2)

The story of my life (courtesy The Neo-Generalist, p. 237):

When you derive energy from the acquisition of knowledge and combinatory play, too much time spent doing the same thing can have an entropic effect. If your objective is to effect transformations, once that has been achieved it is the moment to move on to something different, passing the ball, handing over the jersey.

Maybe that’s how you know when it is time for the next adventure.

Some thoughts on, not quite a review of, The Neo-Generalist

I finished Richard Martin and Kenneth Mikkelson‘s new book, The Neo-Generalist, this morning. Where to start talking about this incredible book? I think I’ll start at the back, with the 17 page bibliography.

ng-cover1Yes, 17 pages. I was happy to see that I have read at least a few items from each of those 17 pages, a couple are on my Kindle waiting to be read, and even more are on my ever expanding to-read list. But so many more I’ve not read, or even heard of. Daunting for some, perhaps, but intriguing and inspiring for a neo-generalist like me. Because I am, in answer to the final question Richard and Kenneth pose in the Fade Out chapter, a neo-generalist.

That is not the only question they leave with us, though; they provide a full list of the questions they used to guide the interviews they conducted with the many incredible and interesting people featured in the stories told throughout the book. Seeing these questions at the end, after reading all the stories and the insights that Richard and Kenneth pull from them, helped me start to pull together my own thoughts on what I had read, to begin creating my own new knowledge from what they shared of theirs.

I only gave the questions some cursory thought, and am looking forward to answering them in detail (when I’m not typing this on my phone on a full airplane flying through turbulent air on my way home.) I’m thinking it might be a good excuse to finally start up a podcast to accompany the Phrontistery, something I’ve been wanting to do but just never quite had the right incentive. Interview myself? Maybe have one of the boys interview me?

The most powerful part of the book for me was the wrap up, in the final two chapters, where Richard and Kenneth talk about what neo-generalism means in more practical terms, the effects it has on career and life, and some of the challenges of being a neo-generalist in a world of hyperspecialization. Although I have always known, in the abstract at least, that the challenges and decisions and implications of my approach to the world are shared by others, it is still nice to see kindred spirits share their experiences and insights.

Speaking of kindred spirits, the book is full of them. I’ll leave it to you to read their stories and learn about them, with the following warning: prepare to be awe-struck. Unless, of course, you’re not.

If you are not a neo-generalist, your impression of the people and their stories may be a little – or a lot – different than mine. You may not see yourself in the stories, but I encourage to to read the book all the way through, to absorb it, so that you can better understand the neo-generalists in your life. Chances are you will see in these stories someone you know, someone you work with. Or perhaps you are a parent of a child who has these crazy ideas and can’t just focus on one thing because there is so much out there to know and to learn.

I was one of those kids, and was fortunate to have parents who accepted and generally encouraged my eccentricity. Though I never had a chance to explore these types of questions with my dad, I have a feeling that he would have identified as a neo-generalist as well.

As for the book itself, I chose to get the soft cover (“paper back” doesn’t do it justice) instead of the Kindle. Partly because the Kindle version was not yet available in the US at the time I ordered it, but mainly because this is the kind of book I personally prefer on paper. Paper on which I can jot notes, doodles, and other markings, and which I can dog ear for browsing again later. And which I can add to the permanent collection of key texts I keep above my desk for when I need a shot of inspiration and encouragement. The only thing I really missed about the Kindle was the dictionary; I found myself long-tapping words in the book on at least one (OK, more than one) occasion in a futile attempt to have a definition displayed.

To say I learned a lot from this book would be a huge understatement. I have a feeling I will continue to learn from it.

tl;dr Highly recommended, add it as close to the top of your to-read pile as you can.

Digital Wiggle Room « Simon Terry

Many of the key practices and approaches that enable the transformation of organisation receive pushback from managers initially because they don’t fit into a traditional management mindset of task efficiency.

Employees will often push back on new digital practices like collaboration, design thinking, agile and experimentation.  If you are busy, the returns of this work are uncertain, the demands of your role are exacting and your organisation values expertise foremost, being asked to test your assumptions and engage with others on your ideas can feel like a waste of your valuable time.

Source: Digital Wiggle Room « Simon Terry

The next adventure

This is one of my favorite Hugh MacLeod business card cartoons:

adventure

In his email message accompanying this doodle, Hugh says it took him “twenty years to get from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.” It took me about the same amount of time, a little more or a little less depending on how you count it. Since reaching that point, I’ve had several most excellent adventures. I’ve often wondered though:

How do you know when it is time to start looking for the next adventure?

It’s easy, of course, and incredibly fun when your next adventure finds you. But in the absence of that, how do you know when the current adventure has become just another project? When it is time to actively seek a new adventure?

Or at least let all those potential adventures know that you are ready for them?

Of cruises and nursing homes

As someone early in the second half of my first century I, like many in my situation, have had conversations with my mom about how she wants to live out her life as she gets older. We (my wife and I) have had similar conversations with her parents. There are no easy answers, because you never really know what’s going to happen until it happens, but you do need to plan.

Earlier today my mom shared this video on Facebook. (A hint, maybe?)

 

Now I don’t know if the numbers in the video are accurate, and to a certain extent it doesn’t matter. What matters is the point that the video is making, that we can do better by our parents and grandparents than warehousing them in “homes” that are more hospital than home.

I wrote about this over ten years ago after hearing an interview with the makers of the film Almost Home. Here’s what I had to say about it then.

– – — — —–

On the other end of the age spectrum, adult children often must make care decisions for their aging parents. Many times this results in these elderly parents living out their final days in a nursing home, with every aspect of their lives controlled by the administrators of the home. Again, not a decision to be made lightly. (I think we’ve all heard the horror stories.)

The film Almost Home, recently aired on PBS, talks about a different kind of way to run a nursing home.

ALMOST HOME offers an inside look at the lives of these residents, their families and those who care for them as each adjusts to the challenges of growing older. ALMOST HOME filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein and Lisa Gildehaus introduce couples bonded and divided by disability, children torn between caring for their dependent parents and their own families, nursing assistants doing difficult work for near-poverty wages and visionary nursing home director John George, who is committed to transforming his century-old hospital-like institution into a true home.

Under George’s leadership, Saint John’s On The Lake is reinventing its 135-year-old medical model of care (think hospital) with a social one (think home). His goal is to transform the way people see nursing homes—not as institutions of boredom and despair but as vibrant communities where residents live rich and fulfilling lives. To succeed, he will have to win over skeptical managers, resistant nurses, overworked and underpaid nursing assistants, complacent residents and often-overwhelmed family members.

The key change in my mind is that the residents here retain as much control as possible of their own lives. They can wake up when they want to, instead of the usual scheduled wake-ups. Meals are tailored as much as possible to what the residents desire, not a typical bland hospital menu. (If someone has lived a good 90 years, and wants some bacon for breakfast, they should be able to get bacon for breakfast!) They have a cocktail hour every Monday where *gasp* they can drink cocktails.

—– — — – –

Basically, a human centered approach.

I’d like to think that a lot has happened in the ten years since. Time to do some more reading and research.

Coherence through shared abstraction – Cognitive Edge

Scaling in a complex system is fractal, or self similar in nature. In effect we decompose to an optimal level of granularity then allow coupling and recouping of the granules to create new patterns all of which have a self-similar relationship to each other. One of the things we are doing with our adaptation of fitness landscapes within SenseMaker® is to allow the same source data to represent itself for different identity structures within an organisation in contextually appropriate ways. Nothing in a complex system is context free, everything is context specific.

Source: Coherence through shared abstraction – Cognitive Edge

 

Service design: Isn’t it just UX with a different name? | GDS design notes

Service design is getting more and more attention in government at the moment, but many people still don’t understand what it is. The most common question I hear – from people both inside and outside government – is: “Isn’t that just UX (user experience) design?” Let’s be clear: service design and UX design are not the same, because a service is different from a user’s experience.

Source: Service design: Isn’t it just UX with a different name? | GDS design notes

 

Transcript: Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists

Similarly, atheists have amazing moments under the stars as well when atheists look up and see the galaxies and contemplate the sheer nothingness, puniness of humans in the cosmos. It’s just how we choose to interpret it. We don’t leap to a supernatural conclusion. So when I look at the cosmos, I’m not forced to then make the next step, which is to say there must be something out there. But look, there’s so much more in common between believers and nonbelievers than we’re sometimes encouraged to think. At the very last moment under the stars, we may differ about what’s going on, but we can still have a very nice time together for a long, long part of this journey.”

Source: Transcript: Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists

Top-Down Management Structures Are Crumbling– How Will You Adapt?

“While it would be nice if everyone handled freedom the same way, that’s not a realistic expectation. After switching to an autonomous structure, Buffer learned the hard way that freedom without leadership can be harmful.”

Source: Top-Down Management Structures Are Crumbling– How Will You Adapt?