Tag Archive for 'clay shirky'

Five videos to help explain the New Game in business

To be a winner in the New Game requires an understanding from the bottom to the top of an organisation that if you are going to make best use of people’s talents to provide the goods and services folks want, in the way they want, you will - sooner or later - have to embrace three key concepts:

  • Openness (of information, innovation and internal/external communication);
  • Collaboration (among diverse groups of people including employees, customers and communities);
  • Sustainability (since this is the only viable future for business and civilisation).

The web and advances in technology allow us to organise ourselves in a fundamentally different, and more productive way - bringing people and information beyond old boundaries together to solve the challenges we face as businesses, societies and an interdependent planet. Some sectors will have to face this challenge sooner than others, but the direction of change is now clear and even those who feel they have some years’ breathing space need to accept that change will hit every sector eventually, as nimbler competitors who “get it” emerge to challenge the status quo.

But among senior and not-so-senior people in traditional organisations who can see or sense the arrival of these changes, many feel they are a “generational thing”. They believe their current senior management and overarching culture just aren’t ready for these ideas, so they do not push the agenda, preferring instead to wait until some mythical young turk steps up to take the reins of the business. But push we must. Because even in organisations where change is likely to be slower, decisions you make now could impede your ability to succeed in future.

One reason many are reluctant to take on the mantle of ‘change agent’ is that they don’t feel they have appropriate ammunition or language to persuade sceptical boards and colleagues of the need to move in this direction. Well, here are five talks which provide a good primer on the key rules of the New Game. They do so with clarity and passion, as well as containing some great quotations and examples to counter detractors’ arguments, bring waverers on board and inspire.

1. Charles Leadbeater on Innovation (TED)

Business thinker Leadbeater explains back in 2005 why decentralisation, collaboration and openness are key to successful innovation, and why incremental innovation is not enough.

2. Clay Shirky on Institutions vs Collaboration (TED)

In another prescient 2005 talk, social media guru Shirky talks about how the social web will bring vast changes to the organisational landscape.

3. Ray Anderson on the case for Sustainable Business (TED)

Floor-tile entrepreneur and former environmental offender Anderson provides a compelling business, as well as moral, case for pursuing sustainable business. It’s worth watching in full, but those turned off by equations might like to forward to his conclusions, which start at the 9min 10sec mark.

4. Jeff Jarvis on “What Would Google Do?” (YouTube)

Author and journalist Jarvis gives a comprehensive talk on how businesses need to change, based on his book “What Would Google Do?”. There are some great concrete examples of game-changing ideas for different sectors.

5. Tim Berners-Lee on the “Next Web” (TED)

The fact  the inventor of the web has thrown his weight so passionately behind the idea of open, linked data is crucial - particularly since those you’re trying to convince will likely have heard of him. In other words, his is a highly credible name to drop when you’re making that New Game business case.

[Post to Twitter] Tweet This

Time for a New Game in Politics

As many commentators have pointed out in recent weeks, the scandal over MPs’ expenses reflects a deeper crisis of confidence in the state of UK politics. Further, the election of Barack Obama in the US on a manifesto of radical change and the protests in Iran clearly show the clamour for  political transformation stretches beyond our shores. But these events have also presented a rare opportunity for voices calling for change to make themselves heard beyond the elite circles normally interested in such issues.

In the last of this year’s Reith Lectures (broadcast yesterday), Harvard professor Michael Sandel gave a compelling analysis of the problem. The world faces dire environmental, social and economic challenges with which our political systems seem wholly ill-equipped to deal. The narrow market-driven focus of politics devalues democratic debate by framing complex moral questions and value judgements in purely monetary terms. For example, he cited the over-reliance on cost-benefit analysis in making critical policy decisions. “It is a spurious science that shifts decision-making from democratic politics to technocrats,” he said. “Democratic government is radically devalued if reduced to the role of handmaiden to the market economy…We have come to think of public life as an extension of markets, as economics by other means. But a healthy democracy requires that we think of ourselves less as consumers and more as citizens,” said Sandel.

I was reminded of another talk I heard earlier this week on TED, where US educationalist Liz Coleman called for radical reform in liberal arts education. Coleman believes the goal of academia should be a system that promotes a breadth of interdisciplinary knowedge and a yearning to engage with real-world issues, rather than to create an elite of experts focussed on ever-narrower specialisms. This transformation, she argued, was also crucial to reinvigorating public engagement with politics. “There is no such thing as a viable democracy made up of experts, zealots, politicians and spectators,” she said.

In his Reith lectures, Sandel points out that if we are to succeed in creating a ‘politics of the common good’, then we must reinvigorate public debate and address the complex moral questions that underlie many of the monumental challenges we face. However, he offered few practical suggestions of how we might bring this new politics about and notably failed to examine the burgeoning potential of the Internet to facilitate debate and organisation among citizens.

Others, however, are certainly thinking along these lines. In his recent TED talk,  respected social media guru Clay Shirky illustrates how the Internet and social media tools are already creating more bottom-up engagement with the political process - for example, empowering people to oversee the smooth running of elections by monitoring and uploading evidence of voter-suppression techniques at polling stations, or giving them the opportunity to organise and make their voices heard on particular issues.

But such bottom-up action also needs to be supported by top-down initiatives to bring the political process closer to the citizenry.  This means introducing much more transparency across government, and putting in place mechanisms that allow public participation in decision-making. Again, the Internet and online social media today make this a much more realistic proposition. In The Independent last Friday, MySociety’s Tom Steinberg wrote: “One of the most pressing information problems the Internet can help solve is the problem of producing better laws, and new laws that more people have seen before they’re hit over the head by their practical consequences.”

Steinberg’s essay was part of a series the paper is publishing as a prelude to Monday’s Reboot Britain conference, which will explore how we can “take advantage of the radically networked digital world we now live in to help revive our economy, rebuild our democratic structures and improve public services”. Other essays in the series (by the likes of Lee Bryant, Andy Hobsbawm and Paul Miller) explore many more practical suggestions for transforming political engagement and tackling our national problems.  The Guardian’s Activate 09 summit today (tagline: “Politics, economics, technology and society: Building a better future through the internet”) has been pursuing a similar agenda, and I’ve been following tweets with interest [edit: Roo Reynolds has now produced a great summary of the event here].

I’ll be attending Reboot Britain next week and look forward to hearing even more good ideas. But ideas on their own aren’t enough. Those of us calling for change need to build a momentum that becomes unstoppable, and that involves presenting a compelling vision of what our politics could be - a vision that captures the public imagination and puts the onus on politicians to respond with meaningful and lasting structural changes. Let’s show people what an engaged citizenry can really mean.

[Post to Twitter] Tweet This