What will change the world? Welcome to the hive mind of Twitter.

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One of the things I love about Twitter is the way it enables serendipity on a grand scale.  Recently, I can’t remember how, I ran across @blogbrevity (a.k.a Angela Dunn) whose Twitter feed resonated with me and we followed each other.

On June 9th she invited me to join #Ideachat – Twitter Chat & Salon for Twitter Thinkers About “Ideas”. The topic for discussion was “What is the one long-term trend that will change the world?“. As food for thought Angela shared an interview with trend expert and curator Cecile Poignant of TrendTablet.

This topic fascinates me and it aligns nicely with other interests, like Social Innovation Sydney. Also the more that people start to talk and think about things like this then the more likely we are to take action.

The chat was dynamic and thought provoking.  And it got me thinking.

One of the recurring ideas was collective action, and some of the themes are nicely summed up in these tweets:


I started to realise that the big trend is something that enables the self organizing of co-creation. The big trend is the evolution of the hive mind.  It is only with social communication platforms like Twitter that something akin to a hive mind can emerge.

The always on and ambiently connected nature of Twitter is ideal for the emergence of a hive mind.  We begin to shed our privacy and to live within the omnipresent gaze of the group. We are connected into the minutiae of other people’s lives in ways that were not possible before.  We are connected to people in distant places and to the events that occur in their orbit as well as in our own.

Here the very minutiae of chats on Twitter, that so many disparage mindlessly, are important in creating the connections of the hive mind.

Once one becomes accustomed to the continual connection, to knowing the news before it makes the news media, to finding answers to questions faster and better than a search engine, then the connection to the hive mind comes to seem normal.

Then from the connection to the hive mind, one begins to sift out those individuals and groups who hold similar ideas and beliefs.  And from that pool of people the self organization and co-creation can begin.

Some people will try to tell us that feeling weird and strangely out of touch when disconnected from the hive mind is a kind of psychopathology. But they have not yet understood or experienced the new reality of constant ambient connection to the hive mind.

Nor have they seen the results of loose ties in action, network amplification of communication, the reciprocal knowledge engine, and the power of a hive mind working together to co-create change. I suspect that this is just over the horizon.

UPDATE 15 June 2012


Following are a few recent posts that have informed my thinking on this topic:

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Connectedness – it's not just a technology thing, it's a people thing

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For many years now my friends, colleagues and I have been talking and thinking about the hyperconnections made available to us by the growth of the internet, telecommunications devices and networks, and social platforms. For a good background on it check out Mark Pesce and Ross Dawson.

But I think that we have reached a state in our evolution as human where the practices of hyperconnectivity have changed the way we are doing, being, and thinking.

Connectedness is no longer about technology it is about people. Our need for connectedness is beginning to transcend the technology. I believe that, even if the internet disappeared tomorrow, our desire for and expectation of connectedness would continue and that the behaviours engendered by the internet will remain to be expressed.

Ian Shafer summed it up nicely recently:

“I think this whole notion of connectedness is more a state of human evolution than rather a generational thing.”
from: Ian Shafer, in Generation C: A new demographic label for marketers by Kai Ryssdal, 24 Feb 2012

Movements like #Occupy and the Arab Spring around the world show that people connecting is more than just a technology thing, although technology has amplified the ability of people to connect across distance.

Human beings don’t want to just engage and connect with brands, a desire to create a world better suited for the beings that inhabit it (and their progeny) is growing and we see real life communities growing.

A good example of this Social Innovation Sydney. It started online but this community connects in real life meetups and the human network creates connections, relationships, and activities far beyond the initial starting point.

If the internet disappears tomorrow how will you be able to find your tribe?

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Theme for 2012: Compassion, composure, and flow

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Each year, instead of making new year resolutions, I pick a theme for the year. That way when I get sidetracked (as often happens)

I can simply return to the theme. Also with a theme there are often many different things I can do to support it.

This year my theme is: compassion, composure, and flow.

This theme came to me as a I wrote a recent blog post, 2012: Not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it, where I discussed some of things we can do to change the world.

Some of the things that popped out for me were around mindset and lifestyle, and these themes fit nicely into that.

Mindset?

Kindness. Compassion. Love. Community. Dignity. Composure. Peace. Grace. Flow.

Lifestyle?

Find our tribes. Build communities.

Sustainability. Grow a garden.  Simplicity.

Walk with a friend. Slow down. Eat fresh food. Share a meal. Breathe.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year.

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2012: Not the end of the world, but perhaps the end of the world as we know it

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As we come up to the year 2012 many prognosticators are predicting the end of the world. I suspect that this will not come to pass.

But I do think that we are seeing the end of the world as we’ve come to know it during the latter years of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first century. Many of the verities upon which we’ve relied will be falter or disappear.

Doomsayers talk about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012. However, The Guardian kindly reassures us that an “expert” says: Mayan tablet does not predict end of the world in 2012.

No matter what one thinks of these predictions of doom it is clear that we are moving into a new world next year on several fronts, mainly due to the global economic situation.

The economy

The global economy is not looking well – the British, European and US economies are mired in problems that seem insurmountable.  Austerity measures are starting to bite in the UK and Eurozone. We are starting to see the breakdown of normal social bonds. For example, in Greece, there are even stories of parents giving up their children to the state because they can’t feed them: Greek economic crisis turns tragic for children abandoned by their families.

The US is coming up to a Presidential election and the deadlocks between Republicans and Democrats are likely to continue thus blocking any possibility for change. The economic situation in the US does not seem to be improving, in spite of the ‘green shoots’ some speak of.  Instead the charts tell a sobering story (source: Financial Armageddon) for the US:

Australia has been sheltered from all of this by the strength of China, and it remains to be seen if this continues into the coming year.

What can we do?

It seems that there is not a lot we can do as individuals to address these larger global problems.  However, what we can do is adjust our own lifestyle and mindset to better suit these challenging times. Since we are moving into a different kind of world it seems prudent to prepare proactively rather than sit and wait.

We are moving into a world where the rule of law is shifting, where the rights we’ve assumed were ours are being stripped away, where the social contract between the government and the governed is dissolving.

In this kind of environment the only source of solace is individuals who join together to create positive change in the world. We must join together to create a new kind of polity that rejects control and inequity. We must join together to create tribes and communities that embrace peace and reject anger.

Here are some of my thoughts about how we can approach this challenge:

Mindset?

Kindness. Compassion. Love. Community. Dignity. Composure. Peace. Grace. Flow.

Lifestyle?

Find our tribes. Build communities.

Sustainability. Grow a garden.  Simplicity.

Walk with a friend. Slow down. Eat fresh food. Share a meal. Breathe.

Business?

New models. Innovation. Doing good. Creativity. Collaboration. Consensus.

Profit with honour. Nurture people and the environment.

And?

It is good to remember that there is strength in the people when they join together for the common good…

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Interesting new initiative: #Solved by TACSI via @stokely

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Just saw announcement by TACSI that they’ve launched a new campaign. It seems like a really interesting idea, and one that definitely supports social innovation:

Why Solved? Sometimes when tackling social challenges, we focus too much on searching for new ideas or solutions, and overlook things that are already working. Maybe you set up a scheme to help local kids eat a healthy breakfast in Broome, and someone in Newcastle is searching for a way to do just that. By sharing what works on the Solved map, we hope these solutions can help more people across Australia.

Big or small, it doesn’t matter. It can be something done by an organisation, or one person. My dad did a lot of work to help build a Men’s Shed in Sheffield, Tasmania to create a place for men to get together, and overcome loneliness, social isolation and depression. The work my dad did, and the impact it’s having on people in his town, is what inspired me to create Solved.

Solutions to social problems are worth celebrating and worth sharing. It’s a great opportunity for people or organisations doing good stuff to let people know about it – or to give a shoutout to their favourite local solution.

How you can help: The number one thing you can do is to notify your network of social changemakers about Solved, and encourage them to add their solutions to the map. If you’re sending out a newsletter, we would appreciate it if you’d include a brief plug for Solved! The campaign is running until December 16, but the sooner you can let people know, the better.

We would also love it if you would follow Solved on Twitter and Facebook, and help your followers there discover Solved.

You can do this by:

  • Following @SolvedAustralia on Twitter.
  • Retweet the following: RT @SolvedAustralia: #solved is an Australia-wide search for social solutions that work.
  • Seen or done something that’s helping? Tell us about it: solved.org.au
  • Like the Solved in Australia page on Facebook.
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Leadership: Doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching

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I have worked with a number of great leaders and managers over the years, some of them are famous for this but others are quiet achievers. Watching ABC’s Four Corners program about St Ann’s Secret on television tonight made me think about what makes a great leader.

The story of abuse of disabled children by paedophiles in Adelaide was heart-rending, and the failures of leaders in various roles and in various situations often seemed to compound the damage.

It takes leadership to stand up and do what is right. As an one of my managers used to say it’s about “doing the right thing even if nobody is watching”. And he often noted that it is also about being seen to do the right thing at the right time.

Over the years I have also worked with leaders who flirted on the edge of illegality (some of them even went to gaol a few years after we parted company). The organisations that were led by those people all foundered over the years. The story in each case was similar: procedural irregularities, illegality, bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges, many ordinary  workers and investors betrayed.

The common thread was that these leaders encouraged their staff to skirt probity and fiduciary duty. The road to hell is not just paved with good intentions, it is also a long slow and slippery slope. Attention to small things and attitudes to them are paving stones on the road to hell.

And the consequences of those little things do not just fall on a business, or on its investors. The consequences also fall on society at large, upon families, and upon young people.

We see the consequences of this bad behaviour of organisations in the scandals that rock our churches so regularly, in the business failures that damage lives and our economy, and in the world our young people will inherit.

How organisations function comes down to all of the individuals, but it is the leaders who set the tone. And it is the leaders who bear the responsibility for the kinds of behaviour that are seen as acceptable and appropriate.

Leaders need to think about what messages they send about which behaviours and practices are appropriate. It is not merely the explicit messages that signal to people how they should behave. In many cases it is also the behaviour, comportment, and gestures of the leaders that set the tone.

Organisations are organic and their culture is viral. And the strongest form of the virus comes from the leaders. If you’re a leader it’s time to think about the example you set.

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What kind of zombies have we created?

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I was reading Bill Bonner’s recent post Zombies Born of Government Spending where he posits the notion of zombies in our economy. As Bill defines it:

“In economic terms, a zombie is a parasite. He contributes less to the economy than he takes from it. He lives at the expense of others.”

His argument is that social welfare programs as practised by most of the developed world only work during good times. As he argues:

“It’s relatively easy to turn people into zombies. And it’s fairly easy to support them when an economy is healthy and expanding. But when an economy goes into a contraction, you can no longer afford to give the zombies their meat. Then what?”

This is an interesting question. Western societies have created a group of people with few skills and no means by which they might generate value to exchange.  Nor do many in this group appear to have bonds to the society within which they exist and they exhibit few loyalties to ideas or ideals outside of mere existence and consumption.

But the real issue is how we create a new economy, one that is founded on creation of real value and its exchange, and not ephemeral things (like hybrid securities and CDOs). One that sustains and nurtures community rather than destroying it through extreme competition and crazy ideas like the priority of shareholder value above all other things.

This raises some important questions:

  • If the government can no longer sustain them (or us) then what happens?
  • How do we create ways of connecting people with skills to share with those who want to learn?
  • By what mechanism can we develop shared values that support the creation of valuable skills?
  • How do we create communities of people that choose to contribute and collaborate for the common good?

We don’t have to let what’s happening in other places happen here. We have the choice. We can create communities where real value is exchanged between real people. Not what passes for value in the some places – faux celebrity, immediate gratification, and continuous consumption – but sustainable and sustaining value.

There used to exist such things as commons in the past – commonly held land and other resources. But we have few of these remaining to us nowadays.  It might be times to create some new common resources to share in a fair and equitable manner?  We have already seen the rise of new forms of sharing and common ownership through Creative Commons on the internet. It makes me wonder what other things for which this approach will work. I suspect that Mark Pesce’s work on his Plexus innovation is a beginning in this quest.

It is worth considering how we can each begin to nurture collaborative behaviour and thinking in our local spheres to work against the zombie world view.

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Riots, desire, consumerism, community and values.

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Want is a funny word. It can mean different things, such as:

“absence or deficiency of something desirable or requisite” or
“to be lacking or absent, as a part or thing necessary to completeness”, or
“to feel a need or a desire for; wish for”, or
“to wish, need, crave, demand, or desire”
(Source Dictionary.com)

The scenes in the UK of rioters and looting were awful on many levels. But one scene that was repeated that was especially revelatory was the looters trying on goods in the stores before they stole them.

That behaviour spoke to me of want.

In the past, usually riots were because people lacked some necessity – food, freedom, the right to vote. That is, the rioters acted in response to want in the sense of absence or lack of something. This is the kind of rioting we have seen in the middle east in recent times, places like Egypt and Syria.

But in the UK we saw rioters, unfocused on anything except inflicting damage on property and helping themselves to goods for which they had a desire. That is, acting in response to want in the sense of desire for something. And that something wanted was material goods rather than aspiration to freedom or truth.

This is different. It is about people who have learned to desire those things for the acquisition of which they do not have sufficient economic resources. And yet, they do have the means – through a collective act of will – to achieve access to the goods they desire.

The looters have achieved their want, they now have the material goods that they sought. However, in achieving those goods they have destroyed the community facilities upon which they and many others rely. They have reinforced their other-ness. They have achieved a short term goal while simultaneously creating the platform for increased levels of dissatisfaction.

I suspect that material goods will not really fulfil the wants of the rioters and looters in the UK. Their anomie will remain. And they will recall the power of their collective action. They will also recall the powerlessness of the authorities in the face of that collective action.

It might be as Winston Churchill once said (in slightly different circumstances):

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Source: Sir Winston Churchill, speech at Lord Mayor’s Luncheon, Mansion House, London, November 10, 1942

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London riots: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

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It seems strange watching the sad events unfolding in the United Kingdom from such a distance. With the spreading riots, looting, and mob violence it is apt to recall the words of Charles Dickens describing turbulent times past:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

From A Tale of Two Cities

There will be discussion, analysis and commentary dissecting these events for months to come. And that will do nothing to change what has happened: the people injured, the homes burned, the businesses destroyed.

But in turbulent times such as these we can expect some people to behave as if the bonds of community have been severed. We can expect those bereft of hope in material gain in the normal course of things to turn to other ways of acquiring goods that are out their reach.

It makes me wonder what we can do to ensure that people in our local communities do not feel like this. And it makes me wonder how we can recreate the communal bonds that build up a society for the common good.

I also wonder what role government can play in this. Not as a benevolent Santa Claus doling out material benefits, but as a builder and facilitator of a civil and inclusive society in times of economic constraint. And what about the role of government 2.0 in all of this too?

Mostly at this time I hope that people in the UK can stay safe and well; and that actions by people of goodwill can outweigh the actions of the others.

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Staying human

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I’ve had a very lucky life in many ways. But along with that I’ve lost a lot of people in my immediate family over the years – parents, aunts, cousins, grandparents – to untimely death. No great traumas. Traditional family illnesses mainly rather than accidents.

The thing I’ve learned through all of this is that we need to honour those we love and those who loved us by experiencing the pain and sadness.

We live in a time where one need not even suffer the full effects of the common cold. Take a few simple tablets and we can omit many of the nasty symptoms. The same goes for our emotions.

Instead of enduring, of going through the feelings of denial, anger, sadness and pain we can simply pop a pill or two. We can avoid the pain. We can reject the feelings that are natural and human.

But I think that by doing that we reject the love we knew before the loss. By accepting the pain we acknowledge the loss of the one we love. We acknowledge the fundamental nature of being human. We acknowledge that we are each here for a relatively short time. We acknowledge that our loved one existed and that their loss means something.

I take no shame in shedding a tear for those I love who are gone from me. I remember why they were special to me and I to them.

I celebrate their time here and the love we shared. That is all that matters in the end. It is part of staying human.

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