Category: Humanity

Delight in a moment of mystery: Fortune cookies for a strategic 2012

The beginning of a new year is a symbolic time for many people.

In the West, this is a rare occasion when our highly commanding society actually dictates very little. When publicity and advertising and cultural mythology are not telling us what to feel, to want, or to do.

Depending on where we live in the world, as the clock strikes twelve midnight, there are different customs that many of us follow, but the deeper meaning of this moment is up to every individual to define or embrace for themselves.

In my adopted region of Catalonia, populated by large clock towers throughout every town and village, we eat a grape with each dong of the midnight hour. Hastily shoving one grape per second into our smiling open mouths under our laughing eyes, and secretly wondering, every year, if we will choke upon reaching the twelfth grape, the ritual thereby becoming our farewell to the world instead of our entry into a new year. At the end, we don’t choke, we never do, though the risk is exciting and palpable.

So we enter the new year, alone or in the company of others, chewing, swallowing, and full of desire. A year marked by the cyclical 12-month calendar that structures the parcels of time for most of the people on the planet. 

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The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

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A vision statement in 3 scenarios


Scenario # 1: The island

You are sitting on the cool golden sand of a small beach. Your clothes are wet and tattered but you feel fine. You are not sure how you got there; the last thing you remember is that you were standing on the hull of a large boat looking out over the open sea. You turn around to take in your surroundings; behind you there is thick green jungle and the soft orange of the setting sun. There is no one else in sight. You know somehow that you are alone. This is a deserted island. You feel fine and strangely calm as the light from the sun casts long shadows on the small shells scattered about the beach. You spend time thinking. You think about the people you love, the people that love you. You fantasize about building a hut to live in and eating the fruit from the palm trees. The hours pass, the sky turns a deep apricot, and as you lie down in the soft sand and look up at the sky, you begin to think about your project, your creation, your work.  Your perspective is different, you can see your project from a distance, for the first time. And you begin to see what it gives to the world, how it fits in, how the world will change if you keep going, if you make your project strong. And you feel your face begin to smile at the same time that you have this thought: “the world needs me, the world needs my project”.

In the distance, faintly at first, the sound of a ship’s horn can be heard over the gentle lapping of the waves.

Scenario # 2: The woman

You are in a spacious office with polished wooden floors; there is just you and a woman dressed in a finely tailored suit made of light brown linen. You are sitting across from each other, comfortably, in wide beige upholstered chairs; there is no desk between you. You are in the middle of pitching your project to her; she has the ability to offer you the economic and logistic support you have dreamt of. The woman is listening carefully and attentively to your words as you masterfully describe your project. You stop for a moment, take in a deep breath, center yourself and wait for any question or sign of interest. Your sole audience looks at you with a smile in her eyes, and after a moment of silence she respectfully says, “I like it. I just have one question before I give you my full support: What is your project trying to accomplish in the world?”

Scenario # 3: The circle

You have been invited to a meeting. You walk into a large room with lots of chairs arranged in a wide circle. There are many people there and they begin to each take a seat, casually without haste. As you look around, you begin to recognize many of the faces, and suddenly the realization hits you: you are in a meeting with the world’s most important visionaries, leaders, thinkers and great teachers of all times. There are people of all possible skin tones; they are tall, short, large and small; they are men and women of all different ages. You are sure that some of these leaders could not possibly still be alive, yet here they are together in this room—as if time had no relevance here. And there you are, standing among them; “there must have been a mix-up in the invitations”, you mutter uncomfortably to yourself feeling awkward and out of place.

Following the gestures of the others in the room, you take a seat in the large circle of chairs and sit, very quietly, waiting. Spontaneously and quite naturally, the men and women in the room begin to speak, one by one, taking turns, with all the others listening in silence with great attention and patience. Each person tells briefly and simply his or her vision of how they would like the world to be and how their particular work is striving to achieve that. You begin to feel nervous and fluttery in your stomach; you don’t like this type of exercise. However, as you sit quietly and listen, you come to sense that no one looks uncomfortable or as if groping for ideas or words. And no one looks as thought they would disapprove of anything the others say; they seem to truly accept all that is being said. It seems that the most important element is quite simply that the words come from the heart, and this way of speaking seems to relax the mood in the room, and you begin to feel a little less nervous, a little more alert. And curious.

Meanwhile, the speaking continues, slowly making its way around the circle, person by person, vision by vision. There are about five or six people before it’s your turn to speak.

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Zero tweets

The digital era is cool. It’s seductive and extremely convenient. It can make life easier, faster, and even more visible.

Except when it doesn’t.

Some things can actually become invisible. The lives of some people.

In our world of work, there is a very large group who are invisible to the digital gaze. Even in our own projects or enterprises, people who are doing some of the most important work might never show up at the top of a Google search after we enter their name and tap the return key.

The great majority of the people working on projects, often times very large projects, are busy with the work that must be done in order for the project to function. The general public rarely, if ever, sees their names in large illuminated lights. 

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Technology, real time and you

Something new is happening.

Never before have we, the general population, been able to step back and watch the spread of technology as it occurs.

The ability to view the extension of different technologies has usually come long after their introduction into mass culture.

The maps of the proliferation of the printing press, the telephone, automobile, television, air travel, moving pictures, and computers were usually made available well after these technologies were already being used by large numbers of people. Even now, many of us have never seen or thought about what those maps might look like, nor have we had the tools to chart the different ways these technologies changed elements of human activity and interaction.

This information has historically been kept within the small circles of academic, scientific or product researchers.

That can all be different now.

Today, because of the massive production of creative data, those of us who have access to the internet can watch the movement of technology unfold right before our very eyes.

Let me show you one example of what I mean, a spectacular digital map that was built to show the rapid unfolding of the communication technology “Android”.

It might first be helpful have a bit of background.

Android is an open source operating system for mobile devices currently owned by Google Inc.

The Android operating system is a stack or combination of technologies: an operating system, applications and middleware (middleware provides connectivity between individual software applications). The basic goal of this technology stack is to achieve fast, smooth and easy data transmission for people using mobile devices.

The Android mobile operating system is used for smartphones, netbooks and tablets. The first phone using this system was released in late 2008, producing a ripple of activity around the globe—the beginning, very probably, of a profound change in the tools humans use to communicate

And for the first time in history, you and I can watch this change occur.

The very short video that follows is a moving map, in fast time, of Android mobile devices being activated by people around the world from late 2008 to early 2011—a three-minute light show that condenses twenty-six months of the expansion of a new communication technology. First we get global view, then North America, then Europe, then Asia.

Take a look here or on the screen below.

Pretty spectacular, right?

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The cartography of economies

Let’s take a very common term and expand it a bit. Economy. Let’s define “economy” as the wealth and resources of a specific thematic or geographic area, in reference to the production, use and availability to people of material things or ideas. Ok, that’s good.

Now let’s use this definition to frame today’s world – easily conceived as a construction of an increasing number of different, autonomous yet interconnected economies. Let’s define just a few: well, there’s the global economy that we all participate in by default, then there is an individual country’s economy, then a city’s. But within this basic cartography of economies, what other areas can we draw lines around to then form a more defined community or tribe of relations?

The economy of technology, the economy of health, the economy of human relations, the economy of communication, the economy of culture, the economy of architecture, the economy of food, the economy of story telling, of craftsmanship, of music, of leisure, of beauty, of consciousness, of justice, of education, of talent, of knowledge, of nature, and, why not, the economy of the soul.

These economies overlap and fold over each other; the lines we draw around them are soft and fluid. Yet, if we take a look at the world using this map, it could help us to see more clearly the contours of our areas of influence and contribution, and to visualize and plan the movement of our projects with greater awareness.

And I’m guessing that if you actually do take a moment to see the fuller picture of what you are helping to create, shape and expand in this world, it will give you a particularly nice feeling.