Systems thinking

Systems Thinking: Ancient Maya’s Evolution of Consciousness and Contemporary Thinking:
[Via Ackoff Center Weblog]

Posted by Assistant Professor Tadeja Jere Lazanski, University of Primorska, Portoroz, Slovenia on his blog: “Systems thinking is a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context…


I may not hold with all the aspects of this model but it certainly could be a nice starting point for an interesting conversation of using synthetic approaches to solve problems. At least now I can understand why I should be excited about 2012.

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I’ve been thinking

I’ve taken a little break reading and thinking. I’ve spent the last few days working on some ideas regarding the traversal of innovations across a community and then working on the data to support these ideas. I’m really excited by some of the information my model fits now.

I’m developing a process that will help an organization whose business depends on innovations. I hope to have a set of tools based on published data that will facilitate the adoption of change. I’ll be writing about these over the coming weeks.

I’ll also get back to blogging. Should be fun.

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Using crowds to solve problems

crowd by James Cridland
Get Ready to Participate: Crowdsourcing and Governance:
[Via Confessions of an Aca/Fan]

Crowdsourcing and Governance

by Daren C. Brabham

It’s been three years since Jeff Howe coined the term “crowdsourcing” in his Wired article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing.” The term, which describes an online, distributed problem solving and production model, is most famously represented in the business operations of companies like Threadless and InnoCentive and in contests like the Goldcorp Challenge and the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest.

In each of these cases, the company has a problem it needs solved or a product it needs designed. The company broadcasts this challenge on its Web site to an online community–a crowd–and the crowd submits designs and solutions in response. Next–and this is a key component of crowdsourcing–the crowd vets the submissions of its peers, critiquing and ranking submissions until winners emerge. Though winners are often rewarded for their ideas, prizes are often small relative to industry standards for the same kind of professional work and rewards sometimes only consist of public recognition.

Recognizing that not all creativity and innovation resides in-house, some organizations are looking for connections to outside innovators. New social tools allow them to make connections, through such sources as InnoCentive. When done well, these approaches can not only produce new ideas but help vet these ideas for suitability.

This approach can work in areas other than for-profit settings. Think non-profit biomedical institutions or government.

Though you’d be hard pressed to see them ever use the word “crowdsourcing,” one such example of crowdsourcing in governance is Peer-to-Patent. Begun in June 2007, Peer-to-Patent is a project developed by New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy, in cooperation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The pilot project engages an online community in the examination of pending patent applications, tasking the crowd with identifying prior art and annotating applications to be forwarded on to the USPTO. The project helps to streamline the typical patent review process, adding many more sets of eyes to a typical examination process.

Another attempt to use crowdsourcing in public decision-making is Next Stop Design, a project with which I am involved that asks the crowd to design a bus stop for Salt Lake City, Utah. With Thomas W. Sanchez and a team of researchers from the University of Utah, we’re working in cooperation with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and funded by a grant from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration. On the Next Stop Design Web site, you can register for free, submit your own bus stop designs and ideas, and rate and comment on the designs of others. Launched on June 5, 2009, the project runs through September 25, 2009, and the highest rated designs will be considered for actual construction at a major bus transfer stop in Salt Lake City. Winning designs will be publicly acknowledged and included on a plaque affixed to the built bus stop.

It will take some changes in viewpoints but the ability of the public to directly engage important aspects of government should only enhance policy. Obviously, this approach could not be used in every area but careful positioning of the approach could have real consequences.

There is much potential for crowdsourcing in government, certainly as one of an array of social media methods quickly being embraced by all levels of government. President Obama has made his intentions with technology and transparency in government clear. His appointment of Beth Noveck, the New York Law School professor who launched Peer-to-Patent, as Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, makes his intentions very clear. I predict over the next two years we’ll see in the U.S. a rapid proliferation of government by the crowd, for the crowd. Get ready to participate.

It will be interesting to see if this approach also harnesses some of the social commitments seen in the Millennials. This generation is already connected and has shown some strong willingness to work on social needs. I think that the impact of these approaches may be greater in non-profit settings than in for-profit. By engaging people in the charitable work in ways that easily make them a part of the process, non-profits have an advantage that few for-profits do.

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Some new stuff

If you look over to the far righthand column under information, you will see several new pages on the website. I’ve had these online for a while but have only just recently figured out how to get them formatted and in the proper order for the Information column.

The new pages deal with Diffusions of Information in a Community. They provide a stp by step understanding of how data becomes knowledge, how individuals chose to adopt an innovation and how these changes then traverse a community.

They should distill a lot of information into reasonable sizes and make it easier to understand the process. There are also links to PDF versions of each.


Innovating with elephants

Energy, innovation and elephants:
[Via Andrew Hargadon]

There’s nothing like money to bring out the dogma in people, and there’s nothing, if not money, in the $150B energy innovation plan of the Obama administration.

The ensuing dogma surfaces around how to best spend that money. On the one side are those arguing that we need to invest in deploying existing technologies (the latest in solar, wind, and energy efficiency)—on the other side are those arguing such federal investments in existing technologies would starve the basic research activities that will bring us the truly breakthrough technologies we need. Nowhere is this debate more starkly represented than in the (barely) civil dialog between Joe Romm and the Breakthrough Institute. Andy Revkin, of the NYT and his blog, Dot Earth, describes this debate:


A really nice discussion of two important viewpoints. And the metaphor of the blind men and the elephant is one of my favorites.

Because collaboration can help us gain a truer understanding of the world than a single view. If the blind men talked with each other, then they could actually describe an elephant. Just as more open discussion could provide a better understanding of where to put the money.

But respect for other views is a requirement for this to work. If the blind men went around saying all the other views were full of crap, then no real understanding could occur. Same with these sorts of discussions.

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