28 January 2011

Thoughts on Innovation

This is the rough draft of a paper on innovation that my friend Linda and I are pretending to write. We feel that the direction is sufficiently indicated to receive our expected rejection based on an abstract of this. I have considered including Tarot or I Ching references just to insure this result, but Linda assures me that such radical action is not necessary and that we will already freak out the readers.
"Your proposal is innovative. Unfortunately, we will not be able to use it because we have never tried something like that before." - Cartoon by A. Bacall

My early forays into consulting were mostly in the area of innovation and I helped create 'innovation' centers and such things at places like BMW. The pharma case obliquely referenced is my own experience. The Toyota dilemma referenced is fairly well known and socialized. Apologies for the roughness of the text. I have not included the referenced model images, but you can simply google those references and get pages and pages of model images... you know... in your free time. "Oh look! It's a systems thinking iceberg model. Shhh... let's watch it and see what it does." I find this is much cheaper than going to the movies. We will likely create a model with a kind of hierarchy of capability building and practice... apparently for our own amusement since this is unlikely to interest any of our intended audiences, I am told. If you are interested in how this develops please let us know.

On the use of pattern interruption and self observation in human systems innovation.

This paper is about a basic disposition for innovation, rather than concerning itself with 'this or that' innovation. We are considering the differences between mechanistic, prescriptive approaches and emergent, intentional approaches to the question of innovation. The basic implication is that innovation, in this emergent, intentional sense, is founded upon an identity shift in the innovators themselves, individually and collectively. This means the innovator experiences a shift in their primary 'way of being' with respect to some condition or system in which they are participating. This shift in 'way of being; provides the basis for a innovative thought and action. In the absence of this, much innovation is more a sort of adaptation where the transformative qualities are limited by the circumstances to which we are adapting. Such adaptation is necessary and useful. It is our aim to begin to distinguish between such associative activities and more generative activities. It is important to us in this to recognize that the popularized distinction between invention and innovation is a useful one; where invention is the discovery of some particular model, idea, apparatus, etc. and innovation is the socialization of that in the context of some practical service or market. This implies that in addition to the fundamental shift necessary in the innovator that all innovation is also a collaborative act.

23 January 2011

The Failure of Microfinance

The failure of microfinance in India has been much in the news of late. I am hoping to do a bit more of a case study consideration of this over time. I really do not understand enough to say much yet, but I am fascinated. I have been immersed in (obsessed with) music over the past several days and my thoughts are even messier than usual. I am just going to associatively skim the surface of this for now.

I am sure most of you know what microfinance is and probably know much more about it than I do, in many cases. For those of who do not, here is a rough picture, distorted by my own prejudices and ignorance.

Dr. Mohamed Yunus was teaching economics at a university in Bangladesh. Every day he would walk home through a village. He began to notice that what was happening in the village did not seem to match what he was teaching at the university. I feel this is important. Many of us might feel or see something about the immediate conflict that arises when 'parts' of our world come together. How do we deal with that moment of arising conflict? Consider your own strategies in the matter. Each moment of our lives is a potential moment of such reflection. Each moment. We have fragmented and continue to fragment ourselves and the world. We treat such fragmentation as our given condition. Initially moments of conflict arise when our strategy of fragmentation fails in some moment. How are we in those moments?

18 January 2011

The Bank

To readers of this who know me, which means both of you, none of the following should come as much of a surprise. I am devolving to the point of telling you what I did today. Perhaps I should switch to tweets? (I painted the flowers on me iPad.)

I went to the bank and I wanted to say a couple of things about what that was like. Perhaps it is important to know that I am a bit over sensitized to such things at the moment. I have a corporate client, who shall remain nameless, for whom I have done a couple of days of work over the past year. They have just instituted an SAP system. Such systems are typically instituted in the name of cost savings and efficiency. It has now taken them over six months to pay me for the work I did. I wrote them a longish case study and deconstruction of my experience with an extrapolation to process safety and corporate culture. I have not received a response. I do not imagine more work forthcoming. When I look at the ROI for the work, I have now invested as much of my time in the process of getting paid as I did in doing the work itself. Of course this has been mirrored in their organization as well. For me it is simply karma for all the suffering I have caused being so dysfunctional about invoicing and paper work in general. Though writing is not modern, paperwork is almost certainly a fairly recent 'innovation' in its current form. Can you even imagine life or who you might be without it? I will not share the case study with you and you can thank me for that later. Instead I will share with you the case of my going to the bank, and you can berate me for that at your leisure.

13 January 2011

Shoes & Non-Action

I am fond of teaching stories from various traditions. I was reminded today of an Islamic story, Sufi I think, in which there is a debate taking place outside of a Mosque. One member of the community has gone into pray laying down his shoes outside. Another has removed his shoes and taken them with him. The debate is about which of these behaviors is correct. The man leaving his shoes contends that it would be an act of violence to assume that someone would steal his shoes. The one taking his shoes with him contends that it would be an act of violence to leave his shoes as a temptation for others. This debate goes on for some time involving various others who have presumably enacted one or the other of the models. After this has been taking place for some time an old man points out that while the debate has been taking place that another, older man, who in fact has no shoes at all has gone to pray and left without any remark or notice.

The first part of the story is self evident to me and a dilemma, upon the horns of which much socio-political philosophy and practice seem to be hung. It is a fundamental difference in the metaphor of the two men. The third point is a bit mysterious and interesting, to me. Perhaps you have your own interpretation? I myself most like an interpretation in which the old man is pointing out that the social debate is about shoe leavers and takers and not about god. It is a moral debate within the context of a social morality. The shoe takers and leavers could be praying, for instance, rather than drawing attention to themselves and their claim about the righteousness of their own behavior. One could also interpret it as a teaching on being possessed by one's possessions, itself a fascinating phenomena to observe.

The social undertaking involves the artifices of duality. I wish to be seen. Perhaps, I wish to be unseen, because it has some other value to me. Maybe I like to be seen in my complaint about being unseen, for instance.

09 January 2011


(The following is a romanticized journal entry. It started as a journal entry and got acquired by the blog, a phenomena of some concern, for me. Of course it changed in the process, but it still retains the flavor of many of my journal entries. Honestly I cannot imagine what it would be like to always suffer this acquisition in the way I imagine a real writer or artist might. I am only a pretend writer and artist at best, the pretense of my artistry being my most artistic endeavor... And you can see how that is. Music has never had this quality for me, which no doubt explains how I have managed to attain such an exquisite degree of mediocrity as a musician. Here is my impersonation of my journal entry. I did the drawing such as it is.

I seem to have misplaced my ground of being this morning. If you see it, perhaps you could feed it and send it home? Such imagined loss is not important in and of itself I suppose, but that sentiment itself is a quality of such a misplacement. I struggle to determine what is important. In that struggle it is likely that I might manufacture some importance or other. Something might even take on the status of a necessity or crisis. Or perhaps I will resort to the habitual. I am not anywhere. I am consensually in some particular place, but I could be anywhere, the distinction between this place and that place becoming arbitrary. This day and the next have some agreed upon name and sequence, but this has no particular meaning to me unless I consider something that I imagine I must do within that arbitrary structure of agreement. Perhaps I consider something or someone that I imagine to be missing and so locate myself. I have some desire by which I see myself. I see myself in the production of my suffering. I understand the apparent luxury of my condition. From that point of view the hermit or sadhu lives the most luxurious of lives. I am incapable of such luxury. I cannot afford such luxury.

05 January 2011

Client Assumptions

This is a list of assumptions I have used when working with clients. I have not updated in a couple of years and have been using it for about ten years. I would probably make some changes at this point and may do that here over time.

Service Models

This is an excerpt from an ill-conceived book I wrote a couple of years ago. I will post it here with some other excerpts (over time) in this ill-conceived attempt at blogging. The following essay only covers part of a spectrum that can be understood with reference to the Meadows' hierarchy of interventions, or the way in which I use Aristotle's causality as the basis for relational domains. I will post on those at a later date so the spectrum, as I imagine it, might be more transparent. I feel the essay is fairly well self contained, though some of my views have developed a bit since I first wrote it.
To operate, the armed forces need allies as consultants and assistants to the leadership.
Everyone looks up to those who are thoughtful and have unusual strategies beyond the ordinary ken, who are widely learned and have broad vision, and who have many skills and great talents. Such people can be made top allies.
Those who are fierce, swift, firm, and sharp are heroes of an age. Such people can be made second-ranked allies.
Those who talk a lot but not always to the point, who are slight in ability, with little that is extraordinary, are people with ordinary capabilities. They can be brought along as the lower class of allies.
(The Way of the General, Zhuge Liang, trans. Thomas Cleary)

The Need for a Mandate
It is important to be clear about what your mandate is as a change agent within the anthroposphere (the domain of human responsibility). You must be clear what you are serving into existence, particularly if you want to work with the leaders and leadership dynamics of these massive transnational corporations and global institutions. Whether such leaders are consciously aware of and taking responsibility for it or not, the decisions they make and the very way they relate to one another and their organizations day-to-day, even in small decisions and comments, have an effect at the planetary level. Imagine you are working with a senior executive team from one of the top ten organizations on the planet. Consider the scale of that. As a whole that organization will have one of the largest economies on the planet. The decisions they make effect the environment, entire societies, the whole network of human beings associated and interdependent with the organism of the corporation as a whole. These decisions are based on their individual and collective way of being in any moment. You will need a mandate of sufficient scale, depth and clarity to interact with this in a meaningful way. This could take many different forms, but it is required.

Consider the following business model for consulting in general. These are simply models and so grossly oversimplified, the reality of practice being somewhat more complex, but I hope they are a useful point of departure. Though we are talking specifically about a service model for work and partnership with leaders and decision makers in large global institutions, many aspects of this inquiry can be meaningfully generalized to other contexts. Imagine two basic types of consulting relationships: the epistemological and the ontological.

02 January 2011

Psychic Overhead

I use a term to describe a particular phenomena of modern life: psychic overhead. Let me give you an example. I walk into the pharmacy intent on purchasing some simple, needed item such as toothpaste. For now we will not go into the psychic overhead of the selection process or the fact that I am in a pharmacy in the first place. I have made my selection. I go to the cash register.

While making my purchase I am asked, "Do you have a 'pharmacy' card? You will save 10% on this purchase and all future purchases".

It is already too late once this has happened. Now I must consider, 'What does that mean to me? What exchange is actually involved?,' and so on. Perhaps you will say that I do not need to consider these things at all. I might suggest watching yourself closely next time some like event occurs in your own life in order to determine that. So I, for my part at least, take some moment of consideration.

The Familiar

"A man of action forced into a state of thought is unhappy until he can get out of it." -Kafka

It is morning, with all its familiarity and all its promise. Upon waking, perhaps I know or begin to know the details of my day even in the first moments of its unfolding. Perhaps I have some planned itinerary. It is a familiar, planned routine. Walking out of my room or house I feel that I know what I will encounter so thoroughly that I eliminate any possibility of encountering the unexpected. Or in the moment of the unexpected I may feel stressed, specifically because things are not going according to my imagined plan. My utility relies on the lack of the unexpected. My ability to function is based upon things going according to plan. Of course things never go according to plan, but I insist. I blur the details of what is such that it fits my plan. I usefully pretend that the sphere and infinitely-sided polygon are isomorphic. I assert this consistently and energetically, a calculus of deletion. I apply such calculated manipulation, anxiety and concern to what occur for me as deviations. They are accounted for even in their hyperbolic change. I suppress the undiscovered. I eliminate the liminal and interstitial. I suppress the possibility of the emergent in myself and seek to do so in what human being and life I may happen to encounter. What is just around that corner I have turned so many times? I already know this so thoroughly that I prevent the possibility of discovery that even one step in any direction allows.
"I had to restrain myself from putting my arm around his shoulders and kissing him on the eyes as a reward for having absolutely no use for me." – Kafka