Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy is not equality, it is Equality.

Read Occupy London is a nursery for the mind by Madeleine Bunting at the Guardian. Think this through. 

Let's be clear. The Occupy movement is not about equality. Sure, they talk of "the 99%", but this is more a description of the world around them, rather than who should act. 

It is not about forcing a one-size-fits-all, globally-empowering solution, but about the personal ability to build a better world where you are. The most important message coming out of the Occupy movement is that there is no global solution. There is only what you can do.

Those striving for equality rely on some kind of Universal Right - but such Rights always require a centralised and authoritative power to maintain that equality. Capitalism "fought" against communism with this very tenet in mind - that the network is more sustainable and more adaptable than a single viewpoint.

Now maybe history is being repeated - the New Network is flexing its strength around an old one that has crystallised. The old market has laid out its flaws for all to see (imbalance, resource exploitation, workforce exploitation, future exploitation), and challenges the centralised authorities (the State) to fix them. The enemy and the saviour are on the same side.

The Occupy movement is not about equality as we understand it because requires effort, and responsibility, and right now, the motivation to employ this effort scattered between individuals. Instead, t is about inspiration. The idea of "equality" is shifted fundamentally, from a notion of identicality - in terms of living arrangements, in terms of spending power, in terms of life expectancy - to a notion of potential.

The difference is huge. It almost seems to speak more to traditional market values than those who defend the markets as they stand. The idea that you get out what you put in, and that if you create true value then you will be valued. Be smart. Be authentic. Be happy. Be hard-working. Be connected. Be helpful. All of these are network values.

And all of these are values inherent to each and every one of us, not "skills" that we "choose" to get "taught".

Commonality is the new equality. Everything else - how you live, how you die - is just what you do with it.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Networked Knowledge Worker in the 21st Century

Harold Jarche talks about the new knowledge-worker (via @DavidGurteen) as defined by Neal Gorenflo,  highlighting the role and importance of information sharing, systems thinking/complexity and mixable politics to a certain (emerging?) group of people.

But I like the way Harold ties the idea into a lot of what I've been thinking - that this kind of "worker" is a big part of the puzzle staring us in the face. He raises the question of how companies and organisations can attract such a person, and says they need to become more caring, flexible and ethical to take advantage.

But why is this such an important question?

Because right now, it feels like we've run out of map. We can see a cliff looming, built out of superfluous bureaucracy, management fear, economic uncertainty, and political distrust. There's no map, no plan. Optimism is the main strategy still running, and another bit of it drops off the cliff every week.

Knowledge workers, as outlined above, are fundamental to where we go next, for the following reasons:

  1. We need to know what the possibilities and the alternatives are. The "solutions" we've been relying on at all levels - economic cutbacks, party politics, representative democracy, quantitative easing, debt-first economics... - will take either a long time, or will continue to entrench non-solutions. New solutions, or new takes on existing solutions, require local/small-scale thought and experimentation, but rapid communication to interested parties, like any other meme.
  2. We need to understand a more diverse population and set of viewpoints. Maintaining a status quo "intended audience", or idea of what constitutes the "general public", will result in outdated and narrow answers. To caveat, I think there's always a danger of birds of a feather forming into networks, rather than diversity being realised inherently, but at the same time networks are key to "making diversity more transparent". The old, broadcast-only models of understanding who we are are no longer relevant or useful.
  3. We need to maintain a systemic perspective. This is tricky, because we're so unused to organic modes of thought. We like to simplify in order to communicate and persuade, but over-simplification is useless - it leads to faulty solutions and worse, to solutions that create new problems. The logical approach of a single person is irrelevant when dealing with organic systems. The "wisdom of the crowds" needs to step up to meet the way of the world - some people will have some of the solution, but networking is the only way we can bring the pieces together.

Blocking the transfer of ideas happens all over the place for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. Yes, it's bad to inflict rapid change on people. Yes, it's bad to inflict badly-thought-out change. But it's also dumb to wait for an answer that everyone will agree to. It's dumb to old back from doing something because there's no short-term economic gain. Understanding when and how to apply change needs to be a skill that knowledge workers, and knowledge management need to get to grips with.

Guess what? The networks are massing. But in their raw form, they're only good at disrupting - tearing down existing structures, routing around "slow power". But the ability to problem solve collectively - to bring about unity rather than entropy - still has yet to be proven.

It's about more than knowledge. Or work.