Showing posts with label Individualism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Individualism. Show all posts

March 18, 2015

Seeing Double

I had to do a double take seeing this yesterday in D.C.

No this is not someone leaning up against a mirror.

This is two people, back-to-back on the train.

They have the same jacket, haircut, glasses, as well as pants and shoes (although you can't see these in the picture). 

They are looking in same general direction. 

The only difference is the collar that's up on the guy on the right. 

Imagine if we all looked and dressed and even acted identically...one big homogeneous and ultimately boring and uncreative society.

Please give me some individualism, spontaneity, and make me whole. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 15, 2012

Beating Social Media Isolation

There is a debate called the "Internet Paradox" about whether social media is actually connecting us or making us more feel more isolated.  

I think it is actually a bit of both as we are connected to more people with time and space virtually no impediment any longer; however, those connections are often more shallow and less fulfilling.

There is an important article in The Atlantic (May 2012) called "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" that lends tremendous perspective on information technology, social media and our relationships.
The premise is that "for all this [new] connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier."

The article is very absolute that despite all the technology and communication at our fingertips, we are experiencing unbelievable loneliness that is making people miserable, and the author calls out our almost incessant feelings of unprecedented alienation, an epidemic of loneliness, and social disintegration.

Of course, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that almost everyone can share, but there are also numerous studies supporting this, including: 

1) Study on Confidants (2004)--showed that our average number of confidants shrunk by almost 50% from approximately 3 people in 1985 to 2 people in 2004; moreover, in 1985 only 10% of Americans said they had no one to talk to, but this number jumped 1.5 times to 25% by 2004. 

2) AARP Study (2010)--that showed that the percentage of adults over 45 that were chronically lonely had almost doubled from 20% in 2000 to 35% in 2010.

Some important takeaways from the research:

- Married people are less lonely than singles, if their spouses are confidants.

- "Active believers" in G-d were less lonely, but not for those "with mere belief in G-d."

- People are going to mental professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors) as "replacement confidants." 

- Loneliness is "extremely bad for your health."

- Our appetite for independence, self-reliance, self-determination, and individualism can lead to the very loneliness that can makes people miserable. 

- Using social media, we are compelled to assert our constant happiness and curate our exhibitionism of the self--"we are imprison[ed] in the business of self-presenting."

- Technology tools can lead to more integration or more isolation, depending on what we do with them--do we practice "passive consumption and broadcasting" or do we cultivate deeper personal interactions from our social networks?

Personally, I like social media and find it an important tool to connect, build and maintain relationships, share, and also relax and have fun online. 

But I realize that technology is not a substitute for other forms of human interaction that can go much deeper such as when looking into someone's eyes or holding their hand, sharing life events, laughing and crying together, and confiding in each other.

In January 2011, CNBC ran a special called "The Facebook Obsession," the name of which represents the almost 1 billion people globally that use it. To me though, the real Facebook obsession is how preoccupied people get with it, practically forgetting that virtual reality, online, is not the same as physical, emotional, and spiritual reality that we experience offline.

At times, offline, real-world relationships can be particularly tough--challenging and painful to work out our differences--but also where we find some of the deepest meaning of anything we can do in this life. 

Facebook and other social media's biggest challenge is to break the trend of isolation that people are feeling and make the experience one that is truly satisfying and can be taken to many different levels online and off--so that we do not end up a society of social media zombies dying of loneliness. 

Social media companies can do this not just for altruistic reasons, but because if they offer a more integrated solution for relationships, they will also be more profitable in the end. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to h.koppdelaney)

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November 24, 2011

Playing For The Good Of The Team


Good Morning America"s Play of the Day is called "Man Plays Baseball With Himself."
In this incredible video a Japanese Astronaut on the International Space Station throws a ball, runs and picks up a bat and hits the ball he just threw, and then jumps up and catches the ball he just hit.
An impossibility in Earth environment, but a possibility in the low gravity of space.
One lesson then is that nothing is really impossible--given the right circumstances, the impossible becomes possible, so have faith in your abilities and understand that your limitations are not insurmountable.
A second lesson is that while this astronaut shows what's it's like to be literally a one-man team and to succeed; in the real world, there are no one man teams--we depend on each other, whether to play a game of ball or to accomplish things from major projects to minor tasks.
On Thanksgiving, a favorite pastime is watching football and the NFL has been playing on Thanksgiving since at least 1920. In general, there is a huge appreciation of team sports in America, whether football, basketball, soccer, and more.
Pedople on sports teams and in organizational settings who get ahead understand the importance of team and that collaboration and strategy is the key to success and to "winning." Those who don't get alone, end up on the sidelines of the game and of life.
Playing alone, especially in space, may make a great video, but working through a difficult problem with others is even a bigger challenge and feat accomplished.
Getting alone is something we try to instill in people in our society from the earliest of ages, but it does not come easy for everyone. That why we describe people in the organization who don't get alone with others as "not playing nice in the sandbox."
Perhaps, this Thanksgiving, we can appreciate the ability of those who are team players as well as those who may be more individualist, as long as everyone is playing for the good of team.
(Source Photo: here)

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September 29, 2009

Embracing Instability and Enterprise Architecture

Traditional management espouses that executives are supposed to develop a vision, chart a course for the organization, and guide it to that future destination. Moreover, everyone in the enterprise is supposed to pull together and sing off the same sheet of music, to make the vision succeed and become reality. However, new approaches to organizational management acknowledge that in today’s environment of rapid change and the many unknowns that abound, executives need to be far more flexible and adaptable, open to learning and feedback, and allow for greater individualism and creativity to succeed.

In the book Managing the Unknowable by Ralph Stacey, the author states that “by definition, innovative strategic directions take an organization into uncharted waters. It follows that no one can know the future destination of an innovative organization. Rather, that organization’s managers must create, invent, and discover their destination as they go.”

In an environment of rapid change, the leader’s role is not to rigidly control where the organization is going, but rather to create conditions that foster creativity and learning. In other words, leaders do not firmly set the direction and demand a “cohesive team” to support it, but rather they create conditions that encourage and promote people to “question everything and generate new perspectives through contention and conflict.” The organization is moved from "building on their strengths and merely adapting to existing market conditions, [to insted] they develop new strengths and at least partly create their own environments.”

An organization just sticking to what they do best and incrementally improving on that was long considered a strategy for organizational success; however, it is now understood as a recipe for disaster. “It is becoming clearer why so many organizations die young…they ‘stick to their knitting’ and do better and better what they already do well. When some more imaginative competitors come along and change the rules of the game, such over-adapted companies…cannot respond fast enough. The former source of competitive success becomes the reason for failure and the companies, like animals, become extinct.”

Organizations must be innovative and creative to succeed. “The ‘new science’ for business people is this: Organizations are feedback systems generating such complex behavior that cause-and-effect links are broken. Therefore, no individual can intend the future of that system or control its journey to that future. Instead what happens to an organization is created by and emerges from the self-organizing interactions between its people. Top managers cannot control this, but through their interventions, they powerfully influence this.

With the rapidly changing economic, political, social, and technological conditions in the world, “the future is inherently unpredictable.” To manage effectively then is not to set rigid plans and targets, but rather to more flexibly read, analyze, and adapt to the changes as they occur or as they can be forecast with reasonable certainly. “A ‘shared vision’ of a future state must be impossible to formulate, unless we believe in mystic insight.” “No person, no book, can prescribe systems, rules, policies, or methods that dependably will lead to success in innovative organizations. All managers can do it establish the conditions that enable groups of people to learn in each new situation what approaches are effective in handling it.”

For enterprise architecture, there are interesting implications from this management approach. Enterprise architects are responsible for developing the current and target architecture and transition plan. However, with the rapid pace of change and innovation and the unpredictability of things, we learn that “hard and fast” plans will not succeed, but rather EA plans and targets must remain guidelines only that are modified by learning and feedback and is response to the end-user (i.e User-centric). Secondly, EA should not become a hindrance to organizational innovation, creativity, and new paradigms for organizational success. EA needs to set standards and targets and develop plans and administer governance, but this must be done simultaneously with maintaining flexibility and harnessing innovation into a realtime EA as we go along. It’s not a rigid EA we need, but as one of my EA colleagues calls it, it’s an “agile EA”.


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August 8, 2009

What China’s Bullet Trains Can Teach Us About Governance

One of the foundations of this great country is that we believe in respecting the rights of the individual. This belief is founded on the Judeo-Christian doctrine that every life is valuable and the loss of even one life is like the loss of an entire world.

The rights of the individuals are enshrined in the Bill of Rights that establishes what we consider our fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech, press, religion, due process, eminent domain, and many others.

The flip side of the protection of individual rights—which is sacred to us—is that it may occasionally come at some “expense” to the collective. This can occur when those individuals who may be adversely affected by a decision, hinder overall societal progress. For example, one could argue that society benefits from the building of highways, clean energy nuclear plants, even prison facilities. Yet, we frequently hear the refrain of “not in my backyard” when these projects are under consideration.

In my neighborhood, where a new train line is proposed, there are signs up and down the street, of people adversely affected, opposing it—whether in the end it is good, bad or indifferent for the community as a whole.

So on one hand we have the rights and valid concerns of the individual, yet on the other hand, we have the progress of the collective. Sure, there are ways to compensate those individuals who are adversely affected by group decisions, but the sheer process of debate—however valuable and justified, indeed—may slow the overall speed of progress down.

Why is this an especially critical issue now?

In a high speed networked world with vast global competition—nation versus nation, corporation versus corporation—speed to market can make a great deal of difference. For example, the speed of the U.S. in the arms and space race with Soviet Union left just one global superpower standing. Similarly, many companies and in fact whole industries have been shut down because they have been overtaken, leapfrogged by the competition. So speed and innovation does matter.

For example, in the field of information technology, where Moore’s Law dictates a new generation of technology every two years of so, the balance of speed to modernization with a foundation of sound IT governance is critical to how we must do business.

Fortune Magazine has an article called “China’s Amazing New Bullet Train (it leaves America in the Dust!)”

China’s new ultra-modern rail system will be almost 16,000 miles of new track running train at up to 220 miles per hours by 2020. China is investing their economic stimulus package of $585 billion strategically with $50 billion going this year alone to the rail system. This compares with the U.S. allocating only $8 billion for high-speed trains over the next three years. Note: that the high speed Amtrak Acela train between Boston and Washington, DC goes a whopping average speed of 79 mph.

One of the reasons that China’s free market is credited with amazing economic progress—for example, GDP growth this year projected at 8.3% (in the global recession)—is their ability to retain some elements of what the military calls a “command and control” structure. This enables decisions to get made and executed more quickly than what others may consider endless rounds of discourse. The down side of course is that without adequate and proper discussion and debate, poor decisions can get made and executed, and individuals’ human rights can get overlooked and in fact sidelined. (Remember the shoddy school construction that resulted in almost 7000 classrooms getting destroyed and many children dying in the Earthquake in China in May 2008?)

So the question is how do we protect the individual and at the same time keep pace—and where possible, maintain or advance our societal strategic competitive advantage?

It seems that there is a cost to moving too slowly in terms of our ability to compete in a timely fashion. Yet, there is also a cost to moving too quickly and making poorly vetted decisions that do not take into account all the facts or all the people affected. Either extreme can hurt us.

What is important is that we govern with true openness, provide justice for all affected, and maintain a process that helps—and does not hinder—timely decisions action.

We cannot afford to make poor decisions—these are expensive—nor do we have the luxury of getting caught up in “analysis paralysis.”

Of course, there are many ways to approach this. One way is to continue to refine our governance processes so that they are just to the individual and agile for our society by continuing to simplify and streamline the decision process, while ensuring that everyone is heard and accounted for. Recently we have seen the use of new information sharing and collaboration technologies, like those provided through social media—wikis, blogs, social networks and more—that can help us to do exchange ideas and work together faster than ever before. Embracing these new technologies can help us to pick up the pace of the vetting process while at the same time enabling more people than ever to participate.

Perhaps social media is one of the only things faster than China’s new bullet trains in helping us to progress how we do business in the 21st century.


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