12.25.2008

Root Cause

I have no idea why, but I got two books about trees at Christmas. One called “Gastekar och väckefuror”, a title impossible to translate since it refers to old Swedish names for special trees with mythical powers. 120 trees are described, all with a history of its own. They are beautifully illustrated by Nils Forshed.

The second book is written by Johan Tell, and is called “Träd kan rädda världen” (Trees Can Save the World) where the theme is very much the same as in “100 Ways to Save the World”. After reading it, you really feel like planting a tree and build a wooden house. More than half of Sweden is covered by woods. This means that we are dependent on importing food. Food that might grow on land recently converted to farm land from woods. Suddenly my soya beef does not taste so good anymore when I see the pictures of the “green deserts”.

My mother has also written a book about trees. Or rather about the storm Gudrun that in 2005 devastated many of the woods in the southern part of Sweden where my parents live. 300 million trees died during those two stormy days. When I came there a couple of weeks later, it was a very strong experience. Although I was just a visitor, I felt my heart break. Trees are so much more than just trees. They carry hope. Hope for a better future.

One of the pioneers within Appreciative Inquiry is Malcolm J Odell. He has worked all over the world and has developed ways of getting good results without the fancy stuff like flipcharts, videos and computers. When describing how an appreciative approach is different from a problem-based, he often uses a tree as a metaphor. Often we identify something that is wrong. This is the trunk of the tree. Then we go on to find the causes for the problem. They are the roots. We then move to identifying the consequences. These are the branches in the tree top. However, we can do exactly the same but instead of focusing on the problem we can formulate what it is we would like to have or have more of. Instead of looking for causes and consequences for sick-leave, we can look for the reasons why people are healthy at work and see what that can bring to the organisation. If you want to see the difference, divide a large group into two smaller ones and let them each work on one kind of tree. It will become evident to everybody which group will have more fun, come up with more constructive ideas and feel more committed to actually implement them.

Root Cause is a nonprofit organisation in Boston supporting social innovators and educating social impact investors. They work in close collaboration with New Profit, a venture philanthropy fund that provides financial and strategic support to selected social entrepreneurs and their organizations to help them create widespread impact. Their signature partner is the Monitor Group, funded by Michael Porter and they also work together with Robert Kaplan, why, of course, balanced scorecards are used for developing performance indicators.

I visited Root Cause and New Profit in 2007 and were amazed by the way they work and what they have achieved. They have inspired me a lot in my work with Stensund. But I still can’t help thinking about what they might accomplish by selecting another tree to work from. And what Sweden as a country could achieve by focusing more on collaboration than on competition. Trees can save the world.

12.20.2008

Merry Christmas

Last week, my friends in the UK AI Network asked me how come Santa Claus lives in Finland. My prompt response was that Santa lives in Lapland, a region that is shared between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia but that the Finns were much faster in understanding the power of branding. To be politically correct, the name Sápmi should be used instead of Lapland, but the Sámi people have some way to go there in changing that misconception.

However, perhaps it is only natural that Finland is Santa’s home. American scientists have discovered how Santa uses nanotechnology to grow presents under the Christmas tree and how he uses the time-space continuum in a clever way in order to make it around the world in such a short time. Since the Finnish government have spent much money on The Finnish Government Agency for Innovation and Technology, this high level of technology can only be expected. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Santa has a rather strict IPR policy since nothing has been distributed as open source. I’m sure that The Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment would be more than happy to use Santa’s device for keeping track of who’s been naughty or nice.

In contrast, European researchers have recently embarked on a non-technical but still very interesting project. The “Explaining Religion” (EXREL) project “seeks to understand both what is universal and cross-culturally variant in religious traditions as well as the cognitive mechanisms that undergird religious thinking and behavior”. The project is funded by the European Commission and some of the sub-projects seem to be applicable to explain even the strong universal belief in Santa, but also the slight variations such as if he really goes down the chimney: “Religious recurrence and variation”, “Creative thinking and religion” and “The role of systemic reinforcement in religious variation”. However the most promising project is “Simulating future trajectories in the domain of religion” since it will predict to how the Santa faith will develop, something the Finns should be especially interested in from an investment perspective.

The close connection between religion, innovation and regional development has been pointed out by the Swedish author and science journalist Maja Hagerman. This relationship might be hard to exploit by the chairman of the Swedish Humanist Association Christer Sturmark, who himself is an ICT entrepreneur. But you never know.

Merry Christmas, believe it or not!

12.09.2008

Augmented Reality

The book “Not On the Label” by Felicity Lawrence inspired the Swedish journalist Mats-Eric Nilsson to write “Den Hemlige Kocken” (The Secret Chef). He has now released a sequel called “Äkta Vara” (Real Food) and I do recommend reading them both, although in reverse order. Why? Well, one of my chef friends said that he was afraid to read the first book since he suspected he would become heart-broken and not want to cook any longer and I think he’s on the spot right. You need to see that there are good alternatives to factory produced food containing additives with suspect origin and effects.

Regarding the glutamate debate it is quite interesting to see that The Swedish National Food Administration describes it as harmless and natural existing. However, the point that Nilsson makes is that we should be careful eating food that has been produced and processed in such a way that the natural flavor has been lost (if it were ever there).

Augmented reality is part of the ubiquitous computing area, where live real world images are enhanced with graphical computer overlays. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk into a grocery shop and just immediately see what food is good for you since it was highlighted by your glasses? Ideas like these are not far from becoming reality since researchers from all over Europe team up to develop for example mobile augmented reality, such as the IPerG project.

However, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the history of food regarding what might happen when mixing the real and the artificial. Bounce, cohesiveness, denseness, gumminess, heaviness, moisture absorption, mouthcoating and uniformity of chew are all examples of parameters of mouthfeel. This is the way that the food and drink industry tries to capture aspects of what we consume, as a means to replace the real (and expensive) with the artificial (and cheap). One of the fundamental aspects of programming is that it requires everything to be described in detail. But do we want to always have our experience reduced to distinct entities? What about enjoying something in a holistic manner, where the result is something that is more than the sum of its parts? And what about the risk of making people so used to the artificial (has happened with vanilla ice-cream) that they become skeptical to the real thing?

Recently four women founded the company Sjölunda Gård and started to import ecological food to Sweden. They have launched ecological candy having all the bounce, denseness and gumminess you can expect, and it tastes really good as well. In contrast to many of the big brands with names designed to make you associate to small-scale local production (although the food is made in giant factories) there seems to be a real farm. Although the products are imported, the barn is used as office and store-house. I also like the way they make use of Facebook to keep in touch with the growing numbers of customers, and that they have the guts to include a Youtube video from a fan.

12.01.2008

The Colour of Money

In the book “The United States of Europe”, author TR Reid points out that the creation and deployment of the Euro is an astonishing achievement. Although I’m living in a country that does not really embrace this notion (we still have our Swedish “krona”) I must say that I’m impressed too, but also somewhat wondering about what the EU money is spent on.

This is why I was glad to learn about the European Commission’s call on governments to jointly develop a strategy for international cooperation in science and technology. This Communication is one of five policy initiatives planned by the Commission to follow up the 2007 Green Paper "The European Research Area: New Perspectives".

It will also be interesting to follow what the newly established European Institute of Innovation and Technology can achieve. The first areas covered by the institute are likely to include climate change, renewable energies and the next generation of information and communication technologies which is great, especially when combined (although I have already stated what I think of the concept “green IT”). Let’s hope they also keep an open mind regarding how to collaborate with the world outside Europe.

The Swedish government is also concerned about the climate change, and has proposed an increase of the research budget for the next couple of years. They also want the universities to become better at commercialization and provide funding for the development of supporting infrastructure. However, I think there is much more to the collaboration task than commercialization and would have liked a broader discussion on this, especially taking an international perspective.

International commercial collaboration to support the global development has taken an interesting turn with Bono’s initiative (RED). This is a business model created to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund where some of the world's most known brands team up to produce products branded (RED). The colour red was chosen because it is a sign of emergency. Also Danish MYC4 has the colour red in its logo, indicating perhaps the emergency of investing in small African businesses. This interesting opportunity for everyone to become an investment banker was recently recognized by The Times.

Maybe some of the EU and Swedish research funds could be used to investigate how the next generation of ICT could enhance the collaboration between business and non-for-profit organisations?

Now, if you are really interested in the colour of money I recommend taking a look at Colourlovers. Watching the movie with recently deceased Paul Newman might also help. Or the video clip below by Hollywood Beyond.
Tron ej, vad håglösheten viskar till er,
att striden är för hög för er förmåga,
och att den kämpas ut väl er förutan.
Vad mänsklighetens härlige ha sökt
sitt hela sköna, rika liv igenom,
väl är det värt att sökas av oss alla.

Esaias Tegnér, Epilog 1820

11.25.2008

The Persistence of Memory

By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the United Nations’ General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Sophia Ivarsson at the Swedish National Defence College has done research on gender aspects of peace-keeping and rescue missions. Through her studies, she makes it clear why it is important to continue to develop knowledge of the UN Resolution 1325 and how to implement it. Because it matters where you decide to put your rescue camp, since it can provide protection for women fetching water. Because the decision to clear mines in the woods, in the fields or in the pathways may have a profound impact since men often use the trails whereas women collect sticks in the woods in order to cook food. Because employing local women in the rescue work can have a major influence of the development of the area and of female entrepreneurship. Because women taking part in peace-keeping missions can get access to parts of the society that are hard for men to get into.

The Director General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Anders Nordström, comments today in a debate article on the lack of Swedish participation in the campaign “16 days of activism against gender crime”. In case you wonder what this is all about, the United Nations Population Fund lists 16 forms of gender-based violence, and it is present in all regions not only the so called developing countries. For those of you who would like to understand more about how violence against women are used as a clear strategy in armed conflicts I recommend the film Intended Consequences, which is in addition to its important message a very good example of multi-media storytelling.

11.22.2008

Bright Future

The future seems a great deal brighter with Barak Obama as the new president of the United States of America. Apparently even some republicans think so. According to cognitive scientist George Lakoff, Obama seems to have gotten the hang of storytelling and the proper use of metaphors. Apparently, this is something Swedes appreciate since most of them preferred Obama over McCain. He also seems to have understood the use of Web 2.0 technology and how to reach young people.

One of Barak Obama’s celebrity fans, Oprah Winfrey, said that “When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes.” However, there are some people who would like the future to be somewhat darker. National Geographic for example, featuring the article “Our Vanishing Night” in their November issue 2008. Light pollution is becoming a major concern but there are also solutions. The Starry Night Lights website has recognised that dark skies are green and lists lights that are supposed to be less polluting.

Las week I was invited to Infracontrol’s Future Party. After inspiring speeches from CEO Johan Höglund, automotive expert Hans Nyman, and adventuress Renata Chlumska as well as spirit-lifting songs from Göteborg Gospel we all took the elevators to the year 2015 on the sixth floor. There we found demonstrations of Infracontrol’s future products. We could be guided to the nearest free parking space, or have mobile stations warning us about wild animals crossing the roads, or remotely handle incidents in underground stations making trains and escalators stop and start at our will, or get commuter information recommending taking the train instead of the car because of traffic jams.

However, many of their so called future products are already here. One of their current projects is looking into how the lights at Arlanda airport could be adjusted to shine only when needed. This would cut the energy costs a lot, but also contribute to decreasing light pollution.

What I like most about Infracontrol is their dedication to develop technology based on human needs. Although their solutions are very high-tech and complex from a technical perspective, they put usability first whether it concerns systems for energy, traffic, or security management. They also take a sustainability perspective on their technology, wanting to help people and organisations to become more efficient in their use of resources.

I think both Barak Obama and Infracontrol want the future to be both brighter and darker, and that they will achieve this by applying metaphors and technology when appropriate.

The photo is from Lights in Alingsås 2008.

11.16.2008

Small Pleasures

November is the absolutely worst month of the year in Sweden. It’s dark, cold and rainy. In order to fight depression, I try to cherish small pleasures and this weekend I have really revelled in them, involving all five senses. I went to bed Friday evening without setting the alarm, falling asleep under my thick winter duvet after reading a chapter in a clever detective story. When I woke up, I got up to get the newspaper, but went back to bed to read and fall asleep again. Waking up a second time I put my feet on the sheep skin rug and curled my toes. I put on my thick terry cotton robe and made a hearty breakfast with boiled eggs, fresh vegetables, mango juice, yoghurt and tasty raspberry muesli.

I dressed in my bright red and turquoise raincoat bought at Louisiana and my high black rubber boots and walked to the nearby folk high school Wendelsberg to look at the beautiful buildings and listen to lectures, participating in their 100 year celebration. I walked away much more knowledgeable about amusement parks through the public park, watching the last leafs falling down. Then I popped in to our local library and read some magazines sitting in one of their fancy modern chairs looking out on the lazy river. On my way home I bought some fresh flowers from the local florist and one of them was a Protea reminding me of the trip I made in 2003 to South Africa with my Mother.

In the afternoon I had a cup of spicy fair trade chai tea in the handcrafted mug I recently bought in Tällberg. You can see it in the picture on the tea tray I received recently at a workshop in Hudiksvall. Then I went to an aerobics class at Friskis&Svettis enjoying immensely moving to all kinds of music in good company. Back home I took a long warm shower, using rough Brazil nut scrub and then put on lovely-smelling chocolate lotion I bought in Öhr where my grandparents used to live. During the evening I mixed doing ironing with watching a chick flick with a happy ending (of course), before hitting the sack.

Sunday was dedicated to volleyball and I tried to do some pep talk to my arms while ecodriving to Herrljunga. I sang loudly in the car, playing favourites from the 1980ies but also some new music put together for a good cause. It was good fun meeting all friends and holding a small baby again, smelling the soft, warm skin. Back home I put my sore feet in a hot foot bath with bright white salt crystals while draping my wheat warmer on my aching shoulders, getting ready to write this blog post.

Of course I know that I am immensely fortunate having the opportunity to enjoy all these small pleasures. Every single one of them can be regarded as a luxury. I am also aware of that they are all related to what Martin Seligman calls the first level of happiness, not even close to eudaemonia or true meaning. However, when my mood is low they truly help when trying to reach the higher levels, living the “The Good Life” vision of the Västra Götaland Region.

11.12.2008

The Road to Copenhagen

My trip to Copenhagen this August, visiting Resonans and participating in The Solutions Focus training, actually led to another journey. It took me all the way to Motala, "the city at the water". There I spent a great day with the Frisksport leadership teachers where we jointly explored our knowledge of instructional design, presentation techniques and storytelling while staying in Motala Frisksportklubb’s wonderful club house. Thank you for participating in creating a creative learning environment! I especially hope you enjoyed the Kolb Learning Styles video (in Swedish).

In one of the exercises, Carl did a presentation about sustainable development and his own attitude towards this. We all enjoyed his presentation very much, since it was very personal and sincere. I think he will find that there are lots of things going on that will help him in his attempts to become better at sustainability, for example the new newspaper “Climate Smart in Motala” provided by the municipality.

However, the road to Copenhagen can also lead to other places like Brussels, Madrid, Poznan and Bonn. By invitation of the EU Commission Vice President Margot Wallström, Club of Madrid, GLOBE Europe and Respect Table joined forces to create an initiative metaphorically called the Road to Copenhagen. The aim is to make it possible for business and civil society to become involved in forming input to the post 2012 climate change negotiations. Using modern technology like a wiki, avatars and a virtual forum in combination with IRL meetings, this initiative lets us participate as citizens or companies in forming a sustainable future.

So Carl (and others), what are you waiting for!?!

11.03.2008

Appreciating the Creative Tension

When Robert Fritz started his workshop in Stockholm in September, I was filled with anticipation. This was my second encounter with him and his wife Rosalind and much had happened since I first came in contact with his change management ideas. I was very interested in finding out whether his concepts could be used in combination with Appreciative Inquiry.

Immediately I started to look for similarities between the two approaches. Both are constructivistic in character and emphasize the careful use of language. Interviews are used early in the process and visualization is used as a tool for creating images of what is and can be. Storytelling is central, as is retelling others’ stories as a means for extracting the fundamentals. Both take departure in the notion that what you want is often part of current reality, and spend more time talking about possibilities rather than problems. The conceptual frameworks can and have been applied in various settings: for individuals, couples, groups and organizations. The clients are considered to be the experts and the consultant’s role is to support them in coming up with the solutions or decisions themselves. Change and identifying underlying structures are in focus, where both problems and opportunities can be used as points of departure. Similar to many people working with AI, such as Frank Barrett, Robert Fritz make extensive use of music and art in combination with more traditional business development methods.

I see lots of opportunities to combine many of the tools and concepts from the two schools of thought. The Fritz way to do clarification interviews is perfect when trying to extract a client’s real challenge, using it as input in an AI process. Fritz’ creative tension chart is an excellent tool during the Destiny phase, when deciding what to do in more precise terms. Also, Digital Decision-Making can be used when deciding on what steps or design elements are more important than others.

The one really big difference lies in the different approaches towards intellectual property rights. David Cooperrider has always emphasized openness and sharing, resulting in making the AI Commons a globally accessible well of knowledge. Robert Fritz has also published books and videos, and you can find lots of information at his website but he also keeps a much tighter control of his material, for example through certification processes.

This mirrors a more general debate concerning the pros and cons of open innovation and open source. The key question is how to achieve the perfect blend of openness and ownership, in order to make you, your organization and society in general prosper. Do you have the answer?

10.31.2008

A Stolen World

As I write this blog post, my friends Leif and Ingrid are back in Tanzania. I know that they are having a good time, because again they publish their experiences online at www.metafari.blogspot.com. Yesterday morning, they saw a lion just across the lawn from their hut in the Mikumi National Park.

If you travel northwest from Tanga in Tanzania, you will come to Mombo. Go a further 30 kilometres and you will reach the Nanyogie Maasai village. This is where Leif and Ingrid went to talk to the people about life, livestock, warriors, dreams and the rapid development in the world.

From my office window, I can see the big sign on The Museum of World Culture in Göteborg encouraging people to come and look at their new exhibition: A Stolen World – The Paracas Collection. It shows 2,000 years old funeral textiles from Peru that come from looted graves. In the beginning of the 1930ies large quantities of these textiles were illegally transported to museums and private collections all over the world. Sven Karell, the Swedish Consul in Peru at that time, smuggled hundreds of these textiles to Sweden and donated them to the Ethnographic Department of Göteborg Museum.

Besides showing these beautiful pieces of art, the exhibition confronts the visitor with questions regarding what to do with this stolen treasure. How are we to handle what our ancestors did? Does what was done in good faith, make up for the fact that it was illegal? But what about having better opportunities to preserve these important items, helping us understand history and appreciate other civilizations?

The famous Danish design company Stelton recently released what they call their Maasai collection with beautiful mugs and baskets in vivid nuances of red, blue and aubergine. There is no mention of collaboration with the Maasai people. But is this really a case of stolen culture? We are constantly inspired by the things we see around us. Can a community claim their right to some colours, their trademark?

I think we really need to think long and hard about how we handle intellectual property issues and how we pay tribute to the creativity of people, no matter country or century. Don’t you?

10.30.2008

Positive Paranoia

In late August I spent two wonderful days in Copenhagen together with the Resonans crew and their guests from The Solutions Focus: Paul and Janine. Through working with Henrik from Resonans on a project in Sweden I had already experienced the wonders of some of the exercises described in the book “58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training: Improvisation Games and Activities for Workshops, Courses and Team Meetings”. I was so grateful for his gracious yes when I asked if I could come to the session.

During the two days we used tools in various combinations. We did JAM sessions (Just-A-Minute) and addressed coaching conundrums. The Walkabout Marketplace was an enriching encounter where we collectively gathered and shared knowledge on important topics. I liked the whole experience so much that I found myself longing for an opportunity to practice my newly acquired skills, so when Linnea asked me to do a one-day session with the Frisksport leadership teachers, I was more than happy to accept.

One rather fun exercise was a kind of competition where the task was to identify who was who from looking at pictures of people who have contributed a lot to the strength-based, solution-focused, self-organised, positive-oriented and constructivist community. I could barely recognise David Cooperrider and Marcus Buckingham, but my Resonans team partner Mikkel turned out to be well versed in this game and quickly spotted persons like Insoo Kim Berg (Brief Theraphy), Augusto Boal (Forum Theatre), Thiagi (Frame Games), Gregory Bateson (Change Language), Keith Johnstone (Improvising), Steve de Shazer (Brief Therapy), Martin Seligman (Positive Psychology) and Margaret Wheatly (Complexity).

Of course, the list can be made much longer than that. For example, I would like to include images of Anne Radford, the founder of the AI Practitioner and who brought AI to the UK, and Jane Magruder Watkins who was one of the early adopters and who has spread AI around the world through courses, books and projects.

10.26.2008

Ecodriving

In these times of financial crisis and looming recession, maybe ecodriving is a good metaphor for how a country should be managed. We must learn at what speed and gear our national machinery works best, understand how to accelerate and break more gently in order to save energy, choose the right fuel and keep the engine in good shape, design efficient motors and provide clear indicators that will guide us towards our best behaviour. And of course, practice anticipation.

In Tunisia, the small city of Mahres is considered a forerunner in terms of environmental consideration. The water is recycled and the power comes from solar panels. However, none of this is noticed by the tourists passing by. Instead, they probably observe the heaps of garbage lying around everywhere. Despite campaigns in schools and in media, waste management is high on few people’s agenda.

It sure is difficult to figure out how I as a tourist can contribute to sustainable development. Should I buy the wonderful soft leather bags (made in Libya)? Or the mass manufactured pottery and jewellery of unknown origin you see in every tourist shop? Or go on a speedy jeep tour into the vast desert (probably using petrol smuggled from Libya)? Or buy a hand-made woollen rug tied by women earning 2,5€ a day? There is only so much locally produced dates and olives one can eat in a day and I can’t afford the 7.500€ shimmering silk rugs.

Tunisia is one of the countries allowed to participate in the Sida-funded Advanced Training Programme “Putting Ideas to Work – Strategies for Innovation-led Sustainable Growth” organised by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems. With its educational systems and high attendance-rate, the population’s excellent command of French and good grasp of other languages, as well as equal opportunities laws Tunisia stands more than a fair chance of continuing being a stable country and to prosper even more. Looking back, both the Phoenician and Roman versions of Carthage might serve as inspiration (and I don’t believe they sacrificed infants). Especially if introducing incentives for making better use of all the creative power among the large number of highly educated women.

Our bus-driver, Samir, demonstrated excellent eco-driving skills when he transported us to the Sahara and back. Maybe this could be a new line of Tunisian business: ecodriving courses in the desert! And by the way, riding a camel into the desert sunset is quite an experience!

10.05.2008

An Excellent Choice

Life’s full of decisions, some of them more important than others. But what makes a choice excellent?

I think some of the most difficult choices I face are the ones I make as member of funding advisory committees. As member of the Venture Cup West jury, I decide which business plan gets a prize that entails both money and recognition that will help turning the plan into a start-up company. The winner will hopefully inspire others to become entrepreneurs. My job on the funding advisory committee for the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems is to select those research groups that will become VINN Excellence Centers. By long-term funding we hope to create stable environments that will attract even more funding as well as really bright people, and of course develop some really interesting and useful results that will make sure Sweden continues to be a prosperous country. The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research has similar ambitions, where I’m the chairman of the advisory committee for the “Program Intensive Systems” programme.

There are more difficult choices entailed than “just” selecting the winners. These involve the design of the selection process. Who and how many should be on the jury? How often should they meet? What selection criteria should be used and how can these be made simple but not too blunt? How should the rules be communicated? Should resources be spent on educating the applicants in order to raise the quality of the submissions? Should a portfolio model be used in the selection process?

I think perhaps the most important aspect of this kind of work is to ensure there is a continuous learning among all the people involved in the process, so it can be improved each round. This is why it is important to create statistics that show distribution according to for example gender, age, area, organisation and geography in order to reveal any systematic inaccuracies. I also wish that the applications should be published afterwards and workshops be held with discussions on what constitutes a really good submission.

Google has made some tough decisions through its ten years existence. Now they are facing some more difficult choices in their 10100 project. In this competition anyone who has an idea concerning how to improve the world in terms of energy, environment, healthcare, education, communities and families are welcome to submit them at www.project10tothe100.com. The competition is open until October 20 and a team from Google will select a 100 promising ideas. Everybody can then vote. From the 20 most popular projects, an advisory board will select the five projects that will share the 10 million dollars has set aside to implement the ideas.

Those of you who would like to contribute to sustainable development in other ways could look into the company MYC4 who provides micro-credits to entrepreneurs in Africa. A network of local providers screen the people who would like to obtain a loan and local lenders handle the financial transactions. The bidding process is based on a Dutch auction principle, which basically means that the more investors interested in investing, the more favourable the terms the African business will get.

Another way is to donate money to organisations such as Hand-In-Hand who educates women in India, South Africa and Afghanistan on how to read, write, run a business and act as micro credit banks. Then they themselves make the tough decisions on who’s going to get a loan to expand their business.

Maybe I should benchmark against these organisations regarding how to design efficient selection processes?

9.27.2008

Flash Fiction

There are stories that are even shorter than short stories. Apparently they are called “flash fiction”. The probably most famous, appreciated and moving flash fiction story is the one by Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Apparently, less is more. I had a stab at it when I was in Tanzania last year:
Jumping at me
Immediately when I opened my bag while unpacking after the visit to the Maasai village, a spider jumped at me. It didn’t succeed in leaving the large bag, so I picked up the blouse it was sitting on. The spider was very black against the white blouse. I opened the door and carried the spider and the blouse out to the nearest large flower pot. There I tried to get rid of the spider. I shook the blouse thoroughly, but it didn’t want to let go. Suddenly, it jumped to the palm tree in the pot and crawled quickly up the stem. I was a little stunned by the sudden movement, and I almost started to feel abandoned.



A totally different kind of spider is The Swedish Program for Information and Communication Technology in Developing Regions (SPIDER). Their mission is is to assist developing countries with promotion and deployment of ICTs for combating the digital divide and reducing poverty, in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals. I was visiting their office in Kista last week, and it was very interesting!

9.14.2008

September Renewal

It was so good to see so many familiar faces at the September Renewal Residential at Bore Place! And to make some new friends as well! As always Anne Radford and Jane Magruder Watkins did a splendid job carefully guiding us towards new insights into how renew relationships with clients and how to sustain and renew ourselves. Being in such a great place with wonderful food helped a lot.

I tried to gather some of the superb phrases that emerged during these days:
  • Love and blood.
  • We must put down our swords and start walking and talking together.
  • The data is in the system.
  • Dropping the pebble in the pool.
  • It’s all about people.
  • How it felt is not the same as the impact it had.
  • Feedback will tell you more about the person delivering it than about your performance.
  • What we fear the most is our own power and strength.
  • Hold your nerve!
  • Past Over and Pissed Off (POPO).
  • Humor me!
  • The 4D-model is really Kurt Lewin’s action research model.
  • Make use of what is in front of you.
  • Wisdom is acting with knowledge while simultaneously questioning yourself.
  • Sapien circles.
  • Open to awe.
  • Stealth AI.
  • What’s the most useful question I can ask you right now?
  • Smellavision.
  • Leadership is a function, not a position.
  • Prototyping.
  • Even better.
During one of our sessions, Mark Lough wrote a beautiful poem called "Still Water":

Still water
Moving with force
Quietly

Dropping its power
Thundering into
Stillness

Cleansing
Reforming
Bringing about
New integrity

For those of you who couldn’t participate this time, I recommend having a look at the pictures.

9.06.2008

Absorptive Capacity

I have noticed a rise in awareness of the ecological trend in the Swedish media. You might even speak of a development of Ecomedia (not to be confused with the EU ICT project, nor the Austrian blog, nor the Canadian media company, nor the book by Sean Cubitt) far away from the traditional look and feel in this segment. First there was Camino, a magazine made in Göteborg focusing on sustainable consumption. Next came EcoQueen, who’s attitude towards ecological aspects could at best be described as more playful. Even Vecko-Revyn is publishing a piece on ecological dresses from several Swedish fashion companies. However, they focus more on H&M than thoroughly ecological clothing company DEMCollective (also based in Göteborg) who act as true societal entrepreneurs using their company to impact the clothing industry.

Of course, if you are really into ecology, there are many more magazines you can browse through such as WWF and National Geographic or even our Frisksport Journal (as seen in the picture).

But keeping up with the trend is not always that easy. I remember participating in a workshop last year at the “The Power of Positive Change” conference in Orlando. The workshop was organised by the design company Ideo and our task was to design some kind of device or process to help an employee at Al Gore’s TV company Current to become more sustainable in his daily life. We were introduced to this “extreme user” though a film showing us a typical day in his life. However, I suspect that unfortunately he wasn’t that extreme at all. He drove to the office, although he lived just a few kilometres away. Breakfast was bought at a coffee shop and taken to the office. His dustbin was filled with paper mugs. And so on. I do hope Ideo told him about all the clever ideas we developed during the workshop.

Paper media of course has an advantage when it comes to absorption (yes, I know that’s not what’s meant by absorptive capacity but I couldn’t resist the pun). This, however, has not deterred the Swedish e-newspaper project DigiNews. But what is really the most ecological way to consume news? Any comments on that?

8.31.2008

Last Day of Summer

Yesterday evening was magical. After days of rain pouring down, the weather turned sunny and warm. The wind was completely still and the audience silent. There were two events at Gunnebo that night. First, Music on Water with lots of melodies from the musical stage, then Acid Jazz with Cantaloop. All with the castle as a backdrop, cleverly lit by Torbjörn Eliasson who’s been very much involved in Lights in Alingsås.

I have a kind of tradition of making a list of the nice things I did during summer and putting it on my fridge. That way the feeling of summer stays with me longer. Since I will be travelling a lot, I thought I’d write the list here instead. Perhaps another category of blogging metaphors to add to blog by Liz Strauss’s list!

Perhaps the summer started with a visit to Stensund in the beginning of June. The view from castle is stunning, where you can stand and watch the blue sea forever. Traditional Midsummer festivities were next on the agenda, with lots of nice excursions in the vicinity of Ulricehamn. Kayaking off the coast of Orust was quite an adventure, but I managed to stay dry. During summer, I visited three of the four gardens participating in the Gardens of Göteborg programme: Gunnebo, The Botanical Garden and Trädgårdsföreningen. This year the annual Frisksport camp was in Hestra and I went to the top of Isaberg with my brother-in-law. I spent lots of time at my parents’ place in Upplid, and one day my Mother and I went hiking at Stora Mosse.

Next, I visited some friends at Öland and had dinner at Kackelstugan and bought a painting of a hen. One of the best days were when I went to Läckö to look at the garden, and then spent some time at the beach at Hindens Rev. We had a great family party in Slottskogen in Göteborg, arranged by my cousin Mats, and shortly after that I had a warm and sunny day at the coast visiting Stora Amundön. I had a nice weekend in Stockholm, taking the opportunity to swim in the outdoor pool at Eriksdalsbadet. Last week I went to Copenhagen to participate in an excellent course arranged by Resonans, but also managed to take a stroll at Strøget. And much much more.

Thank you, friends and family, for making my summer very much worth remembering!

8.23.2008

Herding Cats

You might have spotted the video “Herding Cats” at the bottom of my blog. It is an extremely funny commercial from EDS, especially if you are a cat lover. My friend Thomas Verner pointed out to me that EDS actually did a series of videos, all using the same kind of metaphorical approach.

According to Gerald Zaltman, consumers use seven deep metaphors in order to orient themselves in the world. By understanding them, companies can frame their marketing better. These deep metaphors are balance, transformation, journey, container, connection, resource and control. He has described these and a method for extracting them in his book “Marketing Metaphoria”. The method requires people to collect images that they think relate to a specific product and are used as a point of departure in an interview.

In cognitive linguistics, deep metaphors are a well-researched area and the book “Metaphors we live by” by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. The former is very much engaged in demonstrating how metaphors are and can be used in politics. His latest book is called “The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 20th Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain” and he has used some of his findings when analysing speeches made by Barack Obama.

When looking into what voters seem to try to understand about a politician (Values, Authenticity, Communication, Judgment, Trust and Identity) it seems to me that they are very similar to what you want to understand about companies. There is a great trend towards looking at yourself as a brand, so why shouldn’t companies see themselves as persons?

Take a look at the EDS videos. They are witty and still very accurate illustrations of what it is like working in the software consulting industry. And the comments are quite interesting too.

Looking at these I was reminded of the now classic Norwegian Helpdesk video, where a monk is instructing a fellow brother in how to use a book. Hilarious!

If you want to learn more about how to combine metaphors and storytelling, there is no better way than to go on a Metafari!

8.09.2008

Slow Food – Big Business

A couple of years ago, a friend gave me Carl Honore’s book “In Praise of Slow”. I haven’t taken the time (!) until now to read it, but I must say I like it a lot. He describes his conversion towards a more “slow” approach to life in various ways in a very down to earth and funny way going through topics like cities, food, sex, work, medicine and children. His own wakeup came when he realised that he was toying with the idea of buying a collection of “One-Minute Bedtime Stories” for his children at an airport.

Already in 2003, USA Today stated that the slow movement meant big business. Lots of companies and cities have joined the slow movement since then. Of course, research has not been slow to pick up. For example, Dr Philip Howard at Michigan State University has investigated the consolidation of the organic industry and illustrated this in very telling graphics.

The Slow Food movement has also started to look into research and education, and founded in 2003 a University of Gastronomic Sciences. The Swedish equivalent I suppose would be the Department of Restaurant and Culinary Arts at Örebro University, in Grythyttan. They received funding from The Knowledge Foundation as part of their “Creative Industry” program.

In West Sweden we are also oriented towards slow food. The local chapter, Slow Food West, is collaborating with the great “Paradise Gardens” exhibition in Göteborg. Last week I had a healthy snack in Göteborg Botanical Garden, and we also had a big family lunch at my favorite garden, Gunnebo. The restaurant at Gunnebo is part of the consortium “Västsvensk Mersmak” guaranteeing the use of local and organic products and great care in both cooking and presentation.

However, the first city in Sweden to be accepted into the Citta Slow is Falköping. This small city in West Sweden has pledged to the Citta Slow philosophy, festina lente: to haste slowly, to seek the unique and special, to respect the small and local in a globalised world, and to seek sustainable solutions. It will be very interesting to see how they will integrate this into their action plans for regional development and how they relate it to the overall vision of the Västra Götaland Region: “The Good Life”.

8.04.2008

Smoke in China

In China, not only the smoke from cars and factories seem to be a problem in relation to the Olympic Games. China has 350 million smokers, a third of the world's total, and a million Chinese a year die from tobacco. Although smoking in public places has been banned in Beijing before the Olympics, it is no wild guess that smoking will continue to be an issue.

The initiative from Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates is therefore very welcome, launching a $500 million dollar call on governments to implement proven interventions to reduce tobacco use, save lives. They emphasize the use of the World Health Organization’s program MPOWER:

Monitor tobacco use and the policies to prevent it
Protect people from tobacco smoke
Offer people help to quit tobacco use
Warn about the dangers of tobacco
Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
Raise taxes on tobacco

They will support complementary efforts to reduce high rates of tobacco use in countries such as China and India, as well as to help prevent the tobacco epidemic from taking root in Africa.

Of course not everybody is happy with this development. Russian Pravda calls Bloomberg and Gates naïve. According to the Chinese Embassy in the US, China will ban all forms of tobacco promotion by January 2011. Since China is both the largest tobacco producer and consumer, this is an important and not uncontroversial step.

In Sweden around 1,3 million people in Sweden smoke, out of a 9 million population. About 6 500 individuals die every year because of smoking. That is more lives than taken by traffic accidents, hiv/aids, drugs and suicides together, according to Cancerfonden.

A really interesting website is The Tobacco Documents Online, where you can find the documents that the tobacco industry uses in trials in the USA. The website is a search engine, making search through various databases possible.

If you want to get a complementary view of China, watch the wonderful movie CJ7.

7.30.2008

New Issue of The Holmberg Gazette

It’s been a while since the last issue of The Holmberg Gazette, but now it is here again! As usual, you can find it in the right marginal below. The focus this time is on “Information and Communication Technology” (ICT) and the articles cover different aspects such as development, use and research. The photos are taken this year in various locations, and can be seen in full at my Picasa site. Enjoy!

I hope you are busy doing nothing during your vacation. One of my next blog posts will have “slow” as its theme. If I ever get around writing it… Suggestions are very welcome!

7.19.2008

Location Location Location

On Öland, the second largest island in Sweden, direction is always given in terms of north, south, east and west. Never as right or left. The island is about 130 kilometres long, only 20 km wide, and also very flat why it is kind of difficult to lose direction.

How the landscape can impact our thinking is the major theme for the sixth meeting of the European Network around Appreciative Inquiry and Strength based change. It will take place in the beautiful Italian landscape Reggio Emilia 10-11 October.
It is interesting to think about how the location may have an impact on the political discussions in Almedalen (in the medieval town Visby on the island Gotland), Tällberg (a tiny country village set deep in the woods in Dalarna) and Davos (a ski resort in Switzerland). What does leaving the city and getting closer to nature mean for the people attending these meetings?

The importance of the location has long been recognised by others than Conrad Hilton, for example by Leif Edvinsson who created Scandia Future Center. The centre has served as inspiration for many creative places such as futurefocus in London and Dalenum in Lidingö. However, one of Leif’s latest adventures, The New Club of Paris, seems to be more virtual in character in spite of its name!

7.15.2008

Made in Sweden

Yesterday we went to see the latest Björn&Benny success: Mamma Mia The Movie. According to the official website we were in good company since among the 30 million people in 160 countries have watched it. ABBA has done a really good job marketing Sweden, and we are now almost rid of getting mixed up with Switzerland. And yes, it is good fun to watch even for people like me who have seen the show live.

Design is another successful Swedish export area. I went to the small country town Lammhult in Småland, the hub of Möbelriket (the Furniture Country) to check out the latest news at Norrgavel and Svenssons. Although I was tempted by the many creative items from Källemo and beautiful rugs from Kateha (whom I was glad to find is operating with a RugMark licence and thus is working against child labour) this time I bought a very comfy Bruno Mathsson Jetson 66, a really soft cushion from Bantie with the pattern “Paradise” and a Danish vase from Normann. You can see the vase and the cushion in the picture above, although the aluminium table and chair from Byarums Bruk are previous purchases.

For those of you who won’t be able to make it to Småland this year, I recommend www.scandinaviandesigncenter.com!

“It shall stand the wear of the eye”. Sven Lundh

7.02.2008

Envisioning The Works of a City

One of my great regrets in life is that I have never been to New York. Although I have been to the US many times, it has always been in as part of a business trip and somehow the conferences have always taking place elsewhere like Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta. So I have to envision the city and dream about when I’m going to experience spring there IRL.

There are several means for visualizing New York. One way of doing it is to read Kate Asher’s book “The Works – Anatomy of a city”. She works at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and has designed a beautiful and intelligent piece of art that describes the transport system, the various parks and trees, how the sewage system works and so on. I guess she’s been inspired by Edward R Tufte’s work on visualization.

Another way of experiencing New York is to read Mark Helprin’s wonderful story “Winter’s Tale”. This is my absolute favorite book of all times since the language is so beautiful and the story so rich and amazing. It combines the importance of following your dream with staying true to your friends and family.

“Set in New York at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Winter´s Tale unfolds with such great narrative force and beauty that a reader can feel that its world is more real than his own. Standing alone on the page before the book begins are the words, I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me. In that world, both winter and the city of New York (old and new) have the strength and character of protagonists, and the protagonists themselves move as if in a vivid dream. Though immensely complicated, the story is centered upon Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young heiress whom he encounters in robbing her house, and who eventually will die young and in his arms. His love for her, and a gift of grace, will allow him after the most extraordinary and painful explorations and discoveries to stop time and bring back the dead. To follow him, his predecessors, his inheritors, and his companions is to experience one of the great stories of American literature.” (from www.markhelprin.com)
A totally different way would also be watching the new “Sex and the City” film. I must admit that I have seen quite a number of the TV episodes, although I’m not sure I will watch the movie. Although it contains a lot of clever product placements and must in itself be a great ad for New York, I’m not sure I can stomach the moral. Especially after trying out their “Match your man” quiz that resulted in pairing me with Mr Big...

Should you want to view New York and the US in a larger perspective, you can always watch Hans Rosling’s tool for visualization of complex and important issues: Gapminder. There you can watch his 2007 TED talk, "The Seemingly impossible, is possible". It will be interesting to follow the development of Gapminder, now that Google has bought the underlying software.

However, Göteborg is also good at visualization! I feel proud about having been part of the formation of the Center of Visualization Göteborg, an organisation that supports collaboration between academia, companies and the public sector. We used “Appreciative Inquiry” as a means for envisioning the future of the center, and so far much of what was expressed as dreams now have come true in terms of research funding, a conference, a physical center, a web site, collaboration projects and so on.

6.30.2008

From Alarmist to Activist

When I visited the Globe Forum conference in May, one of the organisations that impressed me most was the World Wide Fund for Nature. At the conference the WWF secretary general, Lasse Gustavsson, told us about the transformation they have gone through going from being alarmists to activists. Instead of merely shouting about the poor condition of the earth the WWF has become proactive and is now supporting companies that provide solutions to the global warming through their Climate Solver campaign. One of the selected companies is Ecoera. They provide technology that turns agriculture waste products into bio-fuel, and is sprung from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship.

Recently the WWF has been quoted a lot in the media, since they presented a new report on attitudes towards the Baltic Sea and at the same time introduced a new collaboration deal with LRF (The Federation of Swedish Farmers). I remember kayaking in the Baltic Sea in 2005 at Stensund when the algae were blooming, and it was a horrible experience. So this year I went kayaking in the North Sea instead, at Stocken. If you are interested in knowing more about what is happening with both the North and the Baltic Sea, I recommend listening to Isabella Lövin, author of “Tyst hav” (Silent Sea), when she talks on the Swedish Radio 10 July.

If you want to know what you can do to become an everyday climate activist, read Johan Tell’s book “100 ways to save the world”.

6.27.2008

Country Living – Living Country

I spent the last weekend celebrating summer solstice in the small Swedish town Ulricehamn. My friend Åsa and I went to the Hofsnäs mansion where a traditional Midsummer celebration took place with a maypole, dancing, lotteries, horse carriages and much more.
The next day we went on a shopping spree in the country. The first stop was the book café Crea Diem where we had tea and cakes. I bought a beautiful replica of one the first drinking glass to be mass produced in Sweden. We then backtracked to visit the artist Berit Olméus at her house and gallery. She showed us a great exhibition of cow paintings and kindly allowed me to take some pictures of her work. I was very tempted by her smart knitted hats…

We then drove a few kilometers north to Alboga and Sarah James Larsson’s shop Storegården Country Living. She has lived in Sweden since 1989 and has created a lovely atmosphere, combining English, Italian and French styles in a very Swedish house. I bought some ecological lemon curd and did what Sarah told me: combined it with Greek yoghurt and it was heaven! Get some more tips from Sarah’s blog! You can also buy the lemon curd from the web-shop.

What is great about these shops is the way they collaborate. They all include information about what is going on in the county. Sarah even has a list of her neighbors’ blogs where you for example can read about the mini-pig Torsten. It is wonderful to see such industrious entrepreneurs in the country! Everybody with a story to tell!

6.06.2008

National Founding Story

Today we celebrated the Swedish National Day commemorating when Gustav Vasa was elected king by the Swedish Parliament 6 June 1523. The events prior to the coronation are in par with any modern Hollywood production, including several narrow escapes, imprisonment, skiing chases, assassinations, ice breaking, starvation, horse rides, sailing, betrayals, canons, sieges, decapitations, and so on when Gustav fought the Danish king Christian II who led the crumbling union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At least if the scribe Peder Swarts is to be believed. He was hired by Gustav Vasa, who apparently clearly understood the value of storytelling.

I celebrated this day by participating in the sunny welcoming ceremony at Nydala monastery. This monastery is one of the oldest ones in Sweden, and was founded by Cistercians in 1143. The monastery was raided 1520 by Christian II on his way back from decapitating most of the Swedish nobility in Stockholm. According to legend, he also drowned the abbot and at least six of the monks. This made the people in Småland so furious that they threw out the Danes. However, Gustav Vasa was not especially nice towards the monks, since he confiscated the property including 250 farms in 1529.

Apparently the monks of today do not fear the Swedish government or the politicians from Värnamo municipality, despise the historic events. After 479 years in exile, they have returned to Nydala and are now renting the mansion. The monks are mainly from Vietnam, making this a truly international enterprise and reminding us of the important role as innovation centers the monasteries have played through out the centuries.

The monasteries in Nydala and Alvastra was soon followed by one in Varnhem in 1150. This monastery plays an important role in a very popular fiction book series about the knight Arn by Jan Guillou. The books can be seen as a part of the debate concerning how Sweden came to be a nation, where the Western and Eastern parts of Sweden seem to have different interpretations of history. Perhaps I should recommend Stephen Denning to write a sequel to his book “The Leaders’ Guide to Storytelling” focusing on founding stories for nations. By the way, the English entry in Wikipedia on Christian II is disputed and my guess is that most of the current content is written by a Swede.

Never mind what the truth is, the books and the films about Arn are now contributing to the tourism business in Västra Götaland and they have increased public interest in history dramatically.

6.01.2008

A Room With a View

When I was at the local library last week, I happened to see a book called “Halva makten hela lönen” (=Half the Power The Whole Salary) by Agneta Stark. I only had time to browse through it and although it was published already in 1994, it still contained some interesting perspectives on gender and equality. One of her comparisons struck me as especially good. She argued that to stop working for equality just because we have a legislation regulating this is similar to saying that since 'drinking and driving' was forbidden in the 1950’s we do not need to address that topic.

I then remembered a very interesting lecture I went to at Gunnebo Slott in March this year. Professor Ebba Bratt-Wittström talked about “From Jane Austen to Doris Lessing. The bright and warm room was filled with 40+ women, a few younger women and two brave men. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and last year I went to see the film “Becoming Jane” when I was in London. I think the film illustrates some of Austen’s most important themes: How to balance romantic love and passion, how to do what is morally right and at the same time handle the pressure from society, how to combine personal freedom with economical realities. Maybe Austen would have benefited from reading Robert Fritz’ work, helping her to decide what was most important to her?
You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of "brass,"
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
W. H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron
(1936), lines 113–119

Professor Bratt-Wittström pointed out that when the whole world congratulated Doris Lessing on winning the Nobel Prize, in Sweden this sparked a discussion concerning whether such a thing as “female experience” even existed.

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny" (the Swedish Academy’s motivation for choosing Doris Lessing)
Many younger Swedish women claimed that there is only universal human experience and that feminism is no longer needed. Of course, certainly things move in the right direction. Of the eleven women to win the prize in its 106-year history, five have been awarded since 1990... By the way, a very good reflection on the works of Doris Lessing and its impact can be found at Joyce Carol Oats' website.

I have been appointed ambassadors for Women´s Enterprise by the Swedish government. At the kick-off, the minister of Industry Maud Olofsson of who initiated the program received lots of questions regarding regulating the ration of women and men in company boards, like Norway has done. One of the proponents for this step towards equality was Pontus Schultz from the magazine “Veckans Affärer”, who described his experience from the event as “magical” and after entering a room with 800 women said that he now knows how women in business feel.

The website supporting the initiative is called “The Embassy” and is rather nifty with some Web 2.0 features. A good place to develop and distribute female experience!

“What matters most is that we learn from living.” Doris Lessing

5.25.2008

AI Dogma

Learning about Appreciative Inquiry has been facilitated by video for quite some time where the AI Commons contain a rather long list of videos, including one by David Cooperrider. A quite famous example is the film from US Navy. Leif Josefsson has also used both video and photos in a clever way at www.metafari.com. Also Marcus Buckingham has recognised the opportunities with using multimedia.



When working with the Windoor company in Sweden, my Danish colleagues from Resonans and I invented the AI Dogma Film. We tried to use as many of the famous dogma rules as we could to create a vibrant and interesting film. Hopefully you will be able to see it soon.

Meanwhile you can check out the video from the “AI and Research” conference in Gateshead last year. It definitely feels rather strange to watch myself on video. I’d better get a camera myself to hide behind. Any recommendations?

5.17.2008

Sustainable ICT

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake – “Auguries
of Innocence”

Recently the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) published the report “Ambient Sweden” presenting a vision for how Sweden can maintain its position as a prominent IT country. One of the areas that were put forward as a future area was Green IT, focusing on how information technology can support organisations in becoming more environmentally-friendly. In recent years, “Green IT” has increased in popularity where Gartner was one of the earliest proponents. This week the EU Commission announced that it would promote ICT to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy, starting with buildings, lighting and the power grid as part of its effort to combat climate change.

From Green to Sustainable
This attention is truly great, but I would really like to see a somewhat wider perspective in several dimensions. First, the environmental aspect is just one of three if you take departure in the sustainable development definition, the other two being social and economical. So instead of Green IT, I would like to see more of a discussion concerning Sustainable IT. There are so many interesting examples such as the stunning graphics provided by Hans Rosling, making it possible to understand complex issues and increase incitements for changes in behaviour as displayed at Gapminder. Ericsson’s CEO Carl-Henrik Svanberg, who has taken part in the UN Global Compact, emphasises that their new base station technology makes it easier for developing countries to get access to the Internet. Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency recently held an international workshop called "Big Brother and Empowered Sisters - The role of new communication technologies in democratic processes" and there is a Swedish Program for Information and Communication Technology in Developing Regions. And so on.

From system and impact to process
The debate so far has also focused a lot on the technology (hard- and software) and its effects on the organisation, often in terms of energy and environmental impact. Which again is great and also a complex issue. For example, it is obvious that downloading a system from the Internet or using a service saves a lot in terms of packaging, production and transport although using the Internet also “costs” in terms of energy and equipment. This has inspired Google to invest in R&D into renewable energy.

However, we should also look at the process of developing and maintaining IT solutions. For example, how about a kind of Fair Trade marking for IT, ensuring that the system developers were not underpaid and overworked outsorced workers, that collaboration tools were used during the process keeping travels to a minimum, that efficient best practices kits were used to ensure that the wheel was not invented again and so on.

For example, it would be nice if models such as Inuse’s model for managing IT projects would be used for making decisions on a combination of the three sustainable aspects? Or if the Capability Maturity Model Integration also included recommendations regarding how IT developers step by step can become more sustainable?

Suggestions
As suggested in the Prism article “Sustainability within and beyond the ICT industry” sustainability provides the ICT industry with many opportunities, not only challenges. I would like to replace Green IT with Sustainable IT, putting more focus on the act of balancing environmental, economical and social aspects. Something that the companies behind the Global e-Sustainability Initiative already have recognised. It would also be nice if the debate is extended to encompass all the following dimensions:
  1. Impact: how using ICT can have a positive impact on individuals, organisations and society in terms of sustainable development.
  2. Technology: how systems in terms of both hard- and software can be designed in such a way that they support the development of a sustainable society.
  3. Process: how the process of designing, developing and maintaining information technology can be crafted in a sustainable way.

I also have the following concrete suggestions:

  • If Ambient Sweden becomes a program, widen the focus regarding Green IT to Sustainable IT.
  • Make sustainability a basic design criterion in ICT education, that is, teach all students how to consider sustainability in terms of impact, technology and process.
  • Start a discussion among the research funding agencies regarding how they can support Sustainable ICT R&D, for example by identifying how to better measure sustainability according the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines.

Today, 17 May, is the World Information Society Day, proclaimed by a United Nations General Assembly resolution to raise global awareness of society changes brought by the Internet and new technologies and to help reduce the Digital divide. Let’s make it a good day!

5.02.2008

Wired Discovery

Right now I'm in a conversation with some friends all over the world focusing on how to support knowledge-driven communities of practice. I have tried to find a useful metaphor for what I would like us to create in order to support the learning and knowledge development associated with Appreciative Inquiry, and so far I have come up with the following:

"As I see it, what we need in the AI community is a website that is like a college campus. We need a library with lots of different kinds of information such as articles, videos, blogs, links etc (document management). Rooms for lessons (e-learning). A lab for creating new things (project/collaboration rooms). A cafeteria for informal exchange (chat). A store where we can by books, workshop material etc (web-store). A yearbook where we can see how everybody is connected (database). And so on. "
Perhaps not the most novel metaphor, but one firmly grounded in my experience from working at universities and from R&D related to knowledge management and collaboration software. Some of this and more recent experience were put into the article "Using the Web to Support Organic Development of the European AI Network" written by Leif Josefsson and me. It was recently published in the special issue of the AI Practitioner called "Wired Discovery: New Conversations and Deeper Connections" guest-edited by Loretta L. Donovan, Gabriel Shirley and Sue Anderson Derby.

Do you know any good metaphors for knowledge-driven communities of practice? Please let me know!

PS. Spring is here!