12.24.2016

Negative Capability

I'm not a big fan of Bob Dylan, but I'm grateful for him being sort of responsible for me learning about Keats' concept of Negative Capability. Apparently, Bob Dylan with his elusive character is a good example of the concept, at least if you are to believe Anthony Decurtis (in The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan) and others.

According to Wikipedia, Keats introduced this concept in 1817

"to characterise the capacity of the greatest writers (particularly Shakespeare) to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being."

Keats' Kingdom points out that Negative Capability "is a sublime expression of supreme empathy". By using it we can become better at understand different points of views or different cultures so that we might be able to express them.
Known to be a keen reader of the classics, Barack Obama has also been recognised as a person applying Negative Capability by for example by Santi Tafarella and George Packer. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama said in his speech: “We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. ... We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace.”

I think my former boss Lena Blomberg also can be considered to practice Negative Capability. She always emphasises to consider if reconciliation can be achieved, to find a way to choose both alternatives instead of only one.

I also like the notion of the possibility of something being completely logical and still magical.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and the moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying


Bob Dylan, It's Alright Ma



12.17.2016

History Lesson

We had a discussion, my friend and I, about an article saying that it was not more than fair that history books for schools covered mostly prominent men since they were the ones that had had the most impact on the development of the world. Of course, I didn't agree but at the time I felt that my words fell flat to the ground. I'm not used to having to defend something I feel is so obvious, but I realise that I have to become much better at stating my perspective.

What I believe young people should know about history (and thus make up the text book) is a number of things. History is a matter of perspective. No historic description is neutral. The winners write the history. Most history textbook writers focus on your own country (quite naturally) and the areas or cultures closest to you, often disregarding whole continents and cultures. It's not enough to only learn about Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and the US.

We need to learn history because it tells us things we need to know today. If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. This is especially true when it comes to the development in Europe and the US today, where we can see fascism grow.

Many different people and situations have had an impact on the development of the world. To believe that only powerful individuals such as presidents, kings, generals and so on are the ones worthy our attention because of their decisions or actions is too narrow. Many individual from all walks of life have had key roles in making history, but their names have been lost. Also, many significant changes have been rather slow and the result of groups acting over time, rather than just one single person doing one thing at a specific moment.
I also think it is important for people to learn about that women many times have been made invisible throughout history. They have made scientific discoveries that their husbands or co-workers have claimed as their own. They have been managers of companies and estates, but been not allowed to own them. Although perfectly able, women have been stopped from entering many professions. There have been societies where women and men have been more equal than most are today. Even though sometimes their role and impact was acknowledged at the time, a deliberate censorship has erased women from the history books.

Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be. Lady Sarah Ashley in the movie Australia

Everybody is responsible for creating the history of tomorrow. The choices we make, the actions we take, the votes we cast. We are all accountable for both creating our society and the story we tell about it.

This is the way I would go about teaching history. And I would never ever say something like the article mentioned above, because I can't see that such a statement would bring me any closer to us having and using history textbooks that embodies those ideas.


12.10.2016

Up Close and Personal

The first time I saw an Anton Corbijn photograph was when I bought the U2 album "All that you can't leave behind" in 2000. I very much liked the photos although at that time I had no idea who the photographer was. I tried to convince my boss at the IT University in Gothenburg that we should use a similar style when shooting pictures for the marketing material, but she went for something more colourful which was probably wise.

Having accompanying the members of U2 for several years, Corbijn has been able to take a number of very relaxed and unexpected photos, some of them on display lately at the Museum of Photography in Stockholm
I suppose that it's quite a different situation when you take pictures of people you've just met and will probably never see again. This was likely the case for Pieter ten Hoopen’s who took pictures of Indian entrepreneurs in the area of sustainable environmental work, who are involved in self-help projects initiated by the organisation Hand in Hand in collaboration with the local population. The exhibition is called Spirit of Change.
When I was working at Chalmers, we started to look into what we called "Impact Photography", that is pictures illustrating change as the result of scientific knowledge. It turned out that the database of photos at the university consisted mostly of pictures of university buildings, students or researchers in white lab coats or standing in front of a bookcase. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to set things in motion before I left.

Change is difficult to describe in one photo, since it's a process. But I think we need to try harder. With the access of rather good cameras in smartphones many more people can take pictures, capturing processes. Getting more up close and personal. Because change is personal, not only for people in India. Or Burma for that matter.

The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind
U2, Walk On

12.03.2016

Sportswashing

It's a bit annoying although perhaps not that surprising that searching for "sportswashing" provides you with lots of links to information about washing machines. The concept seems to have peaked in association with the so-called European Games in 2015. It will probably take a while before it shows up in Google's Ngram Viewer.

I must admit that I hadn't heard of this event before I saw the huge signs still visible in Baku in September 2015. However, since I prefer doing sports instead of watching it this was not so strange.
The Danish initiative Play The Game claims that it's unsure whether Azerbaijan was successful in its sportswashing since it has resulted in at least some relationships gone sour although apparently not with Britain.

"The supposed ideal of the Olympics – and by extension the European Games – is to unite people through sport. With this in mind, a regime that relentlessly proves itself to be an autocratic oppressor of civil liberties is not the sort of partner the International Olympic Committee should be aligning themselves with, let alone actively supporting." Vice Sports

According to The Guardian, Azerbaijan continues its sportswashing, holding the European Grand Prix recently. However, according to Sport for Rights, their luck might be changing since the UN Human Rights Committee has published its findings on the civil and political rights record of Azerbaijan which it examined during its latest session.

I only whish they had used a bit stronger language than that they are "concerned" about the state of affairs...

11.26.2016

Transit Town

A couple of weeks ago, Peter LeMarc was the guest in Tomas Andersson Wij's music show on TV. Having gone through some troubling times, he still put on a wonderful performance. Apparently Tomas didn't tell him that the last song, Little Willie John, was to be included. The audience gave a standing ovation in 15 minutes.

A song that stirs up all that longing
A bird returns to my heart
Feelings nobody can stop
I hear the words, remember the joy
Feel the pain,
Peter LeMarc, Little Willie John

One of the things Peter LeMarc told the audience during the show was that the saying that you write your best songs when you are feeling the worst simply isn't true. When you're really down and out, you can do nothing else than try to survive.

It reminded me of how wrong the Swedish translation of the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention" is. In the Swedish version, the word "necessity" is translated into "nöden" which is more of an equivalent to a sever form of "need". It's hard to be inventive if you lack water, food, clothes and a safe place to sleep. It's hard to be creative if your loved one is fighting for her life.
Since visiting Trollhättan again on a regular basis I find myself hearing Peter LeMarc's music in my head. He's depicted his hometown in his songs and I walk through the avenue, across the square, past the kiosk and into the cobbled street. I remember what it was like to visit the town in the beginning of the 90's, when I was heading into a new relationship looking for something out of the ordinary and found it. Always be careful what you wish for.

I played the CD I bought back then called "Hittegods" (Lost Property) and found that I still remember most of the songs.

He said: Where're you going?
She said: Wherever!
He replied: I know where it is. Come into my vacant heart and look for yourself."
...
He says: Where is our life? What have we done?
Tell me, how could we become so old so soon?
The one staring back at me in the mirror is not I.
Do we have to fight for weeks in order to love one day?

Peter LeMarc, Sången dom spelar när filmen är slut (The song they play at the end of the film)

I'm looking forward to listening to his new record "The Thin Line", released yesterday.

I need someone's hand, to lead me through the night
I need someone arms to hold and squeeze me tight
When the night begins an' the dew remains
I need your love so bad
I need some lips to feel next to mine
I need someone to stand up an' tell me, when I'm lyin'
When the lights are low, an' it's time to go
I need your love so bad

Little Willie John, Need your love so bad

11.19.2016

Nature Calling

The UN Sustainable Development Goals was the theme for this year's Lights In Alingsås. Every year students work together with professional light designers to create thought-provoking installations. I very much enjoyed the walk in the dark, especially where the lights were reflected in the water.

The first station "A Time to Reflect" was at the church and aimed at making us think about "Peace and Justice. I wonder if they chose the purple colour deliberately.
By pressing "The Red Button" at the river we could change the paradise into an inferno, reminding us of our actions have an immediate impact on the goals regarding Life on Land and Life Below Water. The nicely lit tree in the other direction provided a provoking contrast.
Next stop was at the Abandoned House, referring to goal number 10 regarding reducing inequality within and among countries. Here the lights told us a story of what it's like to be an outsider, only vaguely seen by others.
The installation "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" put the spotlight on the first goal: "No Poverty. Here the refugees were hiding in the bushes, but we could see the trail they left behind in terms of bags and books. We could also experience what it's like to live in a rescue tent.
 The very long installation along the river, illustrating the past, the present and the future of gender equality was both somewhat scary and beautiful. The colour red was frequently used, sometimes as a warm glow but also as a cold warning signal.
"Climate Action" was the goal related to the installation "Nature Calling". With so many people gathering at the spot, it was somewhat difficult to hear what it said. I think it was "Go away!".
The last station was a rather long (in time) but also very beautiful installation called "Life Below Water", providing both insights and hope. The red lamps just below the surface looked rather sinister, like the Nautilus was trapped there.
Since not all of the UN goals were used, this makes room for our own creativity at home. I use a lot of lights in my home, on my balcony and even up the stairs to my apartment. They welcome me and my visitors during the dark part of the year, why I consider them contributing to the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

11.12.2016

Management By Chocolate

When I was working at Innovationsbron, my then colleague and now friend Maria commented that I did something she called "management by chocolate". I had a habit (still do) of bringing chocolate or cookies to all my meetings to share with the participants, since it made the process much smoother. If you use really good dark chocolate, you get satisfied with only a few bits (in theory at least) making you benefit from the antioxidants without getting fat from the sugar.

Being a chocoholic it's good to learn that the chocolate industry seems to work harder and harder on sustainability issues, both social and environmental ones. While browsing the Swedish JournalChocolat I found out that there are several large initiatives going on such as the Cocoa Horizon foundation started by Barry Callebaut, one of the largest cocoa producers in the world. Together with another major chocolate player Mondelèz they have started Cocoa Life, helping the cocoa workers in Africa to improve their situation. They are also a member of the World Cocoa Foundation who support "support cocoa communities, education, field programs and scientific research". This organisation also partner up with other funding agencies such as the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation in order to create a bigger impact.
Also small producers such as the Swedish Gefle Choklad make their own sustainable products and Scottish Chocolate Tree is famous for their bean-to-bar concept (although I'm a bit hesitant to their Haggis Spice bar...).

In a chocolate shop in Gothenburg I came across a sign saying "Strength is the ability to break off four pieces of chocolate but only eat one". True, true!


11.05.2016

Pivotal People

Back in the 90ies when I did my dotcom journey we started working with business intelligence for municipalities in a novel way. For example, displaying on the web the results from evaluations of the care for the elderly in different parts of a city. That's when I learned about pivoting tables and how to use them to change your perspective on data. Now this kind of work is part of the big data and smart city movement, providing local government with useful data to base their decision-making on.

People can be pivotal too. They can make you change your course and have a really big impact on your life. Sometimes you don't realise that until long after. Often they have no clue of their impact on you.

One of my pivotal people is Birgitta. She gave me books about Appreciative Inquiry to read when I was planning on starting a consultancy business. Not only did I start the consulting company Apprino with two of my friends, I made a lot of new friends in the AI community all over the world. I have also continued using the approach in many new ways.

Another pivotal person is Michael who recruited me to the IT company LINQ. I'm not sure I would have left academia if it weren’t for him. I continue to use what I learned during those turbulent five years, since they provided a good foundation for starting companies as well as working with innovation and industry-academia collaboration.
My sister Maria has also had a major impact on me, in many ways. She started playing football with club with a strong policy against smoking, alcohol and other drugs. Quite a few members were also vegetarians. I, of course, wanted to do everything my big sister did why I also joined Sjövalla Frisksportklubb. I still don't drink any alcohol and I've been a vegetarian for 30 years. It's very much a part of my persona.

What I have noticed is also that not many people talk about what their pivotal people have meant to them or the moments when they have had a big influence on somebody else. This often means that their children or even their spouses don't know about this, although sometimes they get a glimpse at the funeral which is very sad.

With many holidays coming up and with them often family dinners, I strongly recommend bringing the subject up. Ask everyone at the table to talk about a person who had a major positive impact on their lives. I think you'll be surprised!

10.29.2016

Nudge, Nudge

In an article in 1843, Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg is claimed to be the founding father of "behavioural design", although I doubt that this is correct given that the basic theories have been around and applied for quite some time. However, it's interesting that he, again according to the article, is concerned about what his teachings might lead to although this apparently does not stop him from providing courses and workshops.

Fogg's behaviour model states that three things must happen at once for a specific behaviour to change or happen: The person must want to do it, he/she must be able to, and she/he must be prompted to do it. I really like his "tiny habit" concept, especially the celebration part which is awesome.

Another branch of the behavioural design area is nudging often focusing on making it easy for people to do the "right" thing from a societal perspective such as throwing garbage in bins or taking the stairs instead of the lift. The Behaviour Insight Team is the most prominent example of how this idea can be put to work. They call themselves a social purpose company and are jointly owned by the UK Government, Nesta and the employees.
Volkswagen made use of nudging theories in their much noticed and appreciated The Fun Theory campaign featuring the piano stairs and the deepest bin. The winning concept of "The Speed Camera Lottery" was implemented for a while in Stockholm. Apparently, the average speed which was 32 km/h before the test reduced to 25 km/h during the test, marking a 22% reduction in speed, thereby making the demonstration a grand success. Makes you wonder what it would take to implemented permanently.

One thing I like about the nudging area is that it's based on putting forward hypotheses and then looking at data to explore them. After investigating calls to the police in order to reduce pranks, the BIT team was able to come up with a (perhaps to some extent controversial) suggestion: wait 6 seconds before answering. Apparently, just hearing the phone ring puts pranksters off to a large extent. However, I suppose that it's not that easy to calculate balancing the reduced cost for fewer prankster calls with letting people with serious issues wait longer. There is also the risk of people changing back to former behaviour once the novelty has worn off.

According to their website, the objectives for the Behaviour Insight Team is to make public services more cost-effective and easier for citizens to use, improve outcomes by introducing a more realistic model of human behaviour to policy; and wherever possible, enable people to make ‘better choices for themselves’. What is best for the people is, of course, a matter of opinion.

It's fascinating although to some extent worrying that the same theories and methods can be used for (at least aiming at) societal good and for making profitable although often thoroughly damaging products.

One of Fogg's former students, Nir Eyal, wrote the bestseller "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products". Another one, Mike Krieger, put his theory into practice and created Instagram. I wonder what governments looking into the teachings of the BIT team will get up to.

Yet another Fogg disciple, Tristan Harris, is a leader in the “Time Well Spent” movement focusing on creating "technology designed to enhance our humanity over additional screen time". I very much recommend reading his article "How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist".
"We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights." Tristan Harris


10.22.2016

One for the Team

When I played football (soccer), I played rough when needed although I never received a red card. Not even a yellow one, I think. If a team gets a player dismissed from the football field, it's a real disadvantage and is very much avoided.

In hockey, penalties apparently are part of the game. Although the things the players do to each other in the rink would be considered assault and attempted murder if done outside the arena, they seem to just shrug it off and continue.

When we left the movie theatre after seeing Snowden, I asked my friend if he thought there has been any real change in the way NSA and other similar organisations handle personal information. He was also concerned.
To me it seems like organisations such as the NSA in the US and FRA in Sweden play hockey. Penalties don't really matter, they just carry on as usual. In Sweden, the governmental agency SIUN is the supervisory authority responsible for checking up on FRA and they have remarked ten times on their conduct.

Edward Snowden was given the Swedish Right Livelihood Award in 2014 and many people here thinks he should get sanctuary in Sweden whereas the FBI has requested that he should be arrested and extradited. Some hope that Obama will use his Presidential Pardon, but time is running out.

I definitely think Snowden took one for the team. The team not only being the American people, but the rest of us too. Thank you! Now it's up to us to check on our government and our agencies.

Although Benjamin Franklin did not intend this quote to mean what it has often been used for the last couple of years, apparently being the victim of contextomy, I still believe it deserves some thought:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

10.14.2016

Chicken or Egg

Anne Radford, an outstanding AI practitioner and grand person in general, inspired me to invest in a box of Phaidon Maverick Postcards. They are great to use in Appreciative Inquiry processes, since they provide a new angle instead of using only words. Sometimes I let people introduce themselves by picking one card illustrating themselves and one the task at hand.

I have noticed that many people pick the card with a simple egg on it. They talk about transformation, things that will grow, the start of processes and so on.

Quite a number of metaphors and sayings are associated with eggs. For example "you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs". People can be describes as a really bad egg or an egghead. Sometimes you need to be really careful and walk on eggs but you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. Alan Wong's restaurants used a nice exercise involving a metaphoric egg in order to develop their business. Read it and find out if you're a carrot, an egg or coffee beans.
 The International Egg Commission introduced the second Friday in October as the World Egg Day. Apparently it's celebrated in many ways in different countries. In Bangladesh 5000 free boiled eggs will be distributed, each in an individual box. In the USA the American EGG Board has published a number of videos featuring the Bacon Brothers (yup, Kevin is one of them) and The Incredible Egg.

In Sweden there has been a competition regarding who could produce the best egg-based course. I think the galette with eggs and spinach looks really tasty and I'm sure you can do it without the ham.

What the people selecting my egg card seldom notice is that the jagged edge around the egg image is actually a sentence in a kind of handwriting: "Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion". This is a quote by the comedian Spike Milligan who also wrote poems.

If I could write words
Like leaves on an autumn forest floor,
What a bonfire my letters would make.

If I could speak words of water,
You would drown when I said
'I love you.' 


Spike Milligan

10.08.2016

Singing Floors

Every morning I walk down the stairs to get my newspaper. I do hope my neighbours are up already, because the boards squeak every step I take, both up and down.

But maybe I should consider it a part of our security system in our apartment building, similar to the samurai "nightingale floors" or "uguisubari" which translates into “bush warbler guard watch.”
Neither a nightingale nor a bush warbler!
It should be noted that nightingales and Japanese bush warblers are two completely different birds. It can also be questioned to what extent the floors sound like any of these two birds. Check out for yourself: bush warbler, nightingale and uguisubari.

It's also doubtful if this design can be considered a case of biomimicry. However, I wouldn't mind going to Japan and checking out myself!

10.01.2016

Appreciating Assets and Capital

At the beginning of this week I held a lunch seminar introducing Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to a group of User Experience people. AI is one of my favourite topics and always a joy to talk about. In my presentation I made good use of the video kindly provided by Jackie Kelm. In her overview of the basic concepts and history of AI she also talks about the concept "appreciate". I very much like the many meanings of this word, both how we use it in everyday talk in order to describe what we really like but also as a financial term.

Later in the week I hade the privilege of participating in the CIP Forum, this year focusing on convergence. Here an important topic is "assets", especially intellectual assets. I also like the taste of this word, assets. An asset is something valuable that cannot always be transferred into money as for example in "his greatest asset was his warm smile".
Although I think the reasoning is valid behind "intellectual capital" as in the famous book " Intellectual Capital: Realizing Your Company's True Value by Finding Its Hidden Brainpower " by Leif Edvinsson and Michael Malone, I must confess that I prefer using assets instead of capital when talking about the creative stuff that comes out of people's brains. However, in the physical world I do appreciate them both.

9.24.2016

Personal Unfolding

Last time I listened to Christer Olsson it resulted in me ending a relationship. His words "what doesn't develop will perish automatically" had really hit me, and I decided to speed up the process.

I had the pleasure of watching him again at Sigma's birthday party last week. He had some good one-liners this time also: Life is a together-project. You live as long as you learn. You seldom need more knowledge, instead start using what you have and do something. If you need a speechwriter, what are you afraid of will come out if you open your mouth?
One of them is hard to translate from Swedish: "Det heter personlig utveckling, så varför vecklar du inte ut dig?". The word "utveckling" translates into "development" but "veckla ut" is "unfold". What I think he means is that we should hold ourselves high, stand straight and stand for what we believe, not crumble and behave in certain ways because it's politically correct. Very much in line with the concept behind The Star For Life programme that now will be applied in Sweden too.

I think that will be what I will act upon this time. Both thinking more carefully about what I believe in and why, and at the same time also make sure I communicate and act it. I probably should re-read Gervase Bushe's book "Clear Leadership" again.

Another take on folding would be to re-read the book "The Cat That Went to Paris" about a Scottish Fold.

9.17.2016

Life and Decay

Lots of metaphors and sayings are associated with flowers. People can be blooming. A relationship can be delicate as a flower. In Sweden we talk about city kids as asphalt flowers or dandelion children, indicating that they can grow even if the environment is unfriendly. Orchid kids on the other hand, can become extraordinary but only if taken special care of, according to David Dobbs's piece The Science of Success.

With her photo exhibition Flora Supersum now at Trädgårdsföreningen in Gothenburg, Lena Granefelt makes us aware of other qualities in flowers. She asks us "Can flowers think? Eat, go to war, die? In that case, what do they feel when they prepare to perish?" She notes that books on flowers seldom show what they look like when they are dead or dying, although this is often the state we see them in.
Also, she points out that the flower seeds have both death and life within them. Some seeds need to grow within weeks, whereas others can bring life even after a thousand years.

If persons are like flowers, what kind of life can we bring while we get old and start to wither? We can certainly help the younger generation, leaving them things behind they can thrive on. Does it take a special eye to see the beauty in old? I try to take photos of my garden all year round, although I must admit I take more pictures of flowers that are alive and kicking. Maybe I should take another perspective and look for other characteristics.

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

9.10.2016

The Invisible Hand

When I was a kid, I remember watching David McCallum in The Invisible Man. In each session he became invisible at least two times. He's still going strong as an actor, and I now enjoy his quirky act as the Chief Medical Examiner "Ducky" in NCIS.

The Invisible Hand is the metaphor introduced by Adam Smith in 1759 describing his notion that individuals' efforts to pursue their own interest may frequently benefit society more than if their actions were directly intending to benefit society, which has been used as basis for the assumption that trade and market exchange automatically channel self-interest toward socially desirable ends.

Jonathan Schlefer writes in a Harvard Business Review article that there is no invisible hand. He uses a rather nifty analogy to describe the concept:

"The invisible hand sees market economies as passenger planes, which, for all the miseries of air travel, are aerodynamically stable. Buffeted by turbulence, they just settle back into a slightly different flight path. General-equilibrium theory, as it developed in the 1960s and 1970s, suggests that economies are more like fighter jets. Buffeted by a gust, they wouldn’t just settle into a slightly different path but would spin out of control and break asunder if “fly-by-wire” computer guidance systems did not continually redirect them to avert disaster."

Chris Matthews comes to the same conclusion in his article in Fortune. He also can see the reason why US politicians keep referring to it and why the American people continue to believe it.

"For those who are already wealthy, they have little to gain from economic interference. Others are reassured that by simply looking out for themselves they can work towards the greater good. If the invisible hand reflects reality, we have no moral obligation to look beyond our own interests. How convenient."
Matthews continue to point out that Smith also highlighted the benefits of spreading power across many people in a society. Governments can indeed become too powerful, but those who wish to see no government regulation whatsoever have hijacked Smith’s metaphor.

However, David Sloan Wilson argues in an Evonomics article that the invisible hand theory can be made to work if you use evolutionary and complexity theory for example in the form of Multilevel Selection Theory.

"As a basic matter of tradeoffs, traits that maximize the relative fitness of individuals within groups seldom maximize the fitness of groups, relative to other groups in a multi-group population. The general rule is: Adaptation at any level of a multi-tier social hierarchy requires a process of selection at that level and tends to be undermined by selection at lower levels. Or, as another Wilson (Edward O.) and I put it in a 2007 article, “Selfishness beats altruism within groups, altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.”"

It's my guess that all the above can be useful when investigating the increasing focus on concepts such as "peer-to-peer economy" and "collaborative economy" as exemplified in the article by Michel Bauwens and Franco Iacomella published in the book "The Wealth of the Commons - A World Beyond Markets and State".

"The peer-to-peer vision relies upon the three major sectors of society – the state, market and civil society – but with different roles and in a revitalized equilibrium. At the core of the new society is civil society, with the commons as its main institution, which uses peer production to generate common value outside of the market logic. These commons consist of both the natural heritage of mankind (oceans, the atmosphere, land, etc.), and commons that are created through collective societal innovation, many of which can be freely shared because of their immaterial nature (shared knowledge, software and design, culture and science). Civil society hosts a wide variety of activities that are naturally and structurally beneficial to the commons – not in an indirect and hypothetical way, as claimed by the “Invisible Hand” metaphor, but in a direct way, by entities that are structurally and constitutionally designed to work for the common good. This sphere includes entities such as trusts, which act as stewards of physical resources of common use (land trusts, natural parks), and for-benefit foundations, which help maintain the infrastructure of cooperation for cultural and digital commons."

For excellent work in Swedish about the collaborative economy I refer to the works of Åsa Minoz and Sara Modig and the excellent report "ABC i kollaborativ ekonomi"!

9.03.2016

Le Jardin

During my dotcom journey, I helped an investment bank design their new intranet portal. They decided to name it "Le Jardin". Come to think if it, I think they nicked it from our own intranet although we used the English word. Of all possible intranet metaphors, I think this is the most apt one.

In a garden you often find both stuff that is good for you but also things of beauty (at least in a Potager). There are many different things there in all kinds of sizes and most of it is in good order, but not everything. Often there are parts of the garden that are dark and overgrown. You'll find places to sit down and talk to other people, and other places to explore on your own. It's in constant change, although it follows a natural rhythm. There must be a head gardener but also many helpers. Also there is a great need for people not involved with the plants at all, but busy providing information and making sure that the infrastructure is in order. And there has to be a business model that ensures that the garden stays attractive and provides services to all its target groups. Some of these services might be a bit harder to define and measure, such as ecosystem services.
One of the books I read this summer, was "Intranät som skapar värde" (Intranets that bring value). A very useful book with lots of very practical tips but also some sad statistics about the well-being of Swedish intranets. To some extent it was comforting to know that my intranet knowledge and experience is still useful, but sad that so many opportunities are lost because of mis-management.

A garden is always useful, be it a real garden (or in my case an allotment) or an intranet! But perhaps we need to find better ways to make the latter ones even more beautiful!

8.27.2016

Married to the Cloud

I was invited to one of my cousins' wedding the other week. Wonderful event with a beautiful ceremony in an old church, and short travel by boat to the small castle where a great dinner was held.
Just a few days before the wedding, I happened to zap right into the movie "Shall we Dance" with Susan Sarandon in one of the leading roles. She, or rather her character, was doing a very nice monologue about marriage:

"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

My mother, being the Godmother of the groom, made a speech to the newlyweds at the dinner. She talked about how much chance there was behind them even to exist. If one Scotsman hadn't decided to go to Sweden in the 17th century and so on. But she also talked about the importance of doing things together such as laugh together but also to cry together, not separately, for the sorrows that are common to both. Such as loosing an unborn baby or a child. Although she didn't provide examples.
With all the attention and immediate support we get through social media today, what role has marriage? Now that we can do more than like comments on Facebook, we can even cry together. Although I very much like my interactions with friends and family through social media, there are still many things I prefer to do IRL. Including sharing difficult times. Nothing can beat a warm, long hug!

Marriage is a common theme in the world of metaphors. There are plenty of metaphors trying to describe what marriage is like, such as describing your spouse as "my other half" or "ball and chain". Marriage is also used to describe other phenomena in the world, often to indicate a strong bond. For example, it can be used to describe a business relationship.

My favourite marriage metaphor can be found in these lyrics by Sting from his song "I Was Brought To My Senses" I've written about before:

"I walked out this morning
It was like a veil had been removed from before my eyes
For the first time I saw the work of heaven
In the line where the hills had been married to the sky
And all around me every blade of singing grass
Was calling out your name and that our love would always last"


8.20.2016

Roundabouts

I've had the pleasure of working together with AI specialist Henrik Kongsbak at Resonans on several occasions. I'm so happy that he also writes articles that really make you think. About situations you have been in but most importantly about the ones you want to create in the future.

One article he published this summer was about traffic lights and roundabouts (lyskryds and rundkørsler in Danish). He used these metaphors to contrast how you can design your organisation to become more efficient so you can spend more time with your customers. by reducing complexity
One of his suggestions is to replace Key Performance Indicators with Key Performance Conversations. This is systematic conversations about how far I have come, challenges I've met, what obstacles I can take away to make things easier. It's a bit similar to the advice provided by another favourite of mine, Marcus Buckingham. If you ever want to change the way you do performance appraisal talks, your should definitely read his book "First Break All the Rules".
Another of Henrik's suggestions is to put yourself into your customer's shoes. He tells about one organisation that made videos with their key customers expressing their thoughts about the past en future. Although they had much data about the customers, they had not really taken the time to listen to them and to see them as individuals with jobs, pains and gains (as Alex Osterwalder puts it). After seeing the videos, they changed their strategies.

8.13.2016

The Solitary Reaper

I think many people in Sweden associate the actor Max von Sydow with his appearance in the Bergman movie The Seventh Seal where he plays chess with the Grim Reaper. The scene is filmed at Hovs Hallar, a place I've visited several times.
From Skåne July 2015
After having participated in a course focusing on how to manage and care for a scythe, I can now see from all the pictures of the Grim Reaper that he's not especially apt at using his tool. For example, he's not carrying it in the right, safe way and it's seldom made to fit his height from an ergonomically point of view and often the handles are completely missing.

Apparently, The Grim Reaper is a case of conceptual blending when it comes to metaphors. According to Kovecses, two metaphors are assumed and blended: people are plants and events are actions. This might also explain why there are so many inconsistencies between the mythical creature and an actual harvesting reaper.
Our teacher, Lie-Mats, explained that using a scythe is becoming more and more popular in landscaping. A study showed that over time it's more time-efficient to use a scythe instead of a trimmer since the grass doesn't grow back so quickly. In addition, it doesn't need fuel and it's quite. The last aspect is especially important in environments where people come for an experience, such as Gunnebo Castle where the course took place.

William Wordsworth wrote the poem "The Solitary Reaper" although I don't think he had much first-hand experience of that kind of activity. It's hard work (especially when you don't get the scythe "to dance") but it's also very meditative in character and you get satisfaction in the quick results.

However, in terms of metaphors involving death and agriculture, I prefer this poem by Bo Setterlind:

"Det gick en gammal odalman
och sjöng på åkerjorden.
Han bar en frökorg i sin hand
och strödde mellan orden
för livets början och livets slut
sin nya fröskörd ut.

Han gick från soluppgång till soluppgång.
Det var den sista dagens morgon.
Jag stod som harens unge, när han kom.
Hur ångestfull jag var inför hans vackra sång!
Då tog han mig och satte mig i korgen
och när jag somnat, började han gå.

Döden tänkte jag mig så."

8.06.2016

Tree Hugging

During this summer I watched a TV programme about the famous photographer Bae Bien-u. He's specialised in capturing the wonderfully serene South Koran pine trees. You can see in his pictures that he started out as a painter. Many of his pictures focus on the Gyeongju Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I share his passion for pine trees, but I not sure he, like me, is a keen collector of pinecones. I have picked gigantic cones on Malta and Madeira and in Armenia among other places. The medium sized can be found everywhere in Sweden, but I'm very fond of the ones from trees at the coast especially in the national park Stångehuvud outside Lysekil. Just the other day I also found some really small ones too, at the beach at Särö Västerskog.

From Madeira 2010
A couple of months ago I stumbled across a great collection of large cones in Överåsparken, a public park in Gothenburg. Since I didn't have a bag, I folded my blouse and put them there. I walked slowly down the path and then the road to a small fish shop at the Sankt Sigfrid square. They were closing, but kindly provided me with a plastic bag to put my find in.

The large cones my mother put up in every door opening at Christmas perhaps triggered my interest in pinecones. So do I now, using the same kind of red silk ribbons. I also know there were pine trees across the street where I lived as a child, where the squirrels lived until a house was built there.

From Tällberg 2016
Pine trees have a special place in South Korean tradition and mythology. It is considered to represent Korean spirit and is mentioned in South Korean national anthem. Apparently the Korean name for pine tree, Sonamu, literally means “chief tree,” or top-level tree. I can see why.

7.30.2016

Happy Path

The world of User Experience, or Human-Computer Interaction as it was called ages ago when I was doing my PhD, is filled with metaphors. Some of them involve travelling. For example the concept of "customer journey map" which is a way to represent how a customer interacts with a device or a service. Another example is "happy path" which is when a user is going through a process in a smooth way without any hiccups.
From Brännö 2016
One who has done a lot of research into how to design digital solutions in such a way that using them makes you happy is Pamela Pavliscak. She combines ethnography, computer science and behavioural science in her job at Change Sciences in New York, and I bet that makes her happy. Her talk last year at the From Business to Buttons 2015 conference in Stockholm is really inspiring, both in content and design. It turns out that in terms of user experience with digital devices, happiness is a combination of pleasure and purpose.

Based on lots of data from questionnaires and interviews, she summarises her findings in the following levelled recommendations for making users really happy: Make sure the usability is working on a basic level. Create trust. Make room for creativity. Build a community. Afford meaningfulness.
From Peter Korn's Garden 2015
A lot of what she says resonates with me, especially since it to some extent touches upon the basics of Positive Psychology and Appreciative Inquiry. But also the work of Tom Peters and his model of customer satisfaction, where he talks about the Lust Hierarchy.

I think I will by her new book when it's released: Designing for Happiness: The User and Business Benefits of Positive Design. I'm sure that it will make me happy by helping me combining pleasure and purpose.
From Madeira 2010

7.23.2016

Black and White

The Oystercatcher is one of the most beautiful birds I know. It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that it's the Faroe Islands' national bird that can be seen everywhere.
From Faroe Islands 2016
I suppose the main reason why the Tjaldur is so popular is its role in the Faroese Independence movement. In the beginning of the 19th century, Nólsoyar Páll wrote the poem "Fuglakvæði" (Ballad of the Birds), in which birds of prey symbolise the Danish authorities, and the poet himself warns the smaller birds in the guise of an oystercatcher. Nólsoyar Páll was a jack-of-all-trades: a seaman, trader, poet, farmer and boat builder. A bit like many people at the Faroe Islands today.

In the harbour at Torshavn, there's a statue by Hans Pauli Olsen depicting Nólsoyar Páll. You actually have to view it from different angles to get the whole picture - the birds, Nólsoyar Páll, the sails, the oars, the lookout. A bit like you have to do with an Oystercatcher to understand its full splendour.


7.16.2016

Sheep View

I was not surprised to learn about the Sheep View initiative. A group of isolated and sparsely populated islands does not come near the top of the list for the Google Street View project, why it's no wonder the Faroe Islander Durita Dahl Andreassen took to a natural resource: sheep.

The Sheep View 360 lets you see parts of the Faroe Islands even few visitors have seen close up. Sheep here graze on the steep hillsides and jump on the cliffs like chamois. I've been to one of the places mapped so far, Tjørnuvik, and I know how tricky it is to walk there and how stunning the views are.

From Faroe Islands 2016
The #wewantgooglestreetview campaign makes the point that Google has taken Street View cameras all over Europe but never to the Faroe Islands. The initiative has gone viral and been picked up by global media such as The Guardian, Washington Post, Wired UK, The Verge, Gizmag, SvD, and so on. A nice additional PR after the Faroe Islands became the National Geographic Readers' Best Trip Choice in 2015.

From Faroe Islands 2016
The project should not be confused with the GoogleSheepView initiative by Ding and Mike, who tries to spot as many sheep as possible by using Google Street View. I think they would really like to have footage from the Faroe Islands, since they have more sheep than people. Ding and Mike have picked up the story too.

Most of the sheep wondering around the islands are ewes and lambs while the rams are kept in pens until they are needed once a year to do their job. When we visited the small village of Gjógv the farmer gathered the sheep to put on markings on the lambs. Many mothers and children got separated in the process, why the baaing kept echoing through the valley all night long. Gathering the sheep must be hard work though, since the special Faroe breed have very little flocking instinct.

When we wandered about the old Tinganes in Tórshavn, our guide Per pointed out a special shed (hjallur), traditionally used for fermenting sheep meat by letting it hang and dry in the salty wind (skerpikjøt). It turns out that the imported sheep meat from New Zealand doesn't work in this process, why this kind of local dish is very rare and expensive. I'm sure that a lot of sheep talk takes place at Tinganes since this is where the government is located.

What to buy at the Faroe Island if not a sweater. I looked into the famous Gudrun&Gudrun shop (the Sara Lund character in the TV series "The Killing" wore one of their designs) but in the end I bought a felt pullover that I later personalised by adding real fleece and sequins to.

I think that the Faroe Islands is a good place for sheep. Lots of fresh grass all year round, you can go where ever you want, few people and cars, no predators, clean air and water, and not so cold in the winter. However, if you are requested to carry solar panels and a web camera all the time...
From Faroe Islands 2016

7.09.2016

Birds of a Feather

Hearing thousands of Torshavn inhabitants cheer for Iceland in the football match against France last Sunday was a special experience. They gathered to watch the game on a big screen just beside our hotel. Despite the loss they left the harbour in an orderly fashion proud and happy for their neighbours' achievements.

When Iceland hit a financial rock bottom a couple of years ago, the Faroe Islands was the first nation/institution to offer a loan. A drop in the ocean perhaps, but still a small foundation for Iceland to build upon at that time. The loan has since then been repaid.
From Faroe Islands 2016
The nations in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean have much in common. The roots in the old Scandinavian/Norse culture and language. The myths like the tragic ones about the Selkies. Being occupied by the UK and the US during the WW2 and at the same time helping them out by smuggling fish, resulting in a great loss of men to storms and U-boats. The reluctance to join the EU due to a perceived (and probably real) threat to their fishing industry.
From Faroe Islands 2016
Despite being part of Denmark, both the Faroe Islands and Greenland are not members of the EU. In fact, I learned from our excellent guide that Greenland was a member but left after a referendum. Thus, there has already been a Grexit.

These coastal areas also share a number of birds such as the almost unbearable cute Atlantic Puffin, the sleek national symbol the Eurasian Oystercatcher, the chubby Fulmar and the Black-legged Kittiwake with its three toes.
From Faroe Islands 2016