A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
Well, to be sure we only have the most well-qualified persons reading here, my Trace is like this:
Mostly it is a playful sort of place, informal, Bliss-following, Serendipity-inspired, ...
In short, it is a good sort of place for those with a sense of whimsy and fun, and a distinct appreciation for what diversity of perspective will add to their IQ [remember, Alan Kay promises 80 IQ points for perspective ;-)].
Image: by Sara B. (and I have paid handsomely for its use ;-)
This Trace is ordered by the chronology of my exploring, which is all very well if you're following along. If you're checking in on the ecosystem topic, though, this sequencing may make more sense:
This is a great add to the conversation: Back to Organizational Basics, Christian Briggs, March 8, 2012
Image: Even though my sketch is wanting, aren't you pleased to have "Analogy is the lever we use to move the world" now in your aphorism set? Sketchily portrayed. But a powerful nugget seeded into memory by the combination of visual and verbal. :-) We learn and create by analogy, by moving what we know in one place into a new experience. Sure, we create analogy blends, hybrids and new variants, we reshape them, add to and alter them, but we use analogies to construct new designs and interpretations and insights, and so "move" the world. Emotionally. And transformatively.
3/5/12: Analogies, as models, can also blind us:
-- Patrick Hoverstadt, The Fractal Organization: Creating sustainable organizations with the Viable System Model, John Wiley and Sons. 2009.
Of course, this doesn't mean we need to throw the analogy baby out with the bathwater! In fact, exploring the shortcomings, sheds insight as we probe how it misleads. It's a tool. It can be misapplied.
And analogies and metaphors can illuminate:
3/13/12: More related to ecosystems/of note:
3/20/12: The Ecocycle: A Mental Model for Understanding Complex Systems, David Hurst, March 20, 2012
3/21/12: This book by Ron Adler is going to make big waves:
Also by Adner:
3/21/12: We can think of an organization as an ecosystem, with its interrelated networks of relationships:
3/21/12: Enterprise architects will see the importance of considering ecosystems. Software architects, not so much? Yeah. Generally. Although I coax and cajole and (gently) prod them also to think in terms of value networks and transformations or value streams. Architecting is about grokking what is "structural" and what in the broader dynamics is going to cause the system to thrive or falter, what will produce threat and challenge (even through goodness like overwhelming growth). Architects have to be able to "see around corners" (also like this) because -- or especially -- when no-one else is looking there. Architects may sound like "there be dragons there" people, but really they are picking battles strategically and wisely. Some battles (of the cognitive and problem defining-problem solving kind, of the organizational/socio-political kind, and of the competitive market shaping kind, ... ) you want to prepare for, or better still defuse (or better still convert into a metaphor that is less about destroying and more about building and enriching and nourishing), early!
3/27/12: See also: Enterprise Transformation, Innovation, Emergence and the Sewers of Vienna, Stuart Boardman, March 27, 2012
Makes you think indeed! Nilofer's post title is provocative:
Nilofer played that "false dialectics garner pageviews" kind of card and, predictably, it's attracting attention... Now I'm a big fan of the "cottage revolution" (of course, since it is a phrase I coined and grabbed the domain name for long ago ;-) but I think that it is part of the picture, not the whole picture. Nilofer makes a number of good points. Artisanal products of cottage industry offer distinction -- aesthetically and in their individuality -- from the mass produced. The social era has ushered in low-barrier-to-entry avenues of access to customers, as well as to influencing consumer choice without big-budget advertizing. New funding sources serve also to create closer, more personally vested, customer connections. All combine to make new business models viable, and more attractive. One might even go further and note that there is increasing distaste raised not just by the impersonal slick of mass-manufactured goods, but by the exploitative underbelly of corporate greed on steroids that has been exposed by surging profits in an era of layoffs and massive unemployment as well as more scrutiny of off-shore manufacturing work conditions and environmental impact.
But the picture is more nuanced than: in the social era, efficiency and scale is rendered irrelevant. Indeed, there is a symbiotic relationship between small and big. Amazonian giants -- even those bearing that name (Amazon) -- provide a hostbed for little nippers. And consider Facebook and Google. Big, and getting bigger. Big is not over. Not even for the heart of social. Can big just be a mess of little, with no march of "optimization" and "efficiency"? Consider Google's march of optimization of its search engine (albeit optimization in the direction of "better" addressing search queries, which brings in questions of what better means beyond speed). Consider how systematically and thoroughly Google trawls and indexes everything -- even this site, small fish that it is, is thoroughly indexed by Google with boggling frequency. Resources like that come with the advantage of scale small competitors can't match, cloud or no. Consider, too, the astonishing pace of consolidation in industries such as food services and healthcare (not just pharma and insurance, but in regional heath services provision as well). Sure, there is and will be a spread across and within industries with regards to focus on efficiency and economies of scale and scope, because the systems we create include the likes of high volume devices like iPad 3s, on one hand, and the likes of MRI machines that take huge resources to research and produce and have to be produced to fine safety tolerances, on the other. Sure, industries will be disrupted, and there'll be giants that fall. Even as new giants rise.
Big is not over. Efficiency is not over. Instead, sure, these forces put pressure on big to find ways to be more nimble while being good at driving industrial-era machine-precisioned excellence and embracing more empathetic, more human-resonant, ever more organic responsiveness to our desires and aspirations and compulsions and ... But Michael Porter has also reconsidered his own model, looking towards a cluster (ecosystem) based model that seeks to nurture the vitality of the cluster. And this gets us to a blend where we have big organizations striving to advance more sustainable more socially empathetic and environmentally resonant communities of organizations -- big and small. All looking to advance the state of their engineered art, sometimes at scale but often more a matter of lots of smaller more community-centered ventures (more like Dave Gray's pods). The social shift makes new ways of being small viable and attractive, and puts pressure on big to re-invent what it means to be big -- in good part, to bring the interaction paradigms of a flexibly connected social world within more permeable organizational boundaries.
Oh, I know that Nilofer was using a device of rhetoric (in the title) to attract attention. She is playful, smart, and has a sophisticated and nuanced understanding. She also invites thought. And treats us as though we have the sophistication to know when she is using "performance art" and devices of rhetoric to highlight and draw attention to a distinction she is making. And I just played along a little to add to the conversation. Or at least to draw it in the direction of my ecosystem vectors of stabilize and disrupt. ;-) We do have a lot we need to change, to make big more sustainable in human and ecological terms. But big has a lot going for it -- the ability to attract and create community among great people foremost among its advantages.
Ok. Ok. Don't just tie me to the mast... shut down Twitter! ;-)
3/2/12: My post title is a reference to Nilofer's tweet a while back when she shared that she had been told to "have more umbrage" and she boldly positioned her case with a racy title.... which had something of a polarizing effect for some. That gave rise to energetic sparring -- or at least as energetic as things get on HBR. :-) I avoid fractious fray, but I shared my 2c here because our ecosystem exploration sheds a different perspective -- namely:
3/2/12: Image: Um, from Umbrage. Who's Um? What, you didn't see Alice in Wonderland? Well! <huffy sounding voice> ;-) Um from Umbrage is such a delightful image -- feminine and heroic. Finding your umbrage I take to mean finding your outrage and the courage that comes of a cause worth fighting for, a point of view you're passionate about (defending and advancing), a wrong (even a misconception, but important enough to require outward expression of passion) worth righting. Besides, unless you have seen Alice you won't get my imperious Red Queen impersonation -- "I need a pig here"-- when I do that (negative-) attention-seeking beg-for-a-compliment thing. (For those whose self-(d)e(f)facing satire sensors are impaired, that was a wink.) In fact, if you also haven't read Alice, you're missing a lot! Like
and lessons that lessen. Yes, and vorpal swords! ;-)
3/2/12: We watched Fresh working out tonight. It is a great companion piece to this whole big versus small discussion -- and big doesn't look so good. There is a lot of well-intended work going into solving the world's food needs, but we can get so carved down into a rut of thinking that we don't see the full, or critical pieces of, the picture. We do like our locally grown options in Bloomington. You can watch Fresh (the movie) free through March 3. It might be easy to dismiss eco-consciousness as "hippy fringe," but the people who are exploring alternative ways to do big things more humanely are important to our societal evolution.
More on the conflict between power and humanity: The disappearing virtual library, Christopher Kelty, March 1, 2012
And what Michael Diamandis sees in the future (TED2012), and where Microsoft is headed: Microsoft's Craig Mundie on the Future of Computing, Steve Clayton, 27 Feb 2012
3/4/12: And in case you still aren't entirely sure about the power of big resources and the place of ads in today's socially networked world:
Sad. But true. With every person and every product vying for attention, avenues to "peacock" wares are going to be exploited -- varyingly and more and less creatively, to be sure.
3/5/12: Here's an earlier version of Nilofer's post: Strategy Matters: From Porter's Five Forces to the Permeable Corporation, Nilofer Merchant, February 13, 2008.
3/21/12: The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time By Sara Horowitz Sep 1 2011
3/28/12: For more, jump ahead to My Take; Your Take?
4/3/12: The Amazon metaphor in Amazon's name recalls to mind Grady Booch's "like a river" IEEE column where he likens enterprise software to a river. But let's focus on Amazon -- the company, the river, and the rainforest. My, what diversity they support! The organizational "life forms" (I'm using the term loosely, for color) the company supports are perhaps as diverse as the species hosted on trees in the Amazon rainforest! This is interesting:
Stabilize and diversify. Disrupt and regenerate with new combinations of capabilities that advance more complex forms. The coexistence of massive trees, huge rivers, and immense diversity. Why look for one or the other kinds of futures? Why not combinations, a mix of large and small, of mass commodities and unique artisanal instances, etc.? And speciation that comes from diversification under stability, and speciation that comes from disruption that shifts value streams...?
4/9/12: And here's a subsequent (and much stronger, so kudos to Nilofer for taking the feedback on her post and using it in a very positive way) post: Stop Talking About Social and Do It, Nilofer Merchant, March 16, 2012. See also: The Elastic Enterprise, Nilofer Merchant, April 9, 2012
4/11/12: Conversations allow that different perspectives can coexist without needing to establish dominance; conversations share ideas and conceptions hoping to increase awareness and understanding. Confrontation and sparring attempts to create a winner; they are colorful, excite loyalties, etc.; they can get messy. It gets tricky when one wants to be colorful and frame an exploration in an interesting and provocative way, but it is taken to be a confrontation and is addressed in escalating colorful terms... Reminding me to be thankful this is a quiet backwaters place! :-) The line between collegial sparring and meanness can be blurry (my take can differ from yours, for example), but when language is demeaning, cruel, obviously intended to slight and give offense, it has crossed the line.
And empathy and resonance is a route to design advantage -- strongly encultured in an organization, I dare say it'd be a source of strategic advantage. Nature is full of these virtuous cycles and the best of co-dependence and co-creation of ecosystem vitality.
Will there be an increasing mobilization against mean? And increasing demand to be able to place trust in organizations and those we delegate societally impactful decisions to, and to have that trust not be betrayed?
Will we want our principles, goodwill, enthusiasm, delight, wonder, joy, ..., and compassion and sorrow at the plights that befall our fellows to distinguish us from machines? Or will machines be able to fake goodness and interest and connection and empathy, doing better than our fellow man who is, after all, intent on the pursuit of his own happiness?
Interesting times we live in! Interesting questions to ponder as it gets... late!
Thought-provoking man, that Matthew Taylor. Passionate, caring, sparkling, witty, insightful, stimulating, informed, curious, and... a superb writer! And hopefully getting to happy!
The demons I battle are mostly of my own making. Like, hello, someone could have mentioned as a quiet aside that the Ulysses and twitter-sirens sketch was inspired! ;-) My worst jokes are a decoy, a distraction from where I'm in earnest. F. Scott Fitzgerald was interested in the pursuit of happiness and all its unhappy consequences, and spent a lifetime exploring this heart of the American dream, this understood right of American people. I think an update is needed! In this connected age, does the thirst for meaning simply grow in the wake of superficial connectedness that leaves only an ache? Is our insular state only thrown in more bold relief by connectedness that is shallow and untethered. Untethered, or unstaked, that is, in mutual concern and shared outcome? Interest that is directed by our interests, our brain's information-acquisitiveness and quest to build itself and its image in the world, not our caring for others?
4/13/12: Uh. Demons. I find myself needing to clarify. I do fully recognize that life serves up deep sadness that is a far cry from the uncertainty and self-doubt that I wrestle. Minor demons of the kind I conjure to wrestle may, I think, even be healthy -- they don't let my ego get fat with complacency and when I get them squared away for a while, I can get on with the stuff of striving.
As for throwing me off Twitter since I can't stick to my To Don't list (on which Twitter appears numerous times ;-) ...
I love Flipboard -- turns Twitter into a personal zine -- and wish it was available on my desktop, too. No. I don't!!! No more Twitter! ;-) Well, just this, then I'm DONE:
Oh and this is awesome:
There is "deconfliction" at the technical level, but a lot surfaces in the political/organizational arena. Which is to say, while deconfliction doesn't mean conflict resolution, it may entail conflict resolution -- it may be the way, or needed, to address the tendency we otherwise have to "torpedo our own ship" with infighting and obstruction of system-level outcomes due to parochial vested interests. So we're not just creating isolation zones to keep areas of the system decoupled and independent, but we're working to create synergy to achieve system outcomes and viability (on deployment, as the business grows/scale demands increase, and as new features are envisaged, tried out and added, etc.).
3/3/12: Daniel Stroe wrote (I'm paraphrasing somewhat) "a good leader has the good sense to know where to draw the line and where to accept sufficiently marginal compromise to move safely through the Scylla and Charybdis dynamics of the organization." Great point, and I love the Scylla and Charybdis reference!
POSIWID? The "Purpose Of a System Is What It Does", Stafford Beer.
Jack Martin Leith pointed to Stafford Beer's Think before you Think: Social Complexity and Knowledge of Knowing. I wish I could get hold of that, but ... not at $140! Jack also pointed to Chronicles of Wizard Prang, which wasn't published and is now available free online -- you can thank Jack for that pointer, and also thank Jack for:
Stuart Boardman echoed Jack's wonderful phrasing (for what we might call the decision timing paradox) as follows:
4/20/12: autotelic: the purpose of the activity is the activity itself.
From: Digital simulations for improving education: learning through artificial, David Gibson
Technology to Excite the Economy!
Here's just a sampling of advances that ought to recharge our punctured optimism (The Optimism Bias notwithstanding):
And still plenty to do:
March 8th is International Women's Day. And March is Women's History Month in the US; the theme this year is Education and Empowerment.
Miss Representation is raising awareness of the misrepresentation of women in media that leads to the under representation of women in positions of power and influence. No-one showed support by retweeting this
so I expect a little more awareness needs to be raised. :-)
Look around at technical conferences and ask if our field is doing ok. Ask this question from two points of view:
Also look at the blogrolls, blog posts and recommended reading of people in our field.
If we raised awareness of the good work women are doing helping to influence how we practice our craft through their writing, conference organizers would be more aware of the women to reach out to.
Some specific examples from conferences this week:
How about QCon in San Francisco? QCon San Francisco 2011 was worse, with 1 women in 108! Less than 1%!?? I must have made a mistake in scanning/counting?? No??
The SEI does better -- SATURN 2012 has 4 women out of 36 author/speakers, or 11%. One of the women counted there has 1 of the 3 hour-long keynote-styled slots so that's nice. And 1 out of the 8 tutorials is by a woman. But wait a minute, 12% is doing well???
Women are sorely underrepresented in technology. When I entered the field, it was almost at parity but the proportion of women in it dropped for two reasons -- fewer women entered, and too many women left mid-career for reasons other than family. But the proportion is, I believe, higher than 15%. Certainly significantly higher than 6% and rather higher than 10%. So what's with less than 1% at QCon? Are we not seeing women as "good enough"? Are we scaring women away? That may sound dramatic, but do gentle people (of both genders, but most visibly women) feel intimidated by the projections of arrogant domineering techchismo posturing we get at some of our tech conferences? And does this become even more intimidating for women given occassions when techchismo gets an overload of the kind of machismo that makes women vulnerable?
Affirmative action is hurtful, because we all want to succeed on our contribution and merit. But I put this question to you -- can we claim this is an even playing field? We don't want affirmative action. But shouldn't we want the disconfirming action to stop?
Shouldn't we be aware of how little we support women as influencers in our field? (In contrast with how much we support, encourage and give visibility to men -- in good part, yes, because men earn it through drawing attention to themselves. But girls/women are socialized not to self-promote assertively, so we need some new strategies to give women earned/deserved attention.)
This isn't just a matter of gender equity. Many women and men don't lead in a dominance hierarchical style but rather lead in a facilitative networked style. If we want more people in positions of influence who are less territorial, more collaborative, more facilitative of the success of other people (such as Agile teams espouse) we should have more of those sorts of people being supported when it comes to visibility and influence. We can start to move toward greater balance in leadership styles if we increase our support for those who lead in less machismo sorts of ways.
"Women's liberation" freed men to more openly display emotions and play more integral roles in their children's lives. Creating situations of greater gender equity creates goodness for men and for women. Getting to a situation where we all pay more respect to women in technology leadership and influence will no doubt enrich our field's perspective and make it more flexible and adaptable.
It is a complex issue -- techchismo is rather strong in our field, and the more we hallow and encourage posturing tech-dominance at the expense of encouraging, rewarding and supporting alternative styles, the more we skew our field. And this begins in school! And it steers many boys as well as way too many girls away from our field. The arrogant too often use derision as a tool to create loft, making those with their own strengths but aware too of their weaknesses, withdraw in advance of humiliation.
I wrote this post in protest yesterday and pulled it because it is hard to talk even-handedly about a situation where you could be called out for acting in self-interest, or for behaviors that are pasted on women unfairly -- like "whining" when a more confrontational stance would be labelled "acting out of moral outrage" and so forth. But given that it is March 8th...
Dominance hierarchy behaviors are encoded in us from our long genetic past and our socialization. To act with enlightenment, we have to -- often with conscious effort -- override and compensate to ensure we act with compassion, understanding and appreciation for diversity of styles and competencies.
4/10/12: Some pointers you may find useful, if you want to raise the proportion of women in senior architect roles, or raise the number of women's voices you hear in positions of influence and judgment:
unless.... it's this Trace!!! So. I added it to my To Don't List. :-)
(3.14: It just won't stay there.)
3/9/12: I know. I know. Listen to the audience. The vote of silence. It's just so hard to write for a formal medium when silence pounds its disapproval.
Of course, I think the silence doesn't know what it is talking about. ;-)
OMGoodness, this -- from Matthew Taylor -- made me laugh out loud (and the timing is perfect):
I think I feel a new term coming on...
CADD -- cyber-attention deficit disorder. ;-)
OH at home: "May I please have my opinion back?" Retort: "No, it's mine now."
It was really funny. I googled to see if it's a meme. 1,800 returns. So I assume it was "not original, but independently derived."
If you do google it though, you'll see that it is the only return on so polite a version.
(That's how fast Google indexes my Trace!)
Image by Sara B.
Liisa Sorsa's visual notes from Don Tapscott's SXSW keynote are wonderful. I especially like Don's "The future is not something to be predicted. It is something to be achieved" and the broken world illustration (right).
Image source: Liisa Sorsa
Liisa's visual summary of Andrew McAfee and Tim O'Reilly's "Create more value than you capture" extends the conversation, making the point: "We have to think about how we're going to be different."
My answer? We can make a good start by simply, concertedly being less self-interested. Less apt to think meanly, to diminish and occlude others. More apt to do something good, happy-making. To put more back into the world than we take out. "To create more value than you capture" but in a sense of wholesome value, not in the sense of profits at the cost of the planet and its inhabitants.
Happy Nerd Day
I'm wearing my π-lingual t-shirt, and you? If you're arguing it's not really π-day, then nerd day is even more you! ;-)
When I drew that "To Do/To Don't" sketch back in 2009, I wasn't referring to Steve Jobs (Say No), Tom Peters (To Don't via Philip Hartman) or Jim Collins (Stop Doing) advice (nor Lane Desborough's). I was referring to the list of things I've learned not to do. Architecture enables and constrains -- and we can enable more, empower more, when we are clear what we are ruling out, what to not do. That is, we need to be clear in architecture what the To Don'ts are. In both senses:
Negative space comes up in various ways -- deciding what we won't do, what we will avoid and what we just aren't detailing for now.
3/20/12: Via Philip Hartman:
Principles are useful to set direction and delineate "there be dragons and we're not going to go there." Speaking of principles, this is a useful post:
See also Principles.
Randall mentioned meta-architecture, positioning it nicely. You might remember Richard Veryard prompted me to explain why meta-architecture is important. (Aside: Those who read here will know that I am to blame for the writing on the Bredemeyer site. :-)
If you're new here, you might like to know about the Visual Thinking and Visual Design section in my journal map -- especially the first post in that section. There's also a collection of links under the topic of "sketching" here. These all complement Randall's post, which does a good job of positioning the "draw people in"-ness of inviting others to mark up key architecture diagrams displayed visibly in the team space. (You no doubt remember the cover image I drew -- quickly in my hotel room -- of a person in the picture drawing people into the shared picture for that "The Art of Drawing People In" presentation. No? Sigh.
quoted in Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, Bill Buxton, 2007
3/15/:12: Uh oh:
Well, I have some sketches for that:
One could well argue that drawing is exactly the tool that is needed -- artists are masters of suspending disbelief. So draw what you see. Draw what's fundamental and unshifting (like your deepest values), draw the possible, and draw ourselves into the changed world. Yeah, yeah, Agassiz was talking about dead fish when he said "Sometimes the pencil is the best eye." No. Damn it! He was talking about learning. About seeing. About observing the relationship between form or structure and function and functioning. And that applies to movement, the dynamics of how things work and how things are changing.
Oh sure, don't draw the micro-details that will take so long that by the time you're done they are obsolete! By the same token, don't inventory the now with pedantic attention to every nut and bolt. Ask the "moment question" -- "What at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing for me to be thinking about?" And ask how best to aid that thinking! Very often drawing it out, getting the ideas that ghost in our mind's eye out into sketches is important. I am a very verbal person. Words are the air I swim most naturally in. (And mixed metaphors are how we build a more complex world. Deal with it.). As poor as I am at sketching (graphic charts a la Grove/David Sibbet, rich pictures, etc.), I have come a long way since I decided to just do it! Mostly the "long way" I've come is simply in being more audacious. And people are kind. So, lean on their kindness -- it's a learning moment for everyone when you do!
I should show you what I mean? Well, here's how I began "mocking up" (this iteration on) my thinking on ecosystem (macro-)dynamics:
What, you can't read it? Want to borrow my glasses? Frown. Yes. Glasses. I thought if I succumbed to wearing them, my writing might be legible. No miracles though. Sigh.
What, too many words? That's cheating? Hey, they're arranged in important spatial relationships. ;-)
Look, if you're interested in what that mess means, you could always, you know, tell me! I respond really well to kind words and requests -- usually they translate into doing something other than what was requested, but I do it with a happy and productive spirit. :-) Well, anyway, what d'ya think? Not about my mess! (My inner critics have that base covered.) About ecosystems!
I mentioned David Sibbet -- he was a pioneer in the field of graphic facilitation and a dominant shaper of my experience. David Sibbet (and his work at Grove), and Dave Gray more recently (with Gamestorming, visual thinking, and connected company), have been wonderful sources of inspiration in the "convening power of visual" space for me. But I have added Liisa and Nora to my "admire" list!
Fallacy of Composition
Some posts on the relationship between strategy and architecture:
I really do need to overhaul the Strategy Primer on the Bredemeyer site -- our approach has evolved considerably since that was written in 2003. You might want to note, though, that already in 2003 we were talking in terms of value networks -- and we explicitly included value propositions to others in the value network, not just customers/users. Our approach to strategy circa 2005 is covered in:
We're generally leading and working with front-runners in a variety of industries, and the "pack" of mainstream practice often follows by several years. Which would make our Fractal and Emergent paper from 2010 very timely right about now. ;-)
See also: Structure Follows Strategy?, Richard Veryard (recapping Patrick Hoverstadt's talk), March 10, 2012
Why do we have a strategy primer and deal with strategy in architecture workshops? To enable the conversation that needs to happen between strategy setters and architects. It doesn't do to expect strategy setters to do all the work in translation from capability to value propositions to strategic opportunity. The bridge between strategy and architecture needs to be built from both sides, but there is a power imbalance which means architects have to work harder to gain a position of mutual influence and partnership.
Since archman is four this month, allow me to explain why I show him such (undue, no doubt) affection. I created archman as the "conceptual architecture guy" who is the hero in the illustrated version of our story. You know, he's just "boxes and lines" and that's easy to draw. Phew. But also -- we draw our complex systems as boxes and lines so that we can see the elements and relationships, see the interactions, see what we are raising above the din of detail to accommodate our bounded ability to hold very much in mind at once. Yes, he's an abstraction. Yes, he's simple and elemental. And yet, for as simple as he is, he can convey surprisingly much -- often more than I intended! Sometimes our hand seems to know something we didn't have in mind -- at least at the level we were aware of.
Archman: he suffers the social situations of the architect and the technical situations of the architecture.
I enthusiastically recommend Grady Booch's Woven on the Loom of Sorrow talk not just for its powerful introduction to the computing story, but because it centers on a topic that concerns us all. Grady masterfully draws across a vast span of history, building a picture of how war stimulates technology advances including the birthing of computing. He also surveys more recent developments in remotely commanded robot warfighters and equipment. What struck me was the point he emphasized several times about war having needs.
Allow me to interject for a moment: This isn't just an anthropomorphism. War takes on form (albeit shape-shifting) with drives and needs -- and, I dare say, identity and its own self-sustaining purpose. War has vast ecosystems that support it, sustained by many entities which have vested interests in keeping the beast of war viable and growing, not because any one person or company or nation arranges this state of affairs. The dark side of our humanity means that even as we work towards and hold out hope for peace, the beast of war, though emergent and intangible, garners our participation in its perpetuation -- adding to its capabilities, breeding its motives and its agents, taxing us to fund this breeding, sacrificing years and even lives of brave people. We're all caught in the catch-22 of our own human make-up. That there is evil and insanity that expresses itself in brutality and oppression and acts of mass aggression to gain dominion, means we need to protect communities and nations, entering an escalation of inventiveness and need for vigilance. And so we have to stake our safety and survival in sustaining the very beast that threatens it. Protecting some at the cost of others. The very striving for a world without evil, gets us to consider how we as individuals and as societies want to be and strive to be so, and this dialectic forges advances in social and industrial underpinnings of advancing modern life.
Returning to Woven on the Loom of Sorrow: Grady ends with a message of hope:
I love Grady's turn of phrase and he has command of such a vast domain of inquiry that he has just the right example, story, allusion, ... He is a great storyteller, but more, he is a great story maker -- weaving a new way of seeing the brink we stand at, showing us his cast of how we got here and what he sees in what is, and what is possible.
3/25/12: Also thought provoking:
3/27/12: This article from the Smithsonian sheds interesting perspective on the state of cyber-security (or the lack thereof):
4/4/12: This is interesting/concerning:
Pointing to Stephen Wolfram's Personal Analytics, Grady Booch asked "How do you measure your life?"
In emails, doh! But in my case, emails in which someone says something nice about my writing. By that measure, my life pretty much sucks. Oops. Apparently I'm using the wrong measure. Daylights! Or, hey, try this -- sunsets. Yesterday evening, we went to the fire tower in the Charles Deam Wilderness to watch the sun set. Pretty cool, huh?
Wait, wait. Actually, laughter. I can measure in laughs. These do it for me every time:
Wanted: Good Homes for Orphaned Architects
I couldn't resist... That refers to point 2 under Techniques on page 3 of the Thoughtworks Radar. I liked the point about getting "closer to the metal" where it matters. We've been advocating system health monitoring (our terminology, but you can map it onto theirs) too. Etc. They've done a nice job... though "adopt" doesn't seem like the right word...
More exploring in rich picture-esque style. Strictly speaking, rich pictures explore a system of systems and this is more exploring an aspect of evolutionary dynamics using the lens of product evolution, and related ecosystem relationship evolution. If this is as clear as alphabet soup, hang on -- the written version is in lumpy liquid jello state, but is setting quickly...
What's the circle with dots thing? No. That's not a chocolate-chip cookie. Garr! That's my representation of a bundle of capabilities. :-) The capabilities are the "strings" like DNA strands (only human engineered so more complexified and stuff). That's behind the face they present to the world, which is ... the chocolate-chip cookie thing. Grin.
And the best part is -- that's not easy to replicate! ;-) Oh wait.
Oh yeah. One more thing. Capability bundles are bundles of capabilities which are themselves bundles of capabilities, with "big new ideas" being more "sophisticated" or "advanced" or "complex" (made up of more interacting stuff, with emergence introducing uncertainty and wickedness -- in the wicked problem sense -- and ... more stuff).
Another thing. Stuart asked me to define emergence. Me? The complexify person. Ok. I complexify to simplicate. But trying to define something is like asking me to dance on the head of a pin. So I said:
I think that does it, don't you? No? I'm stung! Ok. We use emergence in (at least) two ways. What arises from the interaction among the parts (in their context) is attributed to emergence. That is, system capabilities and properties that can't be attributed to, explained by, located within, the parts (individually, or acting independently) are emergent. We can get more the emergent system properties we want by intentional design interventions -- if we understand enough about the "how it works" dynamics of the parts and interactions. But for complex systems, and novel systems, we expect emergence to bring its dragon-load of surprises. Moreover, shift the context, and we entertain more dragons -- unintended consequences, ripple-effects, system failures, ..., novel applications and new kinds of value. We also use emergence when we mean not explicitly intended, so system design might be emergent if we just go about tinkering and improving and building and refactoring and noodling and experimenting our way towards something that has an integrity that we associate with design. If it stays a muddled mess with no integrity of structure, no aesthetic appeal, and no trusted qualities, we can question whether design emerged, or just a mess. And so you see, the problem of definition shifts and lands somewhere else, and that's is why I'm not the right person to ask for a definition! ;-) You may ask me to explore the characteristics and concerns. I'm even good at finding the (an?) underlying structure. But get me to commit to a two liner I can shoot holes in... nah ah!
3/16/12: Peter happened to tweet a pointer to his "interaction costs" post (which points to Hagel and Singer's Unbundling the Corporation paper). Of course the interaction costs angle is important here! And I could easily have missed the tweet -- Twitter seems to have its own sweet wisdom in what it serves up to me from the stream of who I follow. When I'm being an idiot and overlooking something, tell me what I'm overlooking. Leave the idiot part out -- I can handle that perfectly well, thank you. ;-)
3/18/12: Um. I'm illustrating concepts, so cut me some slack, ok?! :-) Here's a nice example of a rich picture. And a neat map of Don Moyer's day. But, um, about those chocolate chip cookies. In retrospect they do rather look like Dave's pods. Those too are bundles of capabilities, just integrated in human form. I was generalizing across different kinds of socio-technical systems -- some mostly technical, others mostly social.
3/20/12: Good tips here, but of course they don't apply to my diagrams. ;-)
3/26/12: Ah ha!
Oh this is going to be addictive"
Image source: How Twitter was born, January 30, 2009 (via Dave Gray)
I think the name was inspired -- given the murmurations of retweets... especially upon outrage... like the "Goldman flap"...
Cognitive Biases and Mitigation
This via Phlippe Kruchten:
According to Philippe, grad student P. Conroy wrote that entry as his thesis "for better exposure." Nice!
Wikipedia, Looka' Wot You Done!
It's been said that wikipedia killed Britannica, but I think it was our love of convenience -- and free -- that did the dead tree form of it in. Of course, Google played its part, putting wikipedia above more authoritative content sources on search returns. But having pretty good answers just clicks away made wikipedia irresistible.
3/26/12: Convenience, though, is the silver lining for Britannica -- the online version is $70/year. At that price, it is affordable to try it out for a year, and see how much use a family makes of it -- when it is click-away convenient!
Rebecca Wirfs-Borck has written two nice (engaging, thought-provoking, useful) blog posts on looking ahead in architecture work:
Here's a wonderful example of looking ahead, architecturally:
Want an example of what happens when you don't look ahead? Here's a fresh one:
Here's a scattering of my 2c:
Looking ahead has to do with going into production ready to meet the challenges of success. Yep, that. Evolving through development and releases without reaching morale and productivity bankruptcy due to overwhelming technical debt. Yep, that. And savvy about how we figure out what we're doing! What we do, very quickly starts to carve out expectations and firm up beliefs -- the system doesn't have to be a mess to be a tar-baby. Which is to say, those close to the system become very attached to it and think the way it is, is the only way it could be. They might envisage a tweak needed here or there, but they're responding to what is, not what is possible. Until a competitor does something that has a more natural fit to purpose and context. So we need to look ahead and around corners and into hearts and minds to find the value sweet spot, and to address challenge and risk, and to enable (truly) agile development. We have to avail ourselves of our imagination, experience and judgment. And that of others. Yes. But just as we need to value co-creating, we need to value the experience and design savvy of the architect.
But also, making decisions creates ground under the feet. Every deferred decision is a decision still to be made -- they stack up, and they take time or they just get made by default (like hip surgery in Dan Ariely's TED talk).
Image by Sara B. (Don't you love her Alice in Wonderland series?)
That does it -- Dave moves to the head of my hero list. ;-)
I've tried to respond, but I can't find the words. What do I say? "Thank you" doesn't come close (though naturally I did DM that)! I admire Dave Gray greatly -- he leads my thinking in visualization (e.g., visual thinking in business and his XPLANE work), in graphic facilitation and model/gamestorming and in organizational design and strategy. So of course his kind words mean a lot! And you lead my thinking in ways I value, and your kind words mean ever so much to me, but think about it -- have you ever used "excellent" in referring to something I did? Right you are then. Oh you! Pearls of wisdom and other such (rare) kindnesses matter a very great deal to me too. ;-)
Well, that made my day. It's all downhill from here. I'll have to go walk off the joy. It won't do to have me be happy, now will it? ;-)
[How do I handle such extreme moments of self-consciousness? Well I (try to) Funny Girl it... For those of you who don't have daughters who are into Broadway and who hence haven't seen Funny Girl lately, that means I attempt to cover up my inadequacies by joking and making fun of myself.]
Gorgeous spring weather here. I hope it holds up for Gerrit Muller and his wife this week!!! Yep, the Gerrit Muller. I get to have two giants of our field in my home this week. Um. Right. I have some spring cleaning to do. Ciao!
3/18: Ok, so these gentlemen are worth following because clearly they... allow their minds to be contaminated with diverse (wink*) perspective... or something like that:
* alert to those whose euphemism-sensors are impaired; grin. They're worth following because they do good work -- wonderful work of their own, and good, network-nurturing work that builds the community. Touching ripples of influence across networks is an aid to Serendipity. Our brains love Serendipity because she feeds us new ideas to weave into the fabric of invention and advance the frontiers of our personal and community understanding. (What? You don't think Serendipity is female? Ha!)
So I have to tell you about Serendipity. Michael Feathers' Working with Legacy Code is stock in trade, and his presentations and blog are full of tips and wisdom, but it's his tweet stream that's fun. When he tweeted "focus focus focus focus" this morning, I was tempted to tweet him a link to the Fish Slapping Dance video. Within moments of that thought, I happened upon John Cleese on Twitter (via Grady Booch). And Boom -- most recent tweet from John Cleese:
What can I say? Introverts are full of surprises... Our brains are just such interesting places! This video (via another must follow fellow), Horizon - Out of Control, is remarkable (a word used quite frequently in the video -- aptly)! The "architecture of your brain starts to change" as you practice a newly learned activity so it can be automated in your unconscious mind to free your conscious mind. Sounds like the ecosystem stuff I've been noodling, huh? You know -- laying down those tracks that allow greater efficacy through bounded flexibility. ;-)
Now consider this. What are we making with all these open brain experiments that hook introverts up thought-to-thought? That's some amazing mind-enhanced-compute thing! A vast multi-headed beast capable of toppling dictators, corporations, bills, ... driving people over the edge, ... Scary powerful stuff! Introversion kept dangerous thoughts pretty well contained -- mostly to books and academic papers or cool stuff like the original Apple and Apple II. Which changed the world, but at a pace we could cope with. This is messing with evolution or genetic engineering beyond the questionable stuff they're doing with seeds...
Oh but hey. Bright shiny new thing over here: This movie is so cool! Gotta see it on a new iPad! ;-) The antidote to the mass epidemic of life-crisis is... internet hugs and optimism. ;-) (Ok, maybe not. But it's a good start!)
3/18/12: Ok, what do I do? Reply to Dave with "That produced a self-consciousness crisis, but thank you. Sincerely!" ?? :-) I know that it is not very demure to retweet kind words. What's a shy Q<= to do in such a situation? Stay tongue-tied? (I'm not shy here? Oh, goodness, few read everything -- or even much -- of what I write here. I weave a dense curtain of words!)
3/20/12: This too, on the 17th:
On Saturday, France started showing up on the "countries" radar on the Trace site stats. That's why! Thanks Christian! [Oh, by the way, for the competitively minded, The Netherlands tops other countries demonstrating marked leadership in architecture. ;-) ]
The "living with legacy code" guy proposing the "big rewrite"? You can hear the gasp! Sounds harsh, but:
Entrenchment -- tight coupling into an old order -- is an inertial force. There's something to that replacement theory. Still, we're more into this:
It's how we do software, and we like... run the world! ;-) Still...:
We could do the piecemeal exploratory growth thing and allow entropy to grow until the devolved structure is no longer able to support the creation of value. Let it die, and start over.
Or we could do the piecemeal exploratory growth thing paying a price in attending to finding, creating and preserving structure. And because entropy grows the moment our attention relaxes, we could re-engineer the system before the entropic state is too high to see further rounds of adaptation...
Either way, when something reshapes the ecosystem, chances are we're too coupled to the past to shift in time. Overthrowing the old. But its capabilities are unbundled and rebundled with other capabilities within other organizations, who evolve... and accommodate... and succumb to the wash of change. (I saw a stat that said the lifespan of companies on the S&P 500 has shrunk from 75 to 15 years, but I was wondering how they count consolidation... Is an acquisition a "death" by engorgement or a rebundling of capabilities into something that's shape-shifted?)
With the force of human will, we resist entropy. Perhaps for some time we succeed. But the structures we try to preserve become ill fit to a changed world, and entropy wins after all. And so it goes. So should we just give up and succumb? Or thrust intentionality and disciplined attention to both the creation and evolution of structure and proactively sensing how forces and opportunities are shaping up?
The more we use human capital, the more we have! We learn, we imagine, we attend, we do more ambitious things. Sure, we mess up. We struggle. We strive. We surprise!
Here's further backdrop to the conversation:
Emergence. Systems. Oh, this video of Peter Senge is wonderful -- (in just 12 minutes) he frames "system thinking" and presents an... alternative to... that mass-life crisis thing:
Yay to "perspective we can leverage."
More Points of Interest (PoI) on the i-way:
3/28/12: In addition to changes in longevity, there are other indicators of volatility driving the need for agility or ability to respond adaptively to change:
3/31/12: There are different kinds of "platform" -- essentially what is common is that there is a leveragable base on which value is built. I call the likes of Facebook a "relationship platform" because what is being leveraged is relationships -- relationships between people is a convergence point for more value to be built. There are other kinds of relationships -- between systems, and systems of systems, and a more generalized notion of "relationship platform." Product platforms also have a leveragable base -- architecture and components or services that are held in common, enabling new product variants tailored to specific use contexts to be created both more efficiently and possibly more effectively (depending on where the freed attention is directed). Anyway, here's an article in the ballpark of platforms:
This is a wonderful article:
It calls to mind this post of mine (sorry, self-reference, but -- like so many of my posts -- is really a celebration of others, and it's important):
If you've been reading along here for a month or more, please skip ahead now. :-) For those who are still here, I really need to tell you (more self-reference, but again, a celebration of another work that is important): I wrote a paper about agile architecting that is along the lines of Maria Konnikova's. It uses a children's story (The Wheel on the School) that is quite the best treatment of self-organizing teaming, organic leadership (that shifts from person to person as different leaders are needed, the role of envisioning and vision, etc., etc.) and more. I've read shelves of books on leadership and change management and agile development and so forth, but The Wheel stands out for me in how much it covers so deftly and magically. Chapter 1-3, for example, is the best treatment of creating a shared vision I have seen! My discussion of the The Wheel and application to agile architecting is here:
In that paper, I audaciously challenged preconceptions and called our bluff for we do tend to lip-sync admiration for the creative curiosity and mindset flexibility of a child, don't we? Lip sync? Well, you know, faking singing to the tune but not actually. ;-) What did I do? I took a children's story and unpolished sketches to senior management and senior architects in an "executive report." Oh, it's not subversive, really! It just leverages a wonderful vehicle to explore a topic we need to look at with fresh perspective. We can't allow convention to be a straightjacket, but it also doesn't do to burn every platform. We feel like we're undergoing major shifts as the relationship/interaction cost structure has changed with our new-found mass-social interconnectedness weaving unlikely people together. So it is important, too, to appreciate the vehicles of socio-technical action that produce innovation. To appreciate with a sense of wonder that is the best of childlike, with a capacity for action and analysis and wise reflection we gain with time. Besides, we keep our minds nimble with sheer simple unadulterated joy!
Now, as wonder and magic goes, I find Dion Hinchcliff's The Architecture of a Social Business engages my sense of wonder and my reason! Well done!
There is a gaping distance between what we value when we say childlike, and childish! It reminds me of this:
Oh noes -- Leo favorited Dave's tweet about my Ecosystems post... Hey Leo, one word: Flipboard. :-) Well, assuming you have an iPhone/iPad, that is... Leo makes a good point, but the folk at Flipboard have grown a very nice value proposition on the opportunity on the table there. Eliminating frustration is as much a breeding ground of new product "mountains" as creating new needs (a la Apple and the iPod and then iPhone and then iPad). Which, of course, underscores Leo's point about the move to mobile for on-the-go consumption. Kind of like Starbucks. Just with endorphins.
Which leads nicely to:
3/28/12: The cloud means having untethered access to one's compute-enhanced world. These
I love the structure Alex distilled, and great examples! I had fun with version of the exercise I concocted from Grady's intriguing title, and highly recommend something along those lines as part of the Context/Landscape Mapping (when we look at trends and forces that are shaping up to be disruptive).
These by Tom Graves are high leverage adds to the architecting mindset and toolkit:
And these tweets, via Tom Graves, are little mini-tutorials:
A pattern for stories (it's Twitter formatted so read bottom-up in each block):
On the dance of telling (hint -- not just figurative, but don't dance too much!):
Storytelling creates a shared simulation of experience in our heads and we've been doing it through the ages. It's like this -- Your Brain on Fiction -- but in real time, largely in synchrony, and with treats going pop in the brain en masse. ;-) Treats? Yes, like conjuring smells that we associate with spring, hence renewal, hence openness. Remember the lilac bush story? I met Carrie Newcomer (the Carrie Newcomer -- hello) the other weekend because Sara did a song-writing workshop with her (I love Bloomington!). And I told her that I tell her lilac bush story in workshops. She wondered what workshops, and I told her software design (that is more immediately grokkable to women who, after all, know what design is, than software architecture). She said they must be fun! I said "indeed!" ;-) Carrie is an amazing lady! She teaches even with the merest handshake -- she held out her hand on introduction, and I went in for that "business lady" shake my work experience has rutted in me, and she just took my hand so gently it was an unapologetic "I'm a woman" kind of touch -- nothing insipid. Just gentle. And I felt foolish for "manning up" my handshake all these years. :-) Carrie ran the workshop at a retirement community center and Sara's writers group was invited along with a Quaker youth group. Sara loved it -- the elderly lady in her working group was so helpful and interested in them and delighted by them, but also brought in wisdom and stories and perspective the girls appreciated and admired. And they ended up with a group song -- some 40 or so (my guess; I came in at the end to pick Sara up and she didn't want the experience to ever end, so we lingered) people across the gender and age spectrum (a good number of boys though I didn't see any adult men) wrote a song together! How cool is that?
A life of math and programming sure messes with one's writing style! ;-)
I've been adding some links to the Versatilist post from last month because they fit that theme. But then it occurred to me that you probably missed this post back when, and you might like to read it:
I was reminded of that post when this little thought sequence popped into my head:
You know the saying "If you don't like the weather in [wherever you are], just wait 5 minutes." I believe Mark Twain said that of New Hampshire -- and I first came upon the quote when I was living in New Hampshire. We used the quote a lot vacationing in Ireland several years ago. Well, anyway, the thought flash was triggered by Nigel Green's (+ Anna Mar) sequence, as I thought two things:
So it might not be a case of "wait 5 minutes" but depending on the flexibility we develop within ourselves, it might well be! ;-) It can be useful to use a personal "radar" (our framework provides a high-level one and that's useful for a quick picture of the team and ourselves) to focus some attention -- to find opportunities to practice and become more sensitized and develop options within ourselves -- centered on our own personal "circle of excellence" (recognizing life is limited, so build on our uniqueness, don't try to become someone else).
IU Ballet and Sleeping Beauty
Watch IU Ballet Theater's production of Sleeping Beauty on livestream tonight at 8pm Eastern Time! (Sara is one of the girls in the Garland Waltz in Act I.) It's a lovely ballet -- we watched last night and were enthralled!
Trust was one of the leap-out lessons for me. When trust is there, the extraordinary can be accomplished. Of course, the pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty would highlight trust!
Trust lets us accomplish something remarkable that is bigger than one person can achieve, because we can do our part trusting others to do theirs. Of course, trust isn't just a matter of technique and expertise, but also a matter of good partnering (keen observation, anticipation, timing, sensibility).
The value we can offer (stand-alone or to get more of the system outcomes we want) is often a matter of removing constraints and obstacles or sources of frustration or concern.
Image: The image is a reference to the book of that name and a riff on its cover image (though my elephant is more mischievous :-). See:
The second bullet -- which says: Minimalist interventions that shift outcomes (through removal of constraints/blockages) -- is a reference/allusion to the work on minimalist intervention by James Wilk, which Jack Martin Leith pointed me too, by way of an interaction with Stuart Boardman.
Another book along the lines of minimalism and gentle action is the book of that title:
David Peat was a friend of David Bohm (quantum physicist, philosophy of mind, neuropsychology). It's all connected, in the systems world.
Want an idea of how connected? How about this:
Again, the image is a riff on the cover image from the book in question, in this case Gentle Action.
I get uncomfortable when someone thinks they have found the one true "secret sauce" for success, or one true explanation, etc. That kind of hubris is blinkered and ignores the rich diversity in this world and beyond. So I'm not going to claim that leadership rather than a consensus-run team of equals is the path to success. Effective leaders do, though, create a path to success. And we shouldn't be overly hasty in dismissing leadership in our zeal for an egalitarian world.
Founder CEOs have a tremendous advantage in both credibility and power. They can get away with leading -- even, at times, autocractically. I love democracy. I am a flatlander and pay no heed to hierarchy. But allowing a leader to lead -- which includes allowing the leader to decide which decisions they will simply make without team deliberation -- allows things to get done! And done right:
It enables consistency and integrity that is harder to achieve with the give and take and tugs and compromises of a consensus process.
Leadership doesn't mean other people don't have important roles, or responsibilities where they get to shine. It just means that someone has overall responsibility for helping everyone get to the place called success.
I've worked with technical leads (or, on large projects, architects) who think that having a lead architect is a great idea so long as they are the leader, but not otherwise. It is the remarkable and mature team that recognizes that they need a leader, even if it is not them. Following well is as important an attribute as leading well.
Ah, leading well. That is a demanding assumption! The leader needs to see clearly. To observe, to set expectations and priorities, to be principled, to know what risks to take. To have a design and structural aesthetic. To be able to align people and their work. To create a context for their best work, to ensure that it comes together into something definitively cohesive, and even amazing. Not to be autocratic, but to be decisive when ground needs to be established to gain traction. Not to depend on authority of position, but to leverage expertise and engagement -- one's own, but even more that of others.
So, how many people are good at leading?
And following well. That is demanding too! It means doing remarkable work, remarkably well. Leading the leader, but moving out of the way when that is what is needed.
Now, how many are good at following well?
In a fractal organization, there are pools or circles of leadership, so a variety of opportunities to become skillful followers who retain all their resources without the clouding of envy. And a variety of opportunities to lead, and become great at that.
A leader doesn't have to be nasty, or a control freak. But a leader does need to have a strong sense of a good right thing to be done in the world, and be able to shape a path to successfully making that real. Not by herself. But to be able to convene action that identifies what needs to be done and achieves the remarkable by drawing out the remarkable in the team and holding them to high expectations of contribution and excellence -- with a willingness to backtrack and do it righter!
To WICSA or Not to WICSA?
If either Dana or I (or both) can get work lined up in Europe on either side of WICSA 2012, we'll teach a tutorial at WICSA in Helsinki. So, go forth and do good and get us brought in to do one of our workshops. ;-) The last time I was in Finland was for ECOOP in 1997. That's way too long ago! Obviously Dana has worked in Finland, but it's high time clients in Europe (beyond some of my favorite clients in Germany and the UK) had the good sense to demand me rather than Dana! ;-) You know, to up the diversity quotient that is so important to perspective and innovation IQ. Or, jests aside, there are various consulting-intensives in workshop format focused on innovation, value engineering and architecture that your team could no doubt benefit from. Or your team could go for getting a preview of the new Architectural Leadership material (the name for the book is still under wraps) in the Role workshop.
Oh, I know. It's in August -- a really bad time for team-focused engagements in Europe, what with family vacations 'n all.
This is an interesting response to Nilofer's provocatively titled HBR blog post:
One might counter Maxwell Wessel along the lines of scale creates "walled gardens" -- that is, within a "walled garden," modularization is more architecturally controlled. Sure, interaction costs are a dimension of concern here, and they are going down -- fast, reducing barriers to entry as well as reducing the advantage of scale. But simplicity takes concerted effort to achieve, and can be an advantage of the "walled garden" approach. Decision complexity is huge. Reducing decision complexity can be a source of advantage. Re-enter branding, but also architecting (the value network and the systems within it) for simplicity not just for interaction.
If I flip Nilofer Merchant's (arguing more the customer engagement/interaction and individualized fit to customer side) and Maxwell Wessel's (arguing more the production side) arguments around, I'd say that the change in interaction cost structure has made it possible for new organizational forms to compete very successfully with traditional forms. So successfully that in industry after industry, incumbents with long histories of dominance are being tossed aside unless they adapt quite extensively to the new dynamics of the ecosystems they're in. I wouldn't be in any hurry, though, to conclude that "800 lb. gorillas" have a necessary date with irrelevance. I'd recommend developing flexibility though -- of course, I'm biased since I teach gorillas and elephants how to dance (and gazelles too). ;-)
We're going through a transformation in "intelligence" of various compute-assisted sorts, from robots in surgery and warehouses, to business intelligence in all its dimensions including competitive intelligence and operational intelligence, with predictive analytics and synthesizing competitive advantage from "big data," and such, and much of this takes big investments in R&D, engineering and applied science to develop and apply. Interaction costs are only a piece of the puzzle. Complexity and uncertainty are still huge factors, and stabilizing ecosystems consumes -- and creates -- resources. In a systems of interacting systems world, finding the powerful leverage points in an ecosystem that send resources flowing your way is the key act of discernment, though acts of organizational will are also required to take advantage thereof.
Instead of "scale advantage no longer applies" one might say scaling agility is the challenge du jour. Scaling intimacy. And scaling smarts through capital intensive compute intelligence that handles complex interworking systems with ever greater reliability and efficiency.
Etc. Just notes to self... I realize this is an area that needs more thought, and I welcome your help nudging this monkey around and getting a clearer grasp of it.
3/29/12: Scaling intimacy is a peppy catch phrase. I like it. Do you intuit another characterization of this Trace coming on? Smile. Actually, what I really wanted to quickly jot was the thought that the lower interaction costs and higher connection bandwidth and intensity in the "connected company" -- with more internal connections and more permeable organizational boundaries -- enables a smarter organism. If emergence is from interactions and intelligence is emergent, connected companies have the potential to be smarter in all kinds of ways. They enable us to "put our heads together" more effectively. We did this with books, being able to asynchronously combine the matter of minds and preserve knowledge across space and time. Connected enables us to do this in real time. And the "cloud" allows us to put mind-matter out there to access across time and space with from-anywhere convenience -- in near real time or across time. It creates extended working memory, and more easily massaged and accessed longer term memory. (The sheer volume and mixed quality of all this "memory" does bring into question how much and what of it will make it into long term memory accessible from the distant future.)
Ok, you got the monkey on this for now. I have to go deal with other monkeys for a spell. Let me know what you do with these monkeys though! We don't want to miss the point of this "we're all smarter in a connected world" opportunity, do we? ;-)
Now this is must-read awesome:
4/3/12: Another thought-provoking article:
Also related to this discussion:
Here's a snippet from oh. 2 in Design in Nature:
That's the physical world, but what about the "socio-technical" world where relationships, information and value may be matters more of perception? Well, in the physical world too, properties may be intangible, emergent and observable only indirectly through positive and negative outcomes or consequences. In both cases, we use drawings to explore and gain understanding of, and to communicate the nature (as built or as intended) of, structure and dynamics and the emergence of properties. A future without models would a future without analytics and reason, without simulation and prediction, without design, without reflection, without -- even! -- analogy!
Can we say EA is "all about human dynamics" or "all about models" or "all about stories" or "all about working across the divides, the interfaces, the boundaries" or any such simplifying characterization? So it's not all about modeling. It nonetheless is, and will continue to be, very much about modeling! Because it is very much about designing (adaptively) and deciding, and having some basis for that.
The question, then, is what models? And the answer to that is "it depends." It depends on the demands of the moment (in that strategic "what at this extraordinary moment is the most important thing to be focusing on" sense*). There are models that are better suited to "the great buzzing confusion" in the "fog of uncertainty" and models that are better suited to to figuring the "load bearing" properties and resilience of a structure or mechanism. And so forth.
* that's a reference to a Bucky Fuller-ism.
Neat Visual Stuff Scooped from the Stream Today
This is an interesting paper:
Process related (Via Ernest Buise)
I was scanning across the July 2010 "issue" of this Trace and the Hard to Catch post caught my eye. Having read that with a sense of recaptured wonder, my eye fell on the next post and a name jumped out given his Twitter and blog activity of late -- Alex Matthews!
This Trace is rather special, isn't it? Don't worry. We'll keep that a secret between us -- I like that this is a quiet backwaters place, and you don't want anyone to know that you have the perversity to read something so enchantingly... unpretentious. Good grief, who else makes an architectural point of the minivans of kayaks? You gotta give the Q<= credit at least for that! ;-)
Well, I'll tell you my goal. I aim to stay well ahead on following (as opposed to followers) -- isn't that the ultimate measure? What? How interested a person is, of course! Garr! Of course it is very easy for me. No-one knows who that curious cartoon with a Q<='s name is, nor what she is doing with a scar on her forehead! What's that about anyway -- some kind of weird Harry Potter thing? Of course, the game is somewhat unfairly stacked. You see, the consequence of my inversion in how I read/use Twitter's supplied sociometer is that a good proportion of my "followers" are simply the "follow back" types who show no necessary interest nor discernment in their following behavior*. You, of course, are in a unique category of open minded, discerning, smart, playful, and curious -- to a fault!
It is a seriously fun challenge though, finding the interesting people through interesting people. Which doesn't mean that I wouldn't find you interesting if I'm not following you -- it's just that no-one has done a good job of drawing my attention to you. So, if they haven't, you should!
I know, I know, one has to suppose it is possible to flood the Serendipity engine, but I figure it is a matter of scooping a jug here and there out of the flow. The richer the sources, the more happy accidents in the attention jug.
* Which is not to say they aren't jolly good chaps, 'n all. Just that they have outsourced the follow choice to those who choose to follow them first -- a sign of good judgment, no doubt, and as valid a basis for a follow algorithm as any one might want to defer to.
It's not The Hunger Games, but... it does have a sordid sort of edge to it all... doesn't it?
(The number of visitors to this site keeps growing, but repeat visitors have held steady while average pages per visitor have dropped somewhat showing that the loyal visitor rate has held pretty steady while new visitors are for the most part just 1-hit bounce-offs. So it appears that the #longread veil of words thing is working well enough. ;-)
3/29/12: Oh. And I thought it was just that I was being unfollowed by those who didn't like how nice I am! ;-) So when is Twitter going to add "unfollowed by" to the "Activity" stream to allow some visibility into who's being chopped by Twitter's bug?
I realize there are those who confuse humility with lack of self confidence and self-esteem. But the arrogant remove from their option-slate the willingness to be wrong that goes hand-in-glove with the willingness to find a better solution -- hence being open to, and leveraging from, other tabled proposals. It is the stuff of an integrative mindset. The misfortune is that arrogant occlusion of others and their points of view can get in the way of seeing and applauding other perspective, and from reaping that opportunity with facility! On the up-side though, one's brain does this combinatorial stuff... given enough showers and long walks... all that being time-out from defending and posturing a tightly held position.
I liked the advice that I believe comes from Bill Buxton that, in addition to presenting your design proposition, etc., you have to point out under what circumstances your design is inferior to other alternatives being considered (or used in the past, etc.). This forces the defender of an idea to both see its strong points and its weaknesses. I call this developing the inner critic.
(My inner critics are perhaps too well developed, but they do generally serve me well -- all weakness in my work that escapes their attentive notice should not be construed as critical duty undone, but rather huge acts of will to allow a different value-set to also have play. The downside to sharp inner critics is that one then relies over much on external applause and our world is so much more set up to criticise and knock down than it is to applaud and build up!)
This is an important podcast -- Avivah Wittenberg-Cox deals with gender balance questions very gracefully.
It is all tricksy stuff -- if we let appetite for confrontation and aggressive posturing be what drives career advancement, we cut off the career options of many women -- and of more gentle, often introverted, men.
We are primates. Hierarchical animals -- but with a capacity for empathy, imagination and values. We can do better than we've been doing. It sure would be nice to see our field doing better! And it means making conscious choices to support those who don't do the chest-thumping thing and who don't subliminally cue dominance through size and voice and assertiveness.
Isn't this is another of those "blame the car for driver error" things?
But it is a wonderful articulation of what a vision should be! Sure, some vision statements are of the colorless "world's best X at lowest cost" sort. But those we are drawn by articulate meaningful value, right a wrong, help us see how to be in ways we can get behind.
We're messy creatures, making a mighty mess of things. And glorious! Making the amazing happen! It seems to me that a vision -- and its statement -- is what we make it. We can make our vision great and compelling in ways that get us to really strive to do something meaningful to change and enrich and add more to this world than we extract from it. And we can use vision statements as one of the tools we use to rouse ourselves and others to that shared cause, the co-creation of value and meaning, and doing something bigger than ourselves.
Definitions! They create the "common ground" of shared understanding and we need to move with firm ground under our feet -- we can't build anything stable and lasting on a sand-dune. So I sure do recognize the need for definitions.
And sometimes common use does so wear out the usefulness of a word that we need a new one. Sure, we do develop organizational antibodies to words that are used to ill-effect... at which point we can white-knight a new word... or white-knight a new (or renewed) understanding of the word.
So make your vision statement a statement of the ambition to do something meaningful and call it whatever gets organizational will galvanized.
Here's a collection from the tweet stream (mostly via David Holzmer):
Self-organizing, self-managing, and adaptive systems:
- To Don't
Scanning Trends and Other
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
Other Software Thought Leaders
- CapGeminini's CTOblog
CTOs and CIOs
- Werner Vogels (Amazon)
- Jonathan Schwartz (Sun)
CEOs (Web 2.0)
- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)
- Wired's monkey_bites
Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch
- Dan Roam
- David Sibbet (The Grove)
Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence
- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos