Look before you leap

It has been a long time since I’ve posted and there is so much to discuss. The continued industrialisation of the technology stack, the automation of radicalisaton online, the impacts of physical isolation in accelerating adoption, the ethics of choice against the ethics of care or the entire question of how to balance “Me” vs “We” in a modern society? There is so much to choose from that it’s difficult to know where to start. But start I will and I suppose a bugbear is as good a place as any. My bugbear for today is digital sovereignty.

I’ll need to explain what digital sovereignty is and that task is about as easy as explaining what culture is, something that anthropoligist have failed to do in over one hundred years of concerted effort. To make matters worse, I’m going to have to use culture to explain digital sovereignty. I’m already starting to regret my decision to leave my self imposed exile on twitter to return to a bit of blogging. …

Off the beaten track — pivot.

It has been a few months since my last discussion on culture. To recap, the difficulty I have with discussing culture is the inability of people to describe it. As Kroeber said “Despite a century of efforts to define culture adequately, there is no agreement among anthropologists regarding its nature.”

Margaret Mead wisely noted that “Language is a discipline of cultural behaviour” and that’s our open door because any model cannot be complete and true within itself (Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem). …

On the inclusive and exclusive nature of values

In my previous post on HS2 (High Speed Rail) to China, I discussed the necessity for using multiple methods when managing any large complicated system that contains evolving components. Taking from Elizabeth Shove’s work on social practice theory, I examined how within a single meaning (such as “project management”) you can have different competencies (agile, lean and six sigma) each of which are individually suited to a different material instance (genesis, product, commodity) of a single “thing” which has a common meaning (e.g. compute, teleportation, risk management).

In other words “project management” (a meaning) for a “thing” (a meaning) can result in the use of very different competencies depending upon how evolved that thing is. …

On the changing world of geopolitics.

There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth recently over the Government decision to involve Huawei in 5G and China’s National Rail company in HS2 (High Speed Rail) with endless concerns over human rights, exploitation of labour and security. There are many subjects being muddled together here, so let us start by unpacking this all. First up, HS2 and the question of outsourcing.

HS2 and Outsourcing.

James Findlay was the former CIO of HS2 and he had a problem. In order to reduce the risks of HS2, a decision was taken to build the entire railroad in a virtual world, a sort of early “digital twin” circa 2012. …

Off the beaten path — Part VI

On memory

From the earlier sections, I hope we now have a basic grasp of concepts like values, principles, enablement systems and the general map of culture. Of course, it’s quite a lot of ground to cover, so how much you understand probably depends upon how much you remember and when it comes to culture, nothing matters more than memory.

Within any collective, the values we espouse and the principles we hold are embodied in the written history and the living memory of its members (see point 1, figure 1)

Figure 1 — Collective memory.

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This is why, if you wish to change the culture of any organisation then you need to change the experience of its member and that experience means dealing with past memory. It’s not enough to simply say words but instead action and the memory of action is required. Memory unfortunately is a very fickle thing, it’s a faulty but incredibly useful system. In the seven sins of memory Daniel Schacter highlighted known areas of failure which include…

Off the beaten path — Part V

Understanding Value

In this section, I’m going to explore a bit more into the question of value within our map of culture in order for later sections to shed some light onto the question of what should I do now? As with mapping in general, there are no right answers, there is simply a way of discussing the environment to find a better path.

To begin with, I’m going to re-examine that concept of pipelines when it came to values. …

Off the beaten path — Part IV

Mea culpa

In the previous chapter, I left you with a map of brexit. I said that I had avoided the use of values within it … mea culpa … I had left some in there. Two values in particular — fairness and equality (see highlighted point 1 in figure 1)

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But what are values? Values identify what is judged as good or evil within a culture. They are more than just the operating norms or principles of behaviour, they are beliefs and often abstract concepts of what is important, what matters, what is worthwhile. They are within and derived from a collective (see point 2) i.e. …

Off the beaten track — Part III.

The first rule of Brexit is “you’re wrong”.

No matter what you say on Brexit then someone will argue that you’re wrong and that they’re right. The purpose of a map is never about being right but instead helping to create a better map. Hence, I’m going to start by saying that I accept that my maps are wrong but I’m not interested in why they are wrong, I am only interested in a better map. So, they’re wrong, you’re right but if you want to discuss this subject further then produce a better map.

Everything else I will consider a waste of time wrapped up in individual political capital, stories and desires. If you want to have a shouting match over some narrative then find a mirror and knock yourself out silly. Since the map is wrong, I’m going to assume the assumptions are wrong as well. It’s all wrong but that’s ok. …

Off the beaten track — Part II.

Mapping Culture

How do we map culture? What is culture? Will mapping a culture somehow effect it?

In one interview with a global company that relied upon the use of stories as the main method of communication, an observation was made that was quite startling to begin with but obvious in hindsight — “maps are helping us shift our culture”.

One of the issues with using stories in decision making is that stories are often tied to an individual — the storyteller. We even teach people how to be a better storyteller as though the idea itself has more validity if only presented in the right way. This makes decisions and challenge personal, as it is not so much about whether we believe the story but whether we believe the storyteller. Hence the conversation can quickly become political. One of the advantages of putting the idea down in a map is that we now focus on challenging the map. …

Off the beaten path — Part I.

The Problem

During 2005–2006 with the implementation of a pioneer-settler-town planner structure in a high tech startup in Old Street, London (a barren wasteland of technology at that time), one noted observation was that the different components of the structure appeared to have different cultures. A more recent set of observations (2014–2016), through examination of company’s doctrine has shown us that the principles used in companies are not the same and not even necessarily uniform within a company and this appears to impact the adaptability of the organisation.

To put it simply, if I take a list of universally useful principles derived from mapping (see figure 1) and then compare companies with a simple traffic light system (are you good at this or not) then differences exist (figure 2 and 3). …



I like ducks, they're fowl but not through choice. RT is not an endorsement but a sign that I find a particular subject worthy of challenge and discussion.

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