We humans have ants in our pants. We are road warriors, million-mile-flyers, web-surfers, because-it-was-there climbers. We come upon this tendency honestly. Our early ancestors sprung up and out of Africa 60,000 years ago, on a grand trek that involved land bridges and star navigation. The march continues to this day. Only now, on a grand scale, we really have nowhere left to go. No uncharted points on the map. No hospitable land to grab. Not many stones left unturned. Our billions have spread far and wide and down and up, scraping the sky and mining the deeps and paving even the wildest of paradises.
We social innovators are not immune to the adventurer’s inclination. As “change-makers,” we strain against the start gate, our eyes trained on the finish line. Armed with sticky notes, we rapidly prototype our way from pain point to panacea, from shame to solvency.
“We should not rush through the in-between places.”
Of course our work is needed. I am no stranger to sticky notes. I work as a strategist, helping social innovators crystallize their organizational identities squarely in the solutions space. But I am coming to realize that the rush from problem to solution may be leaving something essential in its wake. My colleagues and I are stepping into, and learning to savor, the rich and marvelous state that exists between problem and solution. A less celebrated place, for certain, but a place well worth our attention if we ... Read more
Nature is the only system that has been stamped robust by time. Once we recognize businesses are living systems and not machines, as ecosystem designers of any stripe be it corporate leader or parent, we are faced with the most important question of all: When to intervene?
We in the West tend to take a proactive stance. We have a bias to action. We take the initiative. We seek to control the situation. This has hidden costs. One is that we are all overstimulated — which manifests in high blood pressure and a myriad of stress-related illnesses. These are side effects of an overactive stance. But there are more direct costs, too.
is the medical term for harm from intervention or death by treatment. It is the third leading cause of death in America. Treatment kills more people every year in the United States than any single cancer. This would make health care a pretty slow-learning field, as they have had the Hippocratic oath
(First Do No Harm) for 24 centuries. But health care at least recognizes the notion of harm from treatment. As Nassim Taleb has pointed out, politics and economics have no such term.
In the inaugural issue of design4emergence, biologist Rolf Muertter asked, “Read more
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea..."
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Business journalism is saturated with the last half-century's collective wisdom on what makes a good leader. That's great, but sifting through it is sometimes like boiling the ocean. Often we're left wondering about scale: How much of that greatness is a direct result of the leader's style and decisions, and how much of it is about who and what activity surrounds the leader? Like trying to pin down what makes a good film, it's not so easy anymore to separate the auteur from the script, the actors, the editors, the crew...Why? Because most organizations today are complex networks of internal and external stakeholders. Like a great director, a great leader today is really a network orchestrator.
“O Captain, My Captain”? or “a man of many notions”?
I like boat metaphors. Traditionally, the leader of an organization is the one who’s supposed to steer the boat, which requires both a tactical mastery of the boat itself and a strategic (and in the best cases, intuitive) understanding of the waters and the wind. These days, though, it gets harder and harder to separate ourselves from the ocean and the others navigating its waters, because together we are mapping new lands at an astonishing pace. Look at what e... Read more
Leading in the Network Age: The first in a series on Economic Complexity and Network Quotient (NQ)
“It is more useful to notice what has already happened and gone unnoticed than it is to try and predict the future.”
— Peter Drucker
Predicting the future is a fool’s errand. And none of us have the time to waste. In fact, we have less and less time to waste and certainly no one wants to be the fool. And yet we must lead, guide organizations and make decisions. In the network age, we don’t have the option of standing still. Business and life are accelerating. Organizations must adapt or die. Can I? Can my organization? Or am I a 'dead man walking'?
The greatest tectonic shift for business in the last 30 years is the rise of the network-based economy. Most of us didn’t fully appreciate the shift as it happened around us and in our lives.
For examples, look at the Blackberry vs. the iPhone. One was a piece of technology. One was an ecosystem of network innovation in which the creation of positive feedback loops among developers and consumers catalyzed an exponential explosion in growth and functionality.
We increasingly see value being created in networks and ecosystems that extend far beyond traditional organizational and personal boundaries. Definitions of competition are morphing and blurring. We’re no longer competing against individual companies, we’re competing against ecosystems. Think Apple vs. Android. And fir... Read more
There is new light for the dismal science. Economics as a social science is concerned with the foundational factors underlying the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. And over the last century the application of economic analysis has spread and is seen across a diverse fields (business, finance, health care, government) and subjects (war, crime, education, law, politics, religion, social institutions, science, environment). Economics has become one of the most complex of fields to study and understand. But instead of growing more dismal, there is new light. Network scientists are providing old fields like economics with new ways to look at and understand these complex, networked systems. All too often, those furthest from the core discipline of a problem are most likely to provide an innovative solution.
In the words of MIT scientist César Hidalgo
, economics is a relatively ephemeral subject, resting on deep roots in a process that goes back to the foundations of energy and matter and information.
And in viewing the economy in such primal terms, he concludes that the factors that drive resilience and innovation in nature’s networks or ecosystems — namely diversity — should likewise be predictive of an economy’s resilience, innovation, and ability to grow.
Traditional economic measures fail to capture the kind of diversity that drives growth. Identifying factors of production such a... Read more