Some thoughts on making change: it starts with us #gathering11

Since I’m in transit to New York to speak at the 140Conference about Twitter, Community & Social Innovation David Hood had planned for me to join in Gathering11 from a distance using the power of technology. However, due to what can only identified as #EPICFAIL on the technology front from both sides of the Pacific, that didn’t happen. In any case here are some of my thoughts on where change really starts.

I’ve been thinking about this topic of envisioning pathways to change and it has really brought home to me the fact that change is personal and particular as well public and general.

The sayings “as above so below” or “as within so without” seem to be good starting point for envisioning pathways to change. As Mahatma Gandhi told us “we must be the change that we seek in the world”.

This is a very confronting message. It faces each of us with admitting the possibility that to make change we need to start with very intimate kind of personal change from within.

It means admitting that we are not perfect. And it means, by corollary that other people are not perfect. It also means that to effect change we might need to start in a small and quite humble way, rather than in a grand and important way.

All great change starts small. And we must not be afraid to look to micro levels to commence a great change journey.

“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”

Lao Tzu

Too often we are intimidated by the scale of the end result that we seek to achieve. And we and are sometimes transfixed by the difficulties. Instead, it is important to break down the elements of the change journey. We need to work out what is the one thing that we can do today to move us towards the desired outcome.

Every great human enterprise commenced with intent and commitment from a small number of people. Every great movement for change in the world started with one step. However, those that achieve their goals do so by constant focus and daily effort.

Just as a seed doesn’t grow into a healthy plant without careful husbandry, so to our dreams for change will not manifest unless we do the work.

“History consists of a series of accumulated imaginative inventions.”
Voltaire

Another thing to consider about change is that one individual alone can rarely achieve it on any scale. To make change we need other people. And it is through the ability to bring other people to our cause that force is given to our intent.

But as we bring other people to our cause they will bring their own perspectives. And these perspectives can change our intent and purpose.

However if we block ourselves off from receiving those different perspectives then it can also stop the flow of people gathering with us to create the change we seek.

This comes back to that notion of personal humility as an important component of envisioning and creating change.

Accumulating the best inputs from all who have joined up and committed to making change is important. And it is important from two perspectives: respect for our fellow travellers, and to improve the content of our ideas and plans for change. Adding other people’s wisdom to our own can help ideas to evolve much faster than we alone.

“A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without the aim, there is no system.”
W.E.Deming

Now let’s turn to the nature of the macro changes we might envision. Each of us is a part of the many systems that we participate in. When envisioning change we need to contemplate the systems that we are participating in and upholding.

We need to go back to first principles and to discern the aims of the change we envision. And it is also importent to understand the means we intend to use to create the change envisioned.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that Aldous Huxley was right: “The end cannot justify the means, for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced.”

Thus it is important to be very clear on both the what and the how of the change process.

Making change in a human being or in a society is not a trivial thing. It should not be undertaken lightly. Change is unpredictable and its results are not always certain. That is why it is so important to begin with us, the individual changemakers, and to form clear intent and be very clear on the means to be used to effect that change.

Also making change happen is a social activity and depends upon other human beings. The ability to create and nurture relationships is critical.

It really does start with us.

Changing the world, ideas, action, rethinking reality & the rabble-rousing ways of @umairh

One of the people who is vocal in his calls for change in how we do things in our westernised societies is Umair Haque. His work is worth reading whether or not you agree with his perspective.

Some of his recent provocative tweets include:

Yes, really. You have the power to change the world. Consumerism, mass-made junk, greed? The fantasies you’re sold–so you never use it.
Source: @umairh

History may have been ruled by crooks and sociopaths. But, thanks to those who came before us, today doesn’t have to be.
Source: @umairh

We can debate endlessly whether every leader in history has been a crook or a sociopath, or not. The bigger point might be…
Source: @umairh

Our forebears fought for generations to give us a gift: to create a future better, wealthier, stronger than theirs.
Source: @umairh

They fought to create things like democracy, markets, justice, opportunity, reason, equality, liberty.
Source: @umairh

I’d say these are among the greatest achievements in human history. The fundamental institutions–the building blocks–of prosperity.
Source: @umairh

Today, we use them to “consume” mocha-venti-lattes, Jersey Shore, and fast fashion. Instead of bettering them–we’re squandering them.
Source: @umairh

I think that Umair is right. If we want to change the world it will be necessary to stop doing some things that we do now, to stop thinking the way we think now, and shift our attention and activity towards different things.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve been focusing on Social Innovation Sydney and our combination of BarCamps and StartupCamps. The plan is turning new ideas into action and creating real life social networks to enable it.

What are you doing to change the world?

It’s not content that matters, it’s the stories

When I checked on a major search engine the other day there were 247,000,000 results for the term “content is king”. Many people have said it to me over the past few years, and I admit to having said it myself on occasion. It seems that Bill Gates was saying it way back in 1996 (thanks to Craig Bailey for tracking it down)

But I’ve been thinking about this saying a bit lately. In particular I’ve been pondering what really matters online. This question arose because I’ve been doing research in recent times and the sheer amount of dross on the internet is truly remarkable.

It is clear that people on the internet are so busy creating, stealing, replicating and sharing content that many of us are too busy to tell stories. This includes those upon whom we have relied to tell our stories as a society, that is, the professional writers who are employed by newspapers and magazines.

Compelling narratives help to bring ideas to life and call us to action. And it is these that we are willing to invest our time and money to hear.

Many of our traditional newspapers are losing the art of sharing those compelling narratives, instead opting for cutting and pasting AP, AAP or Reuters news feeds. Thus they are losing their ability to tell stories in the rush to create content rather than stories.

It means that we end up with sites like Huffington Post that are finely calibrated search engine optimised content repositories. And, while there is a need and place for these kind of online publishers, it also means that we are at risk of losing the stories that do not fit into the immediacy of the search engine optimised advertising revenue generating model.

Once stories in newspapers (in the days when we had newspapers of record) and magazines were subsidised by the so-called ‘rivers of gold’ from advertising. Nothing has appeared to replace those rivers of gold to enable the continued production of stories on the previous scale (as opposed to the growing practice of regurgitating paid news feeds).

If the *business model (and cross-subsidization) that made it possible to create stories is broken then it is up to the amateurs to tell our stories. Bloggers have already begun to fill this gap, and have incurred the wrath of the establishment writers from the mainstream media organisations as a result.

Rearguard sniping and condescension from the ‘professional’ writers towards the ‘amateurs’ is amusing given the likelihood that most writers of stories will be unpaid by organisations in the not to distant future. Instead the few remaining paid jobs will be for analysts to populate the search engine optimised advertising driven sites. And that is only likely until they can find a machine to undertake that somewhat mechanical task.

It’s going to be interesting to see where our stories go in this brave new world.

* The only exception I can see to this is organisations that are either government funded or which have independent funding like The Guardian. The big risk for government funded organisations is that increasing economic constraints are likely to constrain their operations in turn.

Penny Wong reminds me of a cat #meowrow

This made me think of Senators Penny Wong & David Bushby:

During a fiery Senate economics committee hearing this morning, Senator Wong clashed with Coalition senators and at one point, Liberal Senator David Bushby gave an audible “meow” in her direction and accused her of being sensitive.

meowrow-catSenator Wong fired back: “You meow when a woman does that … that’s a good idea. It is just extraordinary.

“The blokes are allowed to yell but if a woman stands her ground, you want to make that kind of comment. It’s sort of schoolyard politics, mate.”

Senator Bushby this afternoon released a statement apologising for his behaviour.