Last month Nesta published its report “Mass Localism”, which builds on an emerging theme in political and activist circles. Last year John Denham led the charge with “Making Local the Answer” lecture at the RSA, ironically saying after 10 years plus of centralisation “local” is the big idea…
The Nesta report is OK, wishful thinking in places and idealistic perhaps but the application of community led approaches to achieve sustainability goals (“The Big Green Challenge”) may have some lessons for a cash strapped public sector who need to allocate limited funds (but perhaps lets not call it a “challenge” or competition). It also suggests that the local angle can be delivered in poorer communities as well as the more affluent, where active village leaders are thought to be much easier to find.
Expect to hear a lot of buzzwords like localism and communities over the next four weeks of electioneering, but probably less and less after one of the parties actually gets elected. The Conservatives are speaking about “big society” instead of “big state” and want to recruit 5,000 “community organisers”, with a new role for government ( “no role for government” is not what David Cameron is telling the Guardian readership, who unsurprisingly don’t appear to believe him).
But I always thought that centralising and controlling is the default political mode (just see episode 16, “The Challenge” of YesMinister for a masterful exposition of the ground rules by Sir Humphrey). For my part I am looking to see what the new neighbourhood business model will be when we want to deliver HS2 – perhaps 263 separate sections of track autonomously funded, built and managed by enthusiasts?
Worth watching for the last two minutes of speeded up transformation of the space. Ingenious…
The architects views on the process also struck a chord, as it’s not too different from any of our projects – client buy in, controlling costs, no surprises, use established technology, etc.
Again its a Dallas architecture/planning innovation, see my earlier post on Re:Vision – I can’t remember the place being that exciting when I lived there in the mid 60s.
Every year I repost/review the Edge Annual Question as a refresh/reboot as my new year starts. The 2010 Question – “How is the Internet changing the way you think?” appears at first as a bit mundane, but as the 137 writers approach the task with their own personal take on the question I find enough to provoke some – um- deep thinking.
A few of my favourite behavioural themes get an airing – Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, considers the impact of information:
So consider the explosive situation: more information (particularly thanks to the Internet) causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge while degrading predictability.
So much information, so much ignorance is his view – before he switches off the internet and returns to his well stocked physical library. David Myers states the obvious that the Internet as social amplifier can work for good and evil, and Chris Dibona (Google) doesn’t think the net creates ignorant people – they are just as likely to be ignorant without it. Most of the other authors accredit the net to broadening their horizons and despite the brain power on show often in relatively simple ways. (I was expecting Andrew Keen to pitch in on how we are letting the amateurs take over, but sadly no room for just one more iconoclast). Brian Eno finishes his answer/essay off with:
I notice that almost all of us haven’t thought about the chaos that would ensue if the Net collapsed.
I notice that my daily life has been changed more by my mobile phone than by the Internet.
Stephen Pinker is robust:
To be sure, many aspects of the life of the mind have been affected by the Internet. Our physical folders, mailboxes, bookshelves, spreadsheets, documents, media players, and so on have been replaced by software equivalents, which has altered our time budgets in countless ways. But to call it an alternation of “how we think” is, I think, an exaggeration.
OK… no need to read every essay but surf the names you know or the titles that take your fancy – we still need the Edge Question every year.
It is with some quiet satisfaction I report that a Japanese study (admittedly sponsored by Yamaha) led by the nueroscientist behind Nintendo DS Brain Training, Ryuta Kawashima, has tested a number of middle aged men who after returning to motorcycling saw improvements in memory, information processing and concentration functions.
The riders said they made fewer mistakes at work and felt happier.
Kawashima said “Our final conclusion is that riding motorcycles can lead to smart ageing.” So can I get some tax breaks on my health plan that involves more motorcycling?
Also in the comments on Hell for Leather– “you don’t stop riding because you get old, you get old because you stop riding”
and another cafe racer image for the fans out there – Ala Verda – Norton Commando engine, Laverda frame:
Imagine the scene – you get Dan Kahneman, Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan in a room in California to deliver a master class on behavourial economics, courtesy of Edge. In the audience you have Jeff Bezos, Nathan Myhrvold, Danny Hillis, Ev Williams, George Dyson and other A listers.
6 sessions, with videos and text, plus Q&A. As an example – session 1 – Thaler’s Nudge theory, choice architecture and “libertarian paternalism” are explored – interesting that he was going to call his book “Everything Matters”. I like the phrase “one click paternalism” as well if not the possible negative outcome. Maybe we can get the opt out choice architecture right on our company car share scheme.
While its not an instant fix – behavioral econ rarely is – its worth the investment in time to get up to speed on the basics.
BTW The use of the Enron film title is just me being ironic…
A few images and stories to get my blog back into the biker esoterica:
The Suzuki Crosscage concept bike from 2007 uses hybrid electric hydrogen fuel cell motor and is now a working prototype. Single-sided swing-arm and front fork, superlight and fast enough 100mph speed limited. Just need to perfect the fuel cell technology – nothing on Suzuki’s website to suggest its anywhere near production. (Story from Hell for Leather originally, YouTube video here).
Another YouTube video this time of the NONOBJECT nUCLEUS. Conceptual, yes, insane, yes…
Still no word from the Stonebridge Motor Company or Nick Gale as to when or if their Ace Cafe racer, Little Miss Dynamite, launched in June, will be on sale. With an S&S V twin, plus a featherbed style frame, alloy tank, interesting exhaust plumbing I would be counting out my pools winning to get an order in…
Click the images for the full picture.
Chris Gilmour, Brit artist based in northern Italy, uses only cardboard and glue to make his life size sculptures/ models and the artworld loves them.
Working my way through this years “Pop!Casts” from Pop!Tech I settled down for the Malcolm Gladwell show. The premise of his new book, Outliers, leaves me a little underwhelmed – “so what” comes to mind – and I know that there has been some cultural critics who have argued that we have seen diminishing returns from Tipping Point to Blink to Outliers.
I haven’t read it yet so will reserve judgement, but as bloggers take plenty of credit for compiling other sources of information and thought surely it would be a bit wrong to characterise Gladwell as just a pop sociologist, reading the difficult books so you don’t have to?
Watch the video here and you decide.
And now the hangover, but perhaps first a short walk through the values and meanings of Obama in the context of the “new” American Dream… using cultural theory to analyse and develop brands (or Presidents).
Please have a look at all of the Greg Rowland Semiotics presentation, (don’t be put off by the semiotics tag) but particularly the slides from 38 onwards about Obama – a cool calm intellectual treated to cool calm intellectual analysis;
Obama represents a new evolving topography of hope and desire for the American Dream – bringing disparate pieces together into a promising future
By choosing Obama the US is electing to look into the mirror that is the reflection of the present, rather than searching for our reflection in the past
Obama is the story of a fractured progressive narrative, pointing towards a new paradigm in the expression of the US dream
The American dream is at its most powerful during moments of chaos (as we resort to escapism for comfort — fantasy industries,such as entertainment, soar during periods of economic distress)
While McCain’s version of the American Dream was a familiar, yet antiquated one of small town America, Obama projected the dream through a fragmented post-modern lens of real and abstract hope
Thanks to Mark Earls for the link
Just like TED there are so many opportunities to enjoy the presentations at the big US “ideas” conferences without putting your name on waiting lists and spending thousands of pounds.
Names at this October’s PopTech include Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly and one of my favourites, Stewart Brand (of LongNow fame)- watch his predictions for the next 30 years of environmental action and how cities will develop – the video is here.
“3 kinds of environmentalists – Romantics, Scientists and Engineers.”
“Jesus People against Pollution” an example from over 1 million environmental organisations in the world…
“squatters are the dominant builders in the world today” – one billion live in squatter cities, two billion expected – these are the real green cities because of recycle and reuse, ecological footprint small.
And he is pro nuclear power…
also have a look at Christian Nolds bio mapping presentation – actually watch as many as you can, just choose at random! and start thinking 🙂
PS best geek joke – Bruce Sterling “we need a new word for neologism”
Mark Earls blogs on his own site and the Marketing Society site, yet again hitting several topical nails on their heads. Read the full blogpost here, but I can’t help myself in picking a choice quote:
“To be honest, copying is much more important than independent thinking to shaping human behaviour and is much more common: as Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahnemann puts it, humans are to independent thought as cats are to swimming. We can do it if we really want to but will avoid it like the plague if we can…”
With the reference to BrettConsult’s favourite behavioural economist how can he go wrong?
In related news my new model for travel behaviour change is getting some attention (virally, of course) and another article beckons. My paper for European Transport Conference has been published and a copy is available here – aet-paper-081006. As always some feedback would be welcome.
A new report from NESTA Taking Services Seriously sets out a few ideas on why (some) service industries innovate and most don’t. As we are a service economy (75% of the UK GDP) the concentration on manufacturing R&D has always slightly concerned me – yes we need to develop high value leading edge physical products but where is the future economy going to be built in added value terms?
The exec summary is pretty clear about why this report is needed now:
“Policy could have an important role in stimulating innovation in services. However, policymakers have lacked robust evidence showing how these sectors innovate. Drawing on a survey of more than 16,000 firms, this research reveals the high levels of ‘hidden innovation’ in some services sectors, especially in how they develop new business models and exploit technology. But the research also reveals that innovation is confined to a minority of service firms, and that many lack the skilled personnel or intelligence on markets and technology that would enable them to become more innovative.
Because of their dominance in the economy, improved performance by the UK’s services sectors is necessary if we are to significantly close the productivity gap between the UK and other leading nations. However, if we are to take innovation in services seriously, we must recognise that they innovate differently from advanced manufacturing. We need policies to support increased training and development, and the effective dissemination and exploitation of technology.
At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, thank god someone is saying this so we can point to it and internally lobby, cajole and encourage real support for innovation through better processes and sharper thinking.
Through Gizmodo amd Motorcycle Mojo found this unicycle/motorcycle hybrid, the Uno, recently shown at the Toronto Bike show. The inventor is a bright 18year old Canadian guy called Ben J. Poss Gulak who put the bike together without any big company R&D funds. It is two wheeled, with both wheels side by side, steered totally by moving your body weight around and gyro sensors, with electric battery power. Underneath the bodywork is extensively rebuilt Yamaha RI frame.
As a toy and a stunt show special fine but wouldn’t the perceived instability would put off both existing bikers and car drivers – maybe Segway owners would see it as a next step up from their machines? So its niche, but still glad someone has done it (and I would certainly have a go on one if it enters full production).
In the NESTA Connect blog there was some thought given to the recent Business Week top innovators list – all the usual suspects with Apple & Google leading the pack. I think the blog is right:
As always the list is more telling for who it leaves out rather than who it includes – what about companies from sectors such as architecture/construction, financial services, media, brand and PR, financial services and tourism and hospitality?
Agreed – surely the real innovation is found in the archetypical garage or at least small business and with the exception of Google, with its “20% Time” for all employees, innovation usually gets shuffled into an “R&D department”.
With the publication of Innovation Nation by the DIUS (yes, I had to remind myself it stands for the Department of Innovation, Universities & Skills) the topic is back in the news.
Key to the debate is whether a recession is the best or worst time to develop new products and bring them to market – as an eternal optimist I would say do it now, research resources are inexpensive and necessity, as always, is the mother of invention.
I remember reading my uncle’s popular science magazines in the 1960s when I lived in North Dakota and every year there would be a long look forward to the future, always optimistic and full of technology breakthroughs just around the corner. A look back at the November 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, courtesy of the Modern Mechanix blog, gave me a mix of “well, that happened” and “we’re still waiting” moments.
IT’S 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, and you are headed for a business appointment 300 mi. away. You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination, figures out the current traffic situation and signals your car to slide out of the garage. Hands free, you sit back and begin to read the morning paper—which is flashed on a flat TV screen over the car’s dashboard. Tapping a button changes the page.
Well, the predictions about sat nav & computers in the article have been met, with the internet predicted and the wide use of electronic money, for example. A good read, as is the Paleo Future blog, now we need someone to write an article about 40 years from now, I bet it won’t be so optimistic.
I always enjoy Cameron Reilly’s podcasts and his TPN blog, especially his interest in society and futurists – so just need to recommend the last GDay World podcast, #320.
The interview with Jamais Cascio covers a lot of ground, but its a timely consideration of living life publicly on the net, through ubiquitous social networks. The Chorus is cool, but to encourage interaction I am not writing anymore, you have to listen to it.
From Fast Company TV and Shel Israel, a good interview with Hugh MacLeod on “social objects”.
I met Hugh a while back on the Scoble Pissed as Newts tour, had a few beers and discussed microbrands, blogging & markets – hence “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time” – now you know who to blame, although it was Robert that really encouraged me to “just do it”.
On my geek pilgrimage to understanding social networking in the context of travel behaviour change I keep ending up at CRM (Client Relationship Management) sites – generally flogging a process and software, but as Jay Deragon reports on his Relationship Economy blog:
Our friend and colleague Doc Searls writes: I just learned by the Ajatus Manifesto that sixty-five percent of all CRM systems fail. Ajatus blames companies rushing to implement CRM. I’m sure that’s true. But I also think it’s possible that CRM itself is flawed by the closed and silo’d nature of the “relationships” involved. As a customer I can only relate to company CRM systems on the companies’ terms. Not on ones that I provide as well — for the good of us both. In other words, the base problem is that the lack of customer independence as a base condition for the relationship in the first place.
The answer (apparently) is VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management – which I am still trying to get my head around – is it still emperor’s new clothes or a genuine breakthrough?
As we develop our CRM I want confidence that the crash and burn of existing CRM systems is noted – you see, that’s why people think I am an optimist.
(Jay’s previous post on Conversational Rivers is pretty good – and anyone who is a mate of Doc Searles is OK with me 🙂 )
The TED Conferences consistently get the speakers and topics that I want to hear, although with a waiting list and a hefty charge I don’t suppose I will be going .
The March 2007 TED presentation from Jaime Lerner of Curitiba is particularly relevant to our business.
Open the link and prepare to lose several hours of your life – it’s a good thing, trust me.