Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wealth of Networks

I've been spending my Christmas vacation catching up on my much-neglected reading, including Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks. I haven't even escaped Chapter 1 when I run across this little gem:
For the most part[...] the state in both the United States and Europe has played a role in supporting the market-based industrial incumbents of the twentieth-century information production system at the expense of the individuals who make up the emerging networked information economy. Most state interventions have been in the form of either captured legislation catering to incumbents, or, at best, well-intentioned but wrongheaded efforts to optimize the institutional ecology for outdated modes of information and cultural production. 
 --Yochai Benkler, 2006 (long before the FCC adopted it's Net Neutrality rules)
It reminds us well that we are in a new time; that the either/or dynamic that defined the political discourse of the twentieth century is outmoded and should be retired; and that looking to the state to protect you from corporations (or vice versa) is foolishness.

Big Government is Big Business

A very Happy New Year to everyone! Welcome to the 2nd decade of the 21st century!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kevin Carson's _The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto_

Color me flattered, I just noticed that this blog was substantially cited in Kevin Carson's book The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto. More than anything I wanted to give the book a plug, and to mention how compelling Carson's work has been over at the P2P Foundation, which is where I became most familiar with it.

If you want to check out the chapter (wonderfully titled "Babylon is Fallen") that references some of my writing on artificial scarcity and the knowledge economy, you can find it online here.

I'm fairly certain that this marks the first time this blog has ever been cited in print (aside from an occasional LaserJet printer). Thanks, Kevin.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Following the Big Dogs: Lessons in Corporate Culture from Merlin Mann

I ran across Merlin Mann's talk about How to Fix Meetings. It's good, if a little long, so if you're interested in the topic, check it out. But there's one jewel of an idea that I found there that I wanted to call out:

"We aren't dumb. People chase Big Dogs"

This is an invaluable lesson when analyzing your own corporate culture. Forget the mission statements, the surveys, and the focus groups. A "culture" at an organization is the collection of unwritten rules that people either follow, or risk some level of ostracism when they don't. They are usually hard to define, and almost never written down or formalized (mostly because of how very difficult it is to pin them down, particularly from *the inside* of the organization).

But no matter what organization you're talking about, its culture can be discovered by asking "What do people see *as succeeding*". What works? What doesn't? Period. People follow the Big Dogs. 

"Big Dogs" doesn't mean management, either. It means those successful people in whatever corner of the organization that are generally understood to be effective. It's about what those people do (not what they or their managers say) that we pick up on and emulate.

When you've identified the Big Dogs, and identified what they do to be successful at your organization, it's pretty easy to identify the culture.

The hard part is determining whether or not the culture you have is the culture you want.