Tag Archives: 2gether08

Less is More, More is Less

John Naish, talking at the opening of 2gether08 used the term infobesity to sum up what he was saying about our addictive need to ‘consume’ more and more information. In the work session I ran, Leon Benjamin described organisational dependency on hierarchy as being as difficult to get rid of as a heroin addiction. We all know at least one person who’s lost to their crackberry (and not because of the tech).

It’s an interesting metaphor – and a difficult one to use as it quickly slips into Salem territory – denial can be seen as proof of guilt. John has some neuroscientific evidence for those who demand to see physical, chemical “causes” of a phenomenon regardless of overwhelming empirical evidence of behaviours. I see people struggling with information and believing that having more will solve the problem even in the face of repeated proof of the contrary – if only we knew more… if we only had more facts… if only we could measure…

So yeah, less is more, more is less – simple wisdom which, like most simple wisdom, may take a lifetime of practice to fully assimilate.

I first saw this as an Information Manager at the Audit Commission. Part of my job was to design systems to put together all of the known facts and data about each council’s social services department in a form that would be useful to our team of people reviewing the council’s performance.

These people doing the reviewing were not statto’s, not analysts, mostly they were social workers who’d risen through the ranks to some prominence and had years of experience of how social services get delivered and managed. Only one or two had any background in a numerical discipline. Most confessed (some proudly) that it was all greek to them. And yet their lust for more and more data, cut this way or that, dressed up in all the finery that Excel can bestow, was literally insatiable. They could not get enough. My team and I could not give them enough. Reviewers still felt uncomfortable about presenting their ideas (remember, based on 20 years of professional practice) in case someone could prove them wrong.

I had to learn the discipline of saying no, of explaining that the “facts” were only signposts and that more signposts might make you feel secure but of themselves they do little to assure you of arrival at your destination.

Photo by TeddyBare on Flickr cc by-nc

Potential

Another day another mind-blowing conference – today it’s 2gether08 which feels a bit like I imagine it is to crawl around inside Steve Moore’s head. Hundreds of gobsmackingly smart folk talking big, talking social, talking good.

I’m thinking again about the potential for action that this sort of event creates. Loads and loads of people, talking big ideas, connecting disparate subjects and disciplines, talking about what they’ve done, what they’re doing, what they’d like to do. Ooooh yes, let’s do that, let’s do this, oh my god, can you imagine if we did that? Let’s talk about it, let’s make it happen.

It’s something that happens every week at the Tuttle Club. People get enthused about an idea or another person or their work and they talk animatedly about what they might do and how they might collaborate. A small number of those collaborations actually have come quickly to fruition. Sometimes this is because they’re at the level of “hey! what if we could mash up flickr and google maps and ‘ta-dah’ – you know” ie it’s not really a new idea, just new to the people involved. Other times it’s more about already busy people having great ideas bu they don’t have time, or money, or time to generate the money to do it.

However, it is a weekly experience for me and I’m getting used to seeing the realisation of awesome potential and the later associated deflation. That’s in a group of 30 or so people. So it’s not surprising that we get it in spades at conferences like today.

So. Much. Potential.

I feel it physically. It’s painful. I think sometimes it’s the thing that winds me up most about events – the raising of potential and the lack of resolution. I know I’m going to feel it again tomorrow. The only answer I have by the way is something Umair Haque said this morning: “Organise something” Y’know like “just do it” but no, really do it.

Irony Alert: this post lacks a real resolution

(and I’m cross-posting to the 2gether blog)