Whatever Works …

December 30, 2008

Sometimes while reading the newspapers online, I come across an article that makes me laugh!

THE Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached in his bag for a small gift. Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

That is a great case of customer satisfaction and effective stakeholder relationships!  Getting into the mind of the people you are trying to influence, seeing what you have that may be of value to them, and in turn getting what you want in return.  In this case, cash and physical goods would not have sufficed as the warlord may not have wanted it to be known in public that he was “in bed” with Uncle Sam.  Instead, he was more than happy to be not seen to be in bed with his wives!


Humour in the Workplace – Bring it on!!

December 18, 2007

The other day, I went along to a great presentation by Troy and Zara hosted by VPSCIN

It was great to be able to see them as the last couple of times they have presented I have missed out with work commitments (fancy work getting in the way of having a good time).

But there was a lot of interesting comments made by Troy and Zara about the importance of humour including:

  • Humour helps to take the negative emotion out of the problem-solving equation
  • Humour is an attitude, a decision, a mindset
  • Like creativity, humour is the ability to link seemingly unrelated concepts to create something new
  • 90% of our time is spent solving problems and only 10% spent on exploring the opportunities.

I learnt something from a Richard Bach book that there are only two things in life worth doing: having fun and learning.  With humour, you get to do both at the same time which makes it even more important.

Troy and Zara have an alternative acronym for GSOH (Good Sense of Humour) of Good Company, Sense of Perspective, Opportunity and Have Fun.  Sounds like pretty sage advice to me.

From a futures point of view, humour is closely linked to the importance of optimism and hope as positive dimensions of looking forward.  I though that there could be an interesting acronym for HOPE then as Humour (of course), Optimism, Persistence and Enthusiasm.  An alternative could be Humour, Optimism and Postive Energy which I like a bit more.  Many energy vampires out there (see Patrick Lambe’s description of the archetype for more information) tend to be quite draining and often negative. 

Have fun everyone, especially over Christmas if I don’t get to post again in the meantime.


The Condom as a Metaphor for Foresight

November 15, 2007

Last week, I attended the Ausforesight 2007 conference for practitioners up in Sydney.  Great to see a lot of the old and new hands intermixing.  Some wonderful messages and learnings came out which I plan to post about later.

But one interesting snippet came from Marcus Barber (renowned for coming up with some wacky and brilliant ideas).  Who else would title their presentation “From Foresight Foreplay to Corporate Consummation“?  I would!! 

But before their presentation in the workshop prior to theirs that I was co-facilitating, we were wondering what would make a good metaphor for foresight.  Pens, watches, diaries all came to mind initially until the humble condom came into the picture.  What a great metaphor for foresight!!!  Be prepared – as you never know if you might get lucky.  I got excited by that and thought that I would expand on that a bit more (excuse the pun).

Futurists often talk about different types of futures, to which the condom fits like a glove – or well, like a condom.  Possible futures embrace the most alternatives and you certainly might want a condom in a possible future.  One would hope that it is also a plausible future.  The narrow scope of the probable future depends somewhat on one’s sexual pulling power but it is most powerfully in one’s own preferred future that the metaphor of the condom as a symbol of foresight is strongest.

The other aspect of the symbology of the condom is in relation to why people should consider foresight. There are ultimately three levels here to which the condom fits most exquisitely.  Most people initially think about the future where something needs to be prevented or where risks need to be managed carefully.  The condom is a great metaphor here to overcome the fear/risk of STDs or unwanted pregnancy.  The second meta-level is more anticipatory, where the future is more open, challenging and full of opportunity.  Once again, condoms fit here perfectly as they are the symbol of possible opportunities for lustful satisfaction (or not as the case may be).  And finally, the third meta-meta-level is one based on hope and dreams, of imagining a future with deep emotional engagement.  And here as well, the condom comes fully into play as the symbol of love, romance and of course, unparalleled foresight  (thanks Peter Hayward for that contribution of the three levels).

Perhaps then, an  association of futurists (such as the APF) should have a condom as their symbol rather than a compass (direction setting, where are we going).  While the Friends of the Earth have used condoms in some of their campaigns to highlight the need to protect the world from carbon emissions, I think that futurists using condoms (metaphorically of course) as symbols and branding would help highlight the preventative, opportunistic and hopeful nature of our preferred, probable and possible futures. 


R.I.P. Alex – That Damn Bird

October 13, 2007

There was a great article published recently about a parrot called Alex.  No ordinary parrot but one that had been trained over many years to perform complex cognitive functions.  No mere bird-brain either but one that has been compared in complexity to young children and higher-order primates.  But parrots are different to primates- they can actually vocalise their sounds and perform similar cognitive tasks to young children. 

I was absolutely fascinated by this article on Alex.  Some quotes:

What the data suggest to me is that if one starts with a brain of a certain complexity and gives it enough social and ecological support, that brain will develop at least the building blocks of a complex communication system.
[With training,] they are going to produce meaningful, complex communicative combinations.

Why is this interesting?  Well it shows that parrots (or at least this one) can label, can categorise, understand the concept of absence, can count up to 6, and learn up to 100 words.  The techniques that have been used to train Alex and other parrots are now being used to great effect with children with autism. 

This shows that knowledge can come from the most unlikely sources and the benefit of detailed and innovative structured training techniques.  There is more here in a New York Times article that announced his death. 

I especially love the last anecdote in the Edge article.  That others can leapfrog over the level of maturity that you think they are at and yield surprises that are humorous, thought-provoking and motivating. 

RIP Alex.


Happy 1st Birthday Knowledge Futures Blog

August 22, 2007

Well it is one year today (22 August) since I published the first post on the Knowledge Futures blog. 

I had no real plans when I set out to have a set number of posts per week or any other goals.  Simply, I wanted to enter the blogosphere world, test the medium personally, self-publish some little snippets that I thought were interesting, and engage with others in the virtual world.  The kick up the bum to get me started was the KM Australia conference last year when I talked about infoluenza and people wanted to find out more about it (that paper still has not been written and is not going to be for a while yet!).  I’m happy to say that the word infoluenza is now in the web lexicon from which it has gone from zero (only misspellings) to 30 or so sites on a google search where you can find a reference to it. 

For those who are interested, in the past year, there have been 88 blog posts of which about two thirds were in the first six months.  I think I am just a bit busier these days – I certainly feel it! There have been about 10,000 page views.   I’ve had more comments (excluding spam) than posts which I’ll take as a good sign.  My technorati ranking is 15.  And I’m constantly amazed at the search results that people use to track down this site.

Enough of the history – what of the plans for the second year of the knowledgefutures blog.  I’m not sure what is in store. One of my main struggles is the tension that I have in blogging on work-related matters.  As a public servant, I am unable to publish many of the things that I do at work which otherwise go unreported (and there are some really interesting things there!).    There are as far as I know no blogs by public servants in Victoria apart from VPSCIN.

So I have only one goal for the next year and that is there will be at least 100 posts in the next year (that’s two per week and I feel comfortable that this is achievable).

Do any of the readers out there have any other goals that I should strive for?  Happy for them to be stretch goals but I do have other priorities in my life!


Seeing the Bigger Picture

August 7, 2007

I’m putting together a conference for some people and want to demonstrate them the importance of seeing the bigger picture and how we often miss signals that are quite obvious.  Some classic examples include the video of people playing basketball missing the gorilla in their midst and another is that of the wonderful videos at quirkology by Richard Wiseman, especially the colour changing card trick, my favourite.

Now to all those (yes both of you) out there in blogosphere land, are there other cool examples that I could use to demonstrate to these senior people that their own cognitive biases can limit them seeing the bigger picture that prevents them from identifying weak signals of emerging change? 


Flogging the Corporate Blogs

July 17, 2007

Great video produced once again by Dr David Vaine at Apparently KM, hosted over at Green Chameleon. It points out an approach to introduce blogging to within the enterprise so that it does not disrupt employee productivity.  Matt Moore has also made some insightful comments on Vaine’s approach.

The approach of forced blogging (or flogging) is excellent and sure to boost productivity; just as previous flogging measures throughout history have been shown to boost the performance of individual workers while retaining management control. 

I think that the forced nature that Dr Vaine points out is important.  Unrestricted corporate blogging (or clogging) reduces productivity through the posting of information that is not specifically aligned to staff’s tasks or skills sets.  The nature of Vaine’s forced blogging (or flogging) ensures that blog posts are only made where necessary – freeing up staff’s time for the tasks that they have been tasked to complete in the great Taylorist tradition.  In other words, flogging unclogs the work flow of the organisation rather than clogging it up with needless and distracting corporate blogs. 

Of course, flogging is only an interim step on the path to efficient and limited internal collaboration.  The next step is subject blogging which is tailored to predetermined issues to ensure that any comments stay on topic.  Subject blogging, or slogging, is sure to be a “big hit” for many organisations. 

So stop clogging the organisation’s information streams, and get into flogging and slogging.

In the words of Sam Kekovich, “You know it makes sense!”

Satire meter now switching off …

Update (with satire switch on):  Just wanted to clarify a couple of points.  Corporate blogging or clogging, if left unchecked, creates confusion in the minds of workers with too much information distracting them from their real work – it could even lead to infoluenza. Forced corporate blogging or flogging reduces this confusion.  Subject corporate blogging or slogging is a similar approach to flogging that can be used to ensure that organisational engagement with Web 2.0 social computing tools is conducted in a manner that is controlled and managed to ensure that workers remain on track and on task.