Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Millions of Niches

Read about the "Theory of the Long Tail" and the new marketplace here.

"The Long Tail article (and the forthcoming book) is about the big-picture consequence of this: how our economy and culture is shifting from mass markets to million of niches. It chronicles the effect of the technologies that have made it easier for consumers to find and buy niche products, thanks to the "infinite shelf-space effect"--the new distribution mechanisms, from digital downloading to peer-to-peer markets, that break through the bottlenecks of broadcast and traditional bricks and mortar retail."

If you go to Chris Anderson's blog (link above) there is an interesting article on the "new" Al Gore.

Image credit: The Long Tail (blog)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dr. Katz is alive and well

I don’t know if this form of therapy is practiced anywhere but it’s not a bad idea. The client uses his session as a way to try out new material – humor. In the case of Dr. Katz, he just sat there, mostly with a blank look on his face, giving just enough feedback to keep the comic going. If you like the dry kind of humor, this is great television. In this clip, on YouTube, Dr. Katz's son has a talk with him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Simplicity = unlearning and synthesis.

In the recent “Changethis,” ( Dan Ward does some writing about the problems of complexity and over-thinking.

Click on the title above to go to the article.

Here are some highlights and notes:

1. There is a “complexity on the other side of understanding.”

In other words, people can often go too far in trying to develop an idea. Solution: peel back the layers to get to what is good and what works.
2. Complexity and goodness are not always directly proportional.

“Here we find the learned academician who everyone assumes is brilliant because no one can understand a word he says. In fact, his academics may simply be overcomplicated and have very limited goodness.”

3. To remedy the problem, Ward recommends “unlearning and synthesis.”

“To begin moving in this direction, we must learn a few new skills and forget some old ones. In place of learning and genesis, which served us well on the trip between Simplisticness and Complexity, we must now master a skillset that includes things like unlearning and synthesis.”

4. Reduce the design to basic components.

“The idea is to prune and pare down the design, reducing it to the essential components."

“For a more academically rigorous approach, we can look to Genrich Altshuller’s Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, which identified something called the law of ideality. This law states that as systems mature, they tend to become more reliable, simpler, and more effective—more ideal. This law goes onto explain that the amount of complexity in a system is a measure of how far away it is from its ideal state. Interestingly, Altshuller postulates that upon reaching perfect ideality, the mechanism itself no longer exists. Only the function remains; the various components have been simplified to zero.”

5. Experiencing complexity is an important step.

“One cannot usually jump directly from simplistic to simple, skipping complexity entirely. The initial increase in complexity is as crucial to maximizing goodness as the later decrease in complexity.”

“We have now replaced what Albert Schweitzer called ‘naive simplicity’ with a ‘profound simplicity.’ This is done by pursuing synthesis rather than genesis and goodness rather than complexity.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Frustration of Being a Creative Generalist

If you're looking for a job, whether online or in a newspaper, one thing you won't see advertised is a position for a "creative generalist." After reading this piece (below) by Dr. Terry Rock, I know now that I'm not the only one who recognizes this fact. With the writings of Daniel Pink, Thomas Friedman and others, I hope this changes.

"The whole thing is worth reading, but one thing I face, and I know others face, is how to translate generalism into organizational reality. For example… finding a job as a generalist is difficult because there really isn’t “a place on most org charts and [generalists] are frequently told by HR that they’re smart but ‘we wouldn’t know where to put you.’” The flipside is running an organization that “gets” the need for generalists, but faces constant pressure to specialize."

Dr. Rock is referring to an essay written by Steve Hardy regarding creative generalism. I wrote about that piece here. You can also find the original essay at Steve Hardy's blog.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Using Chaos Theory in Organizations

Finding a link between chaos, complexity and education was the central theme of my thesis research. The research has implications in any large or small organization.

Excerpted from a piece I worked on in 2004 called Bridging the Gap: A Complex-Adaptive Solution to the Great Political Divide

…Chaos theory tells us that everything in the universe has an emerging nature, from the evolution of organisms, to volcanic eruptions, to weather patterns, to the growth of civilizations. Secondly, the greatest creativity, evolvability and progress appear to take place at the “edge of chaos.” In chaos theory, random forces can converge to form a higher order. Research in the field has gone from the study of planets to the study of the weather to microorganisms, to the growth of companies to organizational and group behavior. What one learns from a study of complexity is that random forces converge to form a higher order behavior. Keep your eye on the larger picture as we delve into the details.

Steven Johnson, in a book called Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software (2001) wrote about studies of slime mold in the 1960’s by Mitch Resnick. The studies revealed that microorganisms displayed collective intelligence. Instead of one large organism moving across a floor in search of food, it was revealed that the “slime” was actually hundreds of single celled organisms coming together for a larger purpose.

In fact, evidence of self-organization is everywhere. Prigognine and Stengers in their much-cited compendium Order out of Chaos (1984) said that the biosphere as a whole and all its components existed in a state far from equilibrium. Based on this, they said life, as part of the natural order, was the “supreme expression” of a self-organizing process. Simplified, this means that the air, land and sea are all part of a complex system that tends towards equilibrium. It does so because it is adaptive. If it doesn’t – if it were rigid – it would cease to exist, and we would cease to exist.

Another example of a highly productive emergent process took place at the RAND Corporation in the 1950s. As Nasser told the story in A Beautiful Mind (1998), people drifted into each other’s offices, or would just chat in the corridors. The grids and courtyards were set up “to maximize chance meetings.” The interchanges would lead to new research and colleagues exchanging challenging problems with one another. In this informal way, RAND memoranda would often start out simply as a handwritten paper being handed over to a math department secretary (Nasar).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Is ugly better?

According to this blog, a site in Canada called is making 10,000 a day in Google Adsense revenue through "anti-marketing." Instead of clever designs, try something sticky... or even ugly.

Will Andy Kaufman Please Return

I had heard a story about Andy Kaufman, on stage, eating a bucket of potatoes and then taking a nap inside of a sleeping bag. His sporadic, improvised movements inside the sleeping bag became the entertainment for the audience. I checked it out and there seems to be some corroboration.

"Often, it was more elaborate -- Kaufman once ate a bucket of potatoes and then took a 25-minute nap (onstage) before coming to life as the King."

I also found a blog written from the view point of Andy Kaufman. Now, I know it's a lot to ask, but we desperately need a new wave of comedy to match Monty Python, the original cast of SNL and Andy Kaufman. If this is already happening somewhere, will someone kindly let me know.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What is the Higher Ed Blog Con?

Skypecast on May 12 with the producers of the Higher Ed Blog Con. 10:00 AM (is that Eastern?)

"How can colleges and universities capitalize on new communication and networking tools to foster meaningful dialogue with constituents? In this inaugural Skypecast, we'll open the floor for ideas about how to use Skypecast to create a forum where we can discuss conversation strategies in Higher Education marketing and communications. This initial Skypecast will be hosted by producers of HigherEd BlogCon 2007."

For more information, go to the Higher Ed Blog Con site.

This information came from the Skype Blog.

Skypecast with Craig from Craigslist

"In the weeks leading up to the Innovative Marketing Conference - June 8-9 in NYC - we will be hosting a series of provocative Skypecasts in which we will chat with conference participants as well as allow our audience to help shape the conversation at the physical event. In this Skypecast we'll sit down with Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist, for a wide-ranging discussion of the threats and opportunities related to consumer generated content."

For more information, go to

What is a Skypecast?

"Skypecasts enable people to discuss shared interests — anything from classic cars and cooking, to home design and computer support. Skypecasts are moderated by the ‘host’ who is able to mute, eject or pass the virtual microphone to participants when they wish to speak. Hosting or participating in a Skypecast is completely free."

You can read more about this here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

As a matter of fact, it IS a right brain world

Thomas Friedman, being interviewed in the May, 2006 Business Strategies Magazine, said:

"Lastly, I would say—there's a book called A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink and he argues you've got your left brain and you've got your right brain. Your left brain is all the kind of repetitive mass production functions, rather boring. Your right brain is all the synthesizing, empathetic storytelling, creative side of your mind, and that it's basically a right brain world. Everything, as Dan says, on the left side of your brain is either going to be done by a computer, faster or by an Indian, cheaper. So how we nurture those creative right brain skills in our students is really important."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Quote of the day

It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.

~ Albert Einstein


Friday, May 05, 2006

Important Differences Between Chaos and Complexity

In an upcoming blog entry, I'll be giving you some interesting information about complexity and the need to simplify. Before doing that, though, it's important for you to understand what complexity is and why it is different from chaos. This should help... and no, there will not be a quiz at the end of the hour, but you'll still need to pay attention.

"Chaos theorists typically look for patterns of order in chaotic systems – such as the eddies that appear and disappear in turbulent water – and try to derive these patterns from a set of generative mathematical rules. Complexity theory, in contrast, explores the activity of complex systems at the edge of chaos, such as living organisms. Complex systems exist on the cusp of too much and too little order; they are systems that act as wholes but are nevertheless far from equilibrium. In other words, complex systems are capable of undergoing rapid and radical transformations in order to adjust to changes in their environment. Complexity theorists are primarily interested in the ways in which such systems are self-organizing, or autopoietic, developing new structures without any external cause or motive."

From the review by Stephen Schryer of Mark C. Taylor's, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. $32.00, 340pp.

Courage and Creativity

“We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us. This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness. To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”

__ Rollo May, The Courage to Create

Note: you can add to this the courage it takes to ask for funding for projects that explore this "no man's land." According to Jeff Hawkins, it's very hard to get funding for the type of projects in science that have previously not been funded (if that makes any sense). The irony here is that breakthroughs usually happen in this "unknown" area.

You can listen to Hawkins' podcast over at iTunes.

Hawkins is the founder of Palm Computing and director of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute.