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The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, June 6, 2007day link 

 Natural organization
picture Robert Paterson:
I am on quest - a quest to find the reality of a way of organizing people so that we can become the most that we can be. My ingoing thesis is that humans must have a way of organizing that is natural. After all acorns, whales, stars and winds do.

My bet is that we "forgot" how to do this. Instead we became captured by an idea, a dogma, that we are not human but we are machines.

My method has been to follow the example of science and to observe and look for patterns.
I'm with you on that. Me too.

Robert gave one of my favorite presentations at Reboot. Slides here.

One of the things he talked about was what could be learned from the organization of Roman legions. An organizational structure that worked very well for a great many years.
This core organization is about 5,000 people. It has inside of it, all the capability to do any work.

These core units were part of a larger organization of about 150,000. It had a junior but related organization making up another 150,000. The total network was about 300,000 people. There was a small secretariat that was responsible for the entire larger unit. This secretariat had one major focus, talent spotting and talent building. More on that a bit later.

The design for the core organization took about 400 years to reach peak. It evolved like a fishing boat evolves in a region: as a result of trial and error until the optimal design settled. After reaching optimum, this design remained relatively stable for nearly 400 years. Key elements of the design are still found in organizations that require peak performance today 1,500 years later suggesting that these design principles are natural and not invented.

Unlike our fantasy design today, this was not a CEO or head office dependent organization. It was designed to be brilliant with ordinary people who were put inside an extraordinary design for a society. It was the social design that made it so high performing.

Senior leadership was designed to be transient. The CEO of this 5,000 person core organization changed every 3- 5 years. He had a head office administrative staff of 6. The Staff Executives usually only stayed for 6 months!. The CEO usually had held one of the staff jobs earlier in their career. The CEO relied on 2 senior middle managers at head office for all the important operational decisions that he had to make. They had at least 40 years experience each and would be the best of the best in the larger organization of 150,000. Their posting lasted for one year.

So this was a 5,000 person organization with almost no head office! All the the head office jobs are temporary including the CEO's. No dependency on star CEO's here.
The numbers are important.
The base organizational work unit has 80 people in it. Depending on the task of the time, these were sometimes doubled up into a work group with 160 people. When a big job had to be done, 6 of the base groups would be assembled into a work group of about 480 people. This 480 person grouping was ideal for complex work of all types. Such a group could also be separated from the main body by thousands of miles and by years and still hold its cohesion.
So, apprently the numbers end up forming something similar to a Fibonacci sequence, representing some numbers that just naturally work well, and that add up in a certain way.
This organization is in reality a network of social building blocks of 1 - 2 - 8 - 80 - 160 - 480 - 5,000 - 150,000.

The hubs of this network where all the nodes intersect is in the 80 unit molecule. Every unit of 80 has a Hub Connector. Yes a span of control of 80! This works smoothly and routinely because of the social structure inside the 80 of 1 - 2 - 8. The world of the 8 is the "Trusted Space" that is designed into the organization.

At every level after that a Hub Connector is either in charge or has the major say operationally. The Hub Connector is the link at every point including the larger world of 150,000. The Hub Connector is not tied to the 5,000 person organization but serves inside the entire system.
The point is that there are certain sizes of groups that work better than others. There are limits to how many people one can have a relation to at the same time. Like the 150 of Dunbar's Number. There are other key factors than the numbers, of course. Factors that make people very close, like living in the same tent with the same group for 20 years. And how the leaders are selected.

I wouldn't have thought of Roman legions as being an example of natural organization. But it makes sense that when one evolves organizations that work very well, one is likely to have stumbled upon some principles of nature that just work.
[ / | 2007-06-06 22:55 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, June 4, 2007day link 

 Rebooting the Web 2.0 age

"Everyone that is doing well, and the greatest pattern of Web 2.0, is creating value by sharing control" --Ross Mayfield, SocialText

Nice writeup at BBC about Reboot by Jem Stone, who was one of the participants:
The future of the web is being debated at Reboot 9.0, a leading European grassroots technology and design conference in Copenhagen.

The 500 web developers, entrepreneurs, and designers that have descended on a leafy suburb of the Danish capital have been contributing to a growing trend in technology conferences by effectively collaborating together to produce the conference itself.

Reboot was one of the first events of its type to try and adapt open source software themes such as collaboration and openness to the complex task of organising a conference.

Addressing the young laptop-toting audience Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, the 29-year-old web developer who has been producing the event since it began in 1998, insisted in his opening that "it's not us that makes [Reboot] great, its you".

Now nine years on, a large number of public gatherings of new media developers tend to self organise events in this way, such as Bar Camp and Unconference.

It is what Russell Davies, the London advertising blogger behind June's Interesting07, calls an "enthusiast generated" event.

This year's conference theme is Human? with many speakers grappling with such deep philosophical queries as what it means to be human. One session was called Humanism 101.

Understanding human behaviour and how to adapt those behaviours to technology and the web rather than the reverse is rare for technology devotees...

[ / | 2007-06-04 15:50 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

Sunday, June 3, 2007day link 

How does one best capture what one can take away from a lecture? One can just somehow process it and internally organize it as one hears it, I suppose. Or one can count on being able to watch the video later. Or one can take notes. But how? I unfortunately missed Stowe Boyd's talk on Flow, a new consciousness for a web of traffic, in order to be in a conversation about owning one's learning path. But Lars Plougmann made his notes in the form of a nice mind map, which you can see below. And when Stowe puts up his slides, I guess I can piece the point together. Mind maps is a good way of keeping notes.

[...Later] Video of Stowe's presentation here.
[ / | 2007-06-03 15:35 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, May 28, 2007day link 

 Owning your learning path
picture Picking from some of the interest presentations and discussions coming up at reboot, Ton Zylstra and Elmine Wijnia will focus on tools for owning your learning path.
What does it take to be the owner of your own learning path, so that you can reach your goals?
And if we can say something useful about that learning path, does that give us the means to pro-actively shape the social software tools that give us the affordances we need?
Empowering people to be in control of their own lives is we think the single most important thing to reach for.
With social software tools more people than ever are able to share their thoughts and work, and interact with others.
A lot of that development however is technology driven. It is a side-effect of existing changes.

But now we are at a stage that we can turn that around, and start thinking about social software tools in terms of the affordances empowered indviduals really need.

Learning is a continuous activity and primary source of empowerment. Being able to control your own learning path is therefore an important issue. What does it take to own your learning path? That is what we would like to explore in this conversation.

How to know what to learn?
How to know when to learn it?
How to know how to learn it?
How to know when you've learned it?
How to seek out the 'right' social and physical environment to help and allow you to learn?

Working these questions out in more detail will create, we think, a model that allows us to identify the skills and tools individuals need to own their own learning paths. That in turn allows us to look at the landscape of available tools, and start telling the tool smiths where to go next.
I like that. Are there really any good tools that support learning in life? For that matter, are there any good tools for supporting ongoing progress and development in some area, or in several areas at the same time? There's project management software if you have a specific business project with targets and deadlines. There are systems for staying organized. Many systems for recording stuff, like blogs and wikis. There are ways of scheduling things, like, of course calendars. But learning? There is course software, for presenting lessons and doing tests and that kind of thing. But for learning in life? I can't think of anything, so that's a great thing to work on.
[ / | 2007-05-28 22:15 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 Ambient intimacy
picture Another reboot subject, Ambient intimacy, with Leisa Reichelt:
'Ambient Intimacy' is a term I coined recently to describe an ancient effect which has come to the fore with the use of technologies such as Flickr and Twitter. Evan Williams of Obvious (creators of Twitter) recently used this term at the International Conference of Weblogs & Social Media to explain the value that Twitter offers it's users.

My current definition: "Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight."

Let's review the history of Ambient Intimacy from non-digital forms, through some interesting research on the use of mobile phones by teenagers in Japan to a reflection of how current technologies support ambient intimacy and what this means for us as technology users and designers.
Excellent term. So, yes, Japanese teenage cellphone users, that's a good example. I forgot the numbers, but it is a surprisingly huge amount of SMSes they exchange every day on the average. With a cellphone, you can be in touch with your pals all the time, and you can coordinate all your activities, if you so wish, and keep each other informed. You can move around town, and organize impromptu meetings, and you no longer need so much of a schedule or planned meeting times and places.

I haven't gotten into the twitter thing. For those who don't know, it is essentially that you receive SMSes that tell you little things your friends are doing. What they're eating for lunch, what they're watching on TV, what they're thinking about, or whatever else they'd want to share. I don't know, I think I'd find that a little annoying to receive as SMS. I like the idea that it is visible, though.

Not all types of media are practical for this. Push media like e-mail or SMS or phone calls easily become annoying. I don't want to be contacted and interrupted to be told what somebody's having for breakfast, as I'll probably be asleep. What I wouldn't mind having would be a device that started me off with a global picture of where everybody I know are, and where I very easily could zoom in and see more. So, a global picture first, and then the detail. Doesn't have to start with location. It could be, ok, here's a graphic of what state these 50 people you care about are in. 5 are in meetings, 10 are sleeping, 15 are eating, 10 are commuting, 10 are hidden. And I can then look closer and see what else they're sharing.

Within certain limits, I wouldn't necessarily mind having a webcam on top of my head so I could share what I was doing. I wouldn't leave it on all the time, but a good deal of time, I wouldn't mind. I wouldn't mind a GPS in my pocket that shared my position. Most of the time I wouldn't mind sharing info about what I'm doing. Automated and effortless systems for some of that could replace some of what blogging is about, and also turn it into something else. I probably wouldn't want to share all of it with just anybody, but there will always be people I'd happily let know most of what I do.

Things like that will inevitably happen, as the technologies become available. At the same time we'll need better ways of being selective about what we want and don't want to share, and with who.
[ / | 2007-05-28 22:46 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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