Posts Tagged ‘Clay Shirky’

The New G-Spot

March 31, 2013 2 comments

Before reading any further, please contemplate this Box cutter:

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful- George Box

Now, let’s start with a pair of “model” problem-system and control-system templates:


Next, let’s hypothesize a new composite system that you designed, built, and deployed to “solve a vexing socio-technical problem“. You diligently employed the dorky BD00 templates, your brain, and your positional power to form a “semieffective” marriage between your specific problem (indicated by the blue, scoped boundary) and your specific controller (indicated by non-white components):

Effective Marriage

Although your new system may appear to be alleviating (or least containing) the problem, looks can be (and usually are) deceiving. Before you pat yourself on the back for being a “problem solver“, please contemplate these Gall-isms:

New systems generate new problems – John Gall

Systems Develop Goals Of Their Own The Instant They Come Into Being – John Gall

Intra-system Goals Come First – John Gall

Thus, according to the Gallster, the a-priori and noble “G” you designed into your fabulous controller subsystem will eventually be usurped (sooner rather than later) by the emergent “G” of the new composite system entity. Sometimes the new “G” totally obscures the original “G” so thoroughly that, given enough time, nobody can even remember what the original “G” was. D’oh!

Orig To New

And what might this new system “G-Spot” be? Could it be to perpetuate and maybe even exacerbate the original problem so that the new system (especially the controller subsystem) can grow and thrive? After all, if the problem gets solved, then there will be no more need for the controller subsystem. In effect, the new system would be devouring itself as it solved the problem. But wait! That can’t happen because it would be a fruitless attempt to violate this Gall-Shirky pair:

Systems Tend To Grow, And As They Grow, They Encroach – John Gall

Institutions Tend To Preserve The Problem To Which They Are The Solution – Clay Shirky

An alternative BD00 quote rip-off is:

Systems, like people, tend not to consume themselves as food.

Can you concoct another alternative rip-off quote?

From Consumer To Participant

October 7, 2010 Leave a comment

As I’ve stated before, I love Clay Shirky. The guy is phenomenally perceptive and insightful in detecting subtle changes in global trends and patterns of behavior. In “Cognitive Surplus”, Mr. Shirky recounts the rut of one-way consumerism that most of us were in, and many of us are still in, until relatively recently. The figure below shows the “old days” model, which is still “these days” for a boatload of people – especially institutional SCOLs.

In the “old days” model, content was concocted by “professional” content concocters and spoon fed to us through the (yawn) standard one-way media outlets of TV, radio and newspaper. The media creators and the media communication infrastructure owners had full say over what we heard and saw through the limited, one way-media outlets. We were (and most still are) passive consumers sitting in our lazy boys and scarfing up the input provided to us.

With the advent of social networks, the situation has changed drastically. As the figure below illustrates, the “old days”, one- way system of forced feeding has been supplemented by a parallel, “new days”, two-way system in which you and I have the opportunity to participate and create. The meteoric rise of social networks has allowed previously shackled DORKs like you and me to actively create and share content while simultaneously allowing a much greater variety of choice over what we consume. Ain’t life grand?

Of course, the emergence of this brave new world has triggered great angst and fear in those old school power mongers who can’t or won’t morph with the times. As far as most corpricracies go, they’re still stuck in the mindset of “we’ll control the crap and we’ll control the distribution of the crap of what you see and hear. As you know, we’re better and smarter than you and your fellow amateurs, so it’s in your best interest if you forgo the opportunity to participate.

Preserving The Problem

Because I’m a shirker, I love Clay Shirky. Not only does he have a kool name, the guy is an innovative thinker:

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky

Like many rich and insightful quotes that I stumble upon, I didn’t quite get this one at first. But after thinking about it, I conjured this one up:

While espousing that they want unity of purpose, collaboration, esprit de corps, teamwork, and yada-yada-yada, the juntas in head sheds everywhere unwittingly (wittingly?) preserve the very same problem they supposedly want solved. In this example, the problem is poor corpo performance caused by fragmentation, isolation, stratification, disengagement, and mis-communication. CCRATS not only preserve the performance problem, I’ll go one better than the Clayster. I’ll assert that CGHs amplify the stank by nurturing and perpetuating their hand made caste system of divisive titles, arbitrary reward systems, and socially disconnected working units/departments/groups. It’s silo city – by design.

So why do head sheds everywhere perpetuate this Alice In Wonderland behavior in spite of the ominously growing evidence that it doesn’t work in an increasingly flat and globally connected world? Because changing the entrenched system they collectively built to take care of themselves would flatten the hierarchy and cause them to come tumbling down from the heavens. Do you think many of the “honorable and infallible” talking heads of our institutions want, or have the will, to give up their elevated personal standing for the greater good of  the whole? I suspect not many, but those who can and do will prosper in this age of rapid change.

The Last Remaining Method Of Simplification

April 27, 2010 1 comment

In this blog post, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models”, uber-thinker Clay Shirky predicts the impending instantaneous implosion of many (all?) unfathomably complex business models that are currently thought by many to be unassailable. The cruxt of Clay’s compelling argument is based on eerily similar collapses of past complex cultures as told by Joseph Tainter in his aptly named book, The Collapse of Complex Societies.

Tainter’s thesis is that when society’s elite members add one layer of bureaucracy or demand one tribute too many, they end up extracting all the value from their environment it is possible to extract and then some. – Clay Shirky

Adding layer upon layer of bureaucracy (to disconnect themselves from the commoners, of course) and demanding “tributes” in the form of exotic titles, awards, astronomical salaries, and perks (to satisfy their egomania and bolster the false image that they “know what’s best for all“) pushes their elite system over the precipice.

In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification. – Clay Shirky

In this 5 minute video talk, “the current economy“, my favorite spiritual guru, Eckhart Tolle, trumps Clay by rising up one level of abstraction. Eckhart predicts the impending collapse of many of the societal structures that are ego based. Ego loves complexity. And how many large, man-made, socio-technical structures (a.k.a institutions) do you think are not ego based?

The problem is not the content, it’s the conditioned structure of the human mind – Eckhart Tolle

Some Of My Heroes

September 29, 2009 3 comments

“We’re just two wild and crazy guys” – Yortuk and Georg Festrunk

Wild And Crazy Guys

Unlike the quote above, Joe Walsh’s “I’m just an ordinary average guy” fits me to a tee. In spite of this, I’d like to think that I’m open to new ideas and thinking. At the moment, here are some of my favorite, inspirational, weird, and forward looking (but pragmatic) thinkers:

Check out what one or more of these whack jobs have to say if  you’re yearning to explore and discover new opportunities that may crack the  concrete in your brain and challenge your same-old, same-old mental models of the world. If you think there is an “edge” to my blarticle posting style, then you should give all the credit to those dudes.

Who are your favorite thinkers, visionaries, and potential status-quo busters? What, you don’t have any? Why not?

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