Category Archives: What I think

Keeping out of the gutters

I was struck by a piece by Scott Walker a few weeks ago on the use of the gutter in comic-strips and relating it to transmedia storytelling. I identified with it immediately because I know that the space you leave between the things you articulate are hugely fertile places – our minds are great at filling in the gap between A and B. Storytellers have exploited this by setting the audience up with a series of scenes that lead you to a certain conclusion and then revealing something that was left out that turns the plot around completely. In great detective novels for example the truth becomes clear when we find out exactly what happened between B and C rather than what we’d taken for granted and therefore Y to Z makes perfect sense.

I’ve applied this to Tuttle. When we started I made up some simple boundary conditions that I wanted to hold and I reinforced them over time: minimal structure; no-one grabs attention; regular meetings; as free at the point of access as possible; it isn’t for everyone but it is for anyone, etc. and theen I let you all make up the “rules” or ways to behave that make sense to you. I think this is the best way to make co-creation work.

And with Tuttle it still works: it leads to conversation that draws out and articulates what we can agree on – just such a conversation happened this week about moving Friday mornings to another location, out of which came the insight that maybe Tuttle needs a social space to feel comfortable in. We’ll keep this conversation going. It isn’t finished – that’s because the gutters are fractal – everytime you fill the gap between A and B with X you actually create two new narrower ones A-X and X-B and so we continue on.

So my favourite advice to people thinking about co-creation is “Pay as much attention to the gaps you leave as to the structure you build”

But this brings to light an error in how I’ve unconsciously applied this to everything I do, particularly in the narrative I create about myself when marketing the things I do. I realise that it’s not obvious how Tuttle arose out of my previous work, nor how Tuttle the meetup relates either to Tuttle Consulting nor to Tuttle2Texas – it’s clear perhaps that I’m involved, but how are they Tuttle things – and what’s all this art stuff about?

So there’s more to say on each of those than fits in a Monday morning blogging session. However, I offer the following observations relating to keeping wide gutters between things:

1. Some (maybe lots of) people just give up trying to work it out, it’s too hard – this means they give up on the story altogether.
2. People make up the stuff based on their own experience and that can have positive and negative consequences for someone trying to maintain a narrative.
3. People vary in their ability to give up a bridging idea that they’ve constructed, but most hold on pretty tight.

PS I recognise that I might not have completely recovered from this – ie I’m leaving holes that might be too big for you to traverse right now. Sorry, one blog post at a time :)

PPS there may be some more clues in my soon-to-be-launched newsletter – sign up here

What do we need managers to do better?

IMG_9266I spoke at Social Media for Business ’10 the other week and in the panel session afterwards we were asked what we thought social media in the enterprise meant for leadership and management. Big question. I flannelled off some stuff about leadership through service, that the leader needs to encourage and facilitate what’s already going on rather than decide what needs to happen and then make others do it.

(Oh man, I wish I could take my own advice sometimes…)

It ties in with some of the work that’s been stuck up on the wall at #c4cc for a while – a bunch of statements of value that Frankie noted down when I was speaking about Tuttle2Texas at TEDxTuttle. They summarise the value an organisation might get from interacting with “us” whoever we are – tuttle, tuttle consulting, me & Brian & Heather, just me? That’s all for another post.

But when I’d finished writing them out it seemed to me that there was something else to it. These things are only valuable if you have a particular mindset about the people you work with. So I wrote the following things on the end, intended to summarise our assumptions about the sorts of organisations we can deliver value to. If someone is going to buy from “us” they probably will share these assumptions – that managers or leaders need to:

  • be more comfortable with their own creativity;
  • let go of the myth of control;
  • work more effectively in groups;
  • report on what they’re doing in an engaging way;
  • be more responsive to changes in a market or organisational environment;
  • lead people in audacious acts of innovation;
  • better understand the cultural implications of what they do.

so, each of those probably needs a blog post of their own but I think that if you’re looking for ways to get the people around you to do some of the things on this list and you’re struggling then you should come and have a chat about how we can help.

Some Questions on the Volcanic Ash

“Volcanic ash can be dangerous for aircraft, causing damage, reducing visibility, and potentially clogging engines” and so there are currently no flights over the UK and much of Northern Europe.

At 8.20 tonight the NATS site said ” restrictions will remain in place in UK controlled airspace until 1300 (UK time) tomorrow, Friday 16 April, at the earliest.” and “at 0230 (UK time) tomorrow we will advise the arrangements that will be in place through to 1800 (UK time) tomorrow. However be aware that the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west.”

As I walked through London I overheard conversations between worried tourists and businesspeople, but also jovial banter about people stuck on holiday in the south of France.

First question then is for the vulcanologists and meteorologists:

“How long will the cloud of ash stay over the UK?”

Answer is of course “We don’t know, no really, we don’t” – it depends both on the length of the eruption (it’s still going on) and on the weather conditions.

So it could be over in a few more hours. Or it could go on for months (!) Thor Thordarsson is quoted on BBC news as saying: “If the eruption has a face change and starts to produce lava… then we might be in for a much longer haul, an eruption that might last for months or even years, with a quiet period in between intermittent explosions.”

Prof Bill McGuire, professor at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre is quoted in the same article: “it is worth noting that the last eruption of Eyjafjallajoekull lasted more than 12 months.”

That was 1821-1823 though – no jet engines to damage.

So more questions, this time for economists. In the case where the eruption continues for months:

1. What is the daily economic effect of a total ban on airtravel in the UK? (I normally hate these big numbers bandied around, but if we can do it for snow hitting London, we can make an estimate for this) What are the costs? Missed meetings, people just not being in the right place at the right time, delayed delivery of cargo etc.

2. How about that for those countries that are currently affected by the cloud?

3. How long can airlines stay in business in the face of no air travel? Are we talking days, weeks or months? When might we expect the first call for a government bail-out?

4. Which are more vulnerable to a prolonged ban, airlines or the airports?

5. Which other businesses in the air travel value chain will be seriously affected – who is highly dependent and already economically weak?

6. Who’s going to make a killing, other than Eurostar? or (gulp) the ferries?

Note: these questions are not all mine, they have came up in conversation with fine Tuttle people in the course of this evening.

Cloud Culture: any new threats?

I’m yet to be convinced that the internet can’t look after itself. We may need some forms of organisation to help make sure we’ve thought through the risks and continue to do the next right thing but that organisation isn’t anything that should be modelled on governments or corporations. It needs to be native to the net and it will emerge in the same way that organisations have emerged on the net before. That’s how the net looks after itself, it adapts.

In 1997 or so, I remember talking to my then boss about what an intranet might look like for our team and how it differed from the internet and how it might be useful to us. If you were around in those days, you’ll be familiar with that conversation with someone who kind of got some elements of what the web was about it but wasn’t rooted in the culture like us. It’s pretty much the same one that people have been having about social media for the last few years.

We then drifted onto the idea of .com and what commerical entities on the web (we were part of government and so could sit and theorize about such things) might do with this new thing and how they might behave. I was very bullish about this. I’d just come from the Computing Department of the University of Surrey where I’d been immersed (probably to the detriment of my degree class, but hugely to my personal benefit) in usenet and the nascent web-culture.

I was quite sure that there’d be a fight. A fight between the cold commercial forces of capitalism and the warm, fuzzy, hippy-dippy types committed to openness and co-operation and collaboration for the greater good. And naturally “we” would win.

And how did it turn out? What actually happened? Well I don’t think there was a big battle – both sides lost something, both won something – we all adapted and the web became something that had a more commercial heart, but wasn’t just another channel for business as usual.

Is the web now full of people wanting to make a quick buck, pushing advertisements and 20th Century mass production business models in our faces? Well yes and no. Is the web full of anarcho-hippies, knitting their own yoghurt and urging us all to wear sandals? Well yes and no. Both extremes exist but can be ignored if you wish. Where the really interesting stuff is, is in the middle where social entrepreneurs are creating new value in many forms, giving stuff away, being open about their processes, sharing but still making enough money to enjoy a comfortable standard of living. More than that we’re finding new ways of working together, organising and making stuff happens that benefits us and the whole community.

My personal experience with Tuttle has been that the network is much stronger and more robust than we imagine. Whenever it get’s a push against it, it either repels invaders or morphs into something similar enough to still be Tuttle, but different enough to survive.

So yes, I remain to be convinced that the accelarant properties of the cloud are any more of a risk to the cultural effects that we value than any other infrastructure changes we’ve seen.

Counterpoint will publish Charles Leadbeater’s report Cloud Culture on 8th February with a debate and conversations at the ICA featuring Catherine Fieschi, Charles Leadbeater, Ekow Eshun, Paul Hilder and me. If you haven’t booked a ticket yet, there are still some left here

The Social Artist I

@artbizness has a huge teabagThis came out of a conversation with Mike Radcliffe at the BFI this morning – part of my Human Scale Conversations. There were a few points and it was going to be one mega post, but I think I’ll break it up a bit.

We got talking about being artists (go back and click on that link to Mike’s site if you don’t know his work – go back and preferably buy something from his gallery!) and being blocked and what we need to do to keep relatively sane and solvent and working and happy and stuff and it seemed worth exploring them a bit – especially how they relate to my experience as a nascent Social Artist.

First of all we talked about the need for artists to be with other artists.

Artists need to spend time with other artists.

The rider to this is that we need to spend time with people who are in their flow, who are looking after themselves and doing their work. If we are blocked, it’s these people who will feed us and help us through – it’s far too easy to find other blocked artists to hang out with, who reinforce and rationalise our own blocks – then we just all get depressed together!

And even if we’re not blocked, it’s great to spend time with people who understand the creative process, who get what it’s like so we can all remember that this is normal and it’s the people who don’t do it who are weird…

Signs that you’re with the right people are: they’re encouraging you; you and they are smiling and laughing together, preferably at yourselves rather than others; you’re both talking more about the work that you’re doing now, rather than the work you used to do once or the work you’d really really like to do one day if only someone else would give you a chance.

Signs that you need to find some new friends are: the person talking to you is only talking about reasons why it’s hard; you’re feeling low and so are they; you hear yourself whining; you find yourself thinking about that project, you know the one, and how it’s never, just never going to get done.

So get out, and find some shiny friends instead!

That’s why I keep going back to Tuttle. It’s a place that attracts all sorts of creative people in large numbers. Creativity and different ways of thinking thrive among these people. It’s where I get my fix every week. I know you all think I’m doing it for you, and that’s true, but I’m doing it for me too.

Why I won’t make a Twitter List for Tuttlers

16/10/2009I just got access to Twitter Lists – the feature where you can create and publish lists of people to follow. The obvious thing for me to do is to make a Tuttle list, innit? But I’m not, and I can’t and here’s why:

You’re a member of Tuttle if and when you decide you are, it’s nothing to do with me. Now if you really misbehave and hurt people in the group or something (it’s never happened yet) I might ask you to leave and not come back (it’s never happened yet) but that remains a hypothetical case.

So I don’t know who should be on the list, and I can’t and I shouldn’t – that’s what decentralized power means, it’s none of it up to me, it’s up to you. If I made a list, I can guarantee you two things: 1) I would miss someone out and 2) I’d put someone on there that someone else doesn’t think belongs (say they came only came once and you didn’t see them) and every week I’d have a god-awful job of asking new people if they wanted to go on the list or something. Blaaah. No. Not going to happen.

So now I’m pondering what it means about Twitter (the company) and their attitude to centralisation, personal choice, list-making and popularity contests. But it’s time for bed.

Reading & Writing

25/09/2009I remember reading, somewhere, something like: “As a blogger, if you’re not writing enough, it’s probably because you’re not reading enough” I don’t believe that’s true, I think it probably only applies if you’re the type of blogger who only writes about what other people have written, but somehow it got stuck, wedged into the part of my brain that somehow doesn’t like me sitting and writing and publishing stuff on the web and so it gets in the way every time I go anywhere near the “New Post” button.

The same bit of my brain that lures me into Google Reader and Twitter far too often. “I need to read a little bit more and then I’ll get down to writing.”

No. The only thing that gets me writing (and I love writing, I really enjoy it and I always feel good when I’ve done some) is sitting down and writing. Reading just takes up time, gives me little ideas that get squirrelled away in my head and rattle around like acorns. They rarely get out where they were supposed to go (here, on the blog) and just add to my levels of anxiety, depression and occasional psychotic delusion – which tend, to be honest, to get in the way of writing too.

Gaaah.

Oh that’s better.

Holding uncertainty

030620091518It’s very easy to get paralysed at the moment. Either stuck in the headlights of the juggernaut coming to crush your industry or befuddled by the sheer number of possibilities, choices, opportunities.

One thing I hope that I do for people is to give them some thinking space by saying “Hey yes, it’s all quite uncertain and generally a bit scary, but I’m willing to hold up the ceiling that seems to be crumbling and about to crush you all, while you finish your conversation”. OK so it’s not always that dramatic. You should know by now that I’m prone to melodrama, but you get the idea.

Many people tell me they value Tuttle for that reason, that it gives them time out from worrying about what they’re going to do next, time to think but also time to look around and see what’s really going on.

Someone once told me that when they were recruiting creatives, they knew they’d struck gold when they found someone willing to hold uncertainty for themselves and others.

The consulting work we did together last week (which continues tomorrow) felt a bit like that too. It seems to be something people value and something that people find hard to do for themselves.

So. y’know. yeah.

Perhaps there’s time to learn to walk first

Thank you everyone who commented on the previous post – wow!

This reminds me very much of what happened when I wrote my original Social Media Cafe post – I had an idea, I fleshed it out a little and then people went and took it seriously :) Which of course, in truth, was my intention, but I still cling to a little English self-deprecation and false modesty.

I also feel the need to remind newcomers here, that I consider this blog to simply be my thinking ground, this is where I get to understand what I think and why – that’s why I write. Then it’s great also to hear what others think of what I think, because it helps me clarify that through conversation. You may think me mad or a pointless dilletante. There’ll be reasons for that.

I also want to let you know that I am comfortable holding the apparent paradox that I am both entirely committed to following through on this *and* consider it a thought experiment and social art object.

I had some good chats about this at Tuttle today too, it certainly seems to have caught some people’s imagination. The question now is what to do about it.

I think I need to explain some other things more.

Firstly, let’s be clear, there is no election currently being held that I’m interested in standing at. After I posted yesterday (and doubtless as a direct result) Julie Kirkbride announced that she would not be standing at the next general election, but that could still be quite some time off yet.

I believe that if an election were called tomorrow, and if I could garner enough financial support to cover my deposit and living expenses for the three weeks or so until the vote, I would stand, if only for the experience of doing it – I may start a fighting fund for just this purpose.

However it is unlikely that Gordon will go to the country so soon and so I’m asked what I’ll do in the meantime.

We’ll see. I’m not in a position to put all of my time and energy into building a base in any particular constituency. I am not, today even sure of where I might stand, I need to think about where I really feel I could be of most service.

What is clear to me is that the three themes that I’m interested in exploring are Service, Representation and Governance. What does it mean to serve a community, how can one person best serve several thousand at a national level? Who do MPs represent and how does it really work, how could it work? If they are there to represent the interests of their constituency why do so few people feel represented or feel inspired enough to turn out to vote? And what does governing a country mean? How do you “run” a country? Is there room to start running it in the way that large swathes of the internet are “run” on a far more decentralised and libertarian (with a small ‘l’) basis?

The party question is an interesting one. Many people have said something like “if you want to get elected, why not join a big party, you have much more chance that way” to which my response is that the overall purpose of this is not to win a seat at any cost. But in that case, why would anyone vote for me, don’t we vote for the person we think has a good chance of winning or else for someone who represents a party that we’d like to see forming a government? Well, yes, we do but that doesn’t mean it always has to be like that or that it has to be like that for every constituency. And anyway this sounds like the people who said, “why would anyone want to go to your social media cafe?” which elicited a “well if
you don’t know I can’t tell you” kind of response from me. It turns out

And another thing. What do you do with supporters who aren’t voters? There are some lovely people who’ve said, I can’t vote for you, but I’d love to help in any way I can. What role is there for such folk, especially if a large part of the campaign is online. Perhaps there’s an example in the Obama campaign and what contribution people from overseas made to his success – anyone measure this?

It has shown me how I think differently about the world from other people. I am quite convinced that we do not know what the future holds and that the economic situation is so shocking to many people not because of the severity of its effects but because their illusion that they knew what was coming up over the next year, and that it included their house going up in price, their job paying more and prices remaining pretty stable has been shattered. So I find attractive the idea of coming clean on this and giving up the idea that you’ve got to know everything you’re going to do before you get started.

I was also interested in the fear and smear factor that Terence brought up in the comments. Most of the things he talks about, I’m quite comfortable with. I think the issue is how perfect do we expect our representatives to be. Is government just a game where we put people on a pedestal, cultivate extreme and unrealistic expectations of them and then gloat when they fail, in order to make ourselves feel better about our own falings? Possibly. Is that something we want to spend so much time, money and energy on or is there a better way of doing that? Not me.

I think overall, my point is “Let’s stop talking about what the job is, what it has become, but rather get back to what we want and what sort of people can deliver that”

I was most relieved however that Ewan Spence recognised that I want to find a way of taking this seriously without being too serious and pointed me to the advice of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

To run or not to run

Now this feels weird.

It started with a tweet, like so many things in my life today.

mptweetscreen

And of course a bit of banter arose and a hashtag was suggested #LloydDavis4MP but then I started to talk to other people about it and realised that they were taking the proposition seriously, being encouraging saying things like “Oh yes, I think that would be marvellous” So I’m writing about it here so that I’m quite sure that I’m not being blindly selective and only telling people who I know would be supportive but also to better understand what I might do next.

Because I’m up for it, I think. It fits very well with making social art and building community, which is what I (and others) see myself doing. I’m just not sure how.

I see our current national political system suffering from similar issues to those faced by other large organisations – that large-scale centralised bureaucracies do some things extremely efficiently but mostly at the cost of the people who are supposed to be served by them as well as the people who spend their time trying to run them. I think that working out what it might mean to run this country (or any country) in the next century is something worth putting time and energy into.

The expenses row shows just how vulnerable the system is to abuse of trust. I’m quite sure, from the gobsmacked faces and embarrassed shuffling that most MPs considered they were playing the game as it’s supposed to be played and that from their perspective, the goalposts have been moved. Yes, they knew it was probably wrong, but everyone seemed to be doing it and it’s easy in that situation to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Very easy, that is, if the only people you talk to about it are other people who are engaged in the same activity.

So there’s a choice for those of us who see that change is needed. I could write about this over and over and work out what I think and tell other people what they should do or should believe and engage in endless conversations about policy and designing a better system, or I could say, y’know what, I don’t think it’s possible to stand outside a human system and tinker with it, design a desirable future state and then implement it – that’s the process that got us into this mess and innumerable messes before. I think we have to participate in our democracy in a much more active way.

Which brings me to our current parties. I joined the Labour Party in 1983, soon after the second Thatcher election victory. It felt like a grim time. I was a 1 in 10, a number on a list. The economic base that most people at that time had believed would be with us forever, manufacturing industry, was being swept away, restructured or sold off. I instinctively disliked the hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative style of the Tory party under Thatcher – I preferred the being hard-headed, stubborn, dogmatic and combative in my *own* way, and on the side of people more like my family and friends, so I joined the Labour Party Young Socialists (which for those unacquainted with the history of such things, means what the press at the time dubbed “The Militant Tendency” though that wasn’t what I thought I was getting into at the time). And then throughout the 1980s I took part in political activity that didn’t work. At a local and national level, we lost again and again. I wasn’t forced out of the party over Clause IV or for being a member of a party within a party or anything like that, the reality was that when my son was born in 1991, I had just been made redundant and I needed to spend more time on caring for my own family than fighting for others. I have voted in every election I’ve been entitled to and on each occasion I’ve voted Labour or spoiled the ballot paper where there was no Labour candidate. And perversely I’ve always lived in Conservative constituencies – the only time that the candidate I voted for has won has been in District Council and European elections. But now I’m done with combat and dogma of whatever flavour and you should judge me on what I do and say today, not the things I went through on the way.

And now I feel quite distanced from any of the parties. They don’t seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. They seem to be still trying to play the same game and the game has become more important than the original function.

Those of you who’ve seen me at Tuttle will, I hope, have seen me being of service to the group, to the community. The more that I’ve done that, the more I’ve let go of trying to run it, or make it go in a particular direction, the more successful it has been and the more I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’d like the opportunity to try that out on a grander scale. And representing local people at a national level seems where there’s most improvement to be made.

We’re all quite exercised about how public servants should act with integrity and honesty – my definition of integrity is simple – you do what you say on the tin – you are open and clear about the principles that you apply when making decisions and you do what you said you’d do.

So the idea of standing as an independent candidate is quite appealing, running on a ticket of integrity and true service. And I’m attracted to serving Bromsgrove because I lived there, I know and love the town and because they seem to have had a rough deal with MPs for a while. I’m open though to doing something elsewhere or accepting that I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and should just get on with something else.

And of course, I have some interesting ideas about how my knowledge of the use of the social web could support both a campaign and the day-to-day business of being a sitting MP.

I’m very interested in what others think on this. Are there qualities that you think I’m lacking? Can you see a more suitable way for me to contribute to this issue?