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.


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


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"!


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!