Saturday Links for the Week: August 23, 2008

Cheryl’s family’s new pup Bella, taking a break from chasing the sheep.

No Bad News Please, It Ruins My Day: Justin Kownacki: “Instead of making us all give a damn, however, this overwhelming surge of negative news is simply making us all more jaded. Now, instead of caring about how one person (or government) is destroying the lives of innocents, we lament that this negativity is ruining our day. Harshing our mellow. Making us aware that the world is not always a bright, shiny (and stark white) iPhone commercial.” 

Conversation Embodies and Brings Forth Change in Culture: Juanita Brown met and spoke with Humberto Maturana recently, and took notes: “As a co-inspirator, I can be intentional about the nature of the conversations I introduce into the conversational network that is the organization or the culture I am part of. This is serious, responsible, daring and playful work! How I open spaces of conversation is of the utmost importance to our capacity to co-inspire worlds we choose to live in. All cultural change, for example, is a change in the network of conversations and the manner of living that arises in it. Language and conversations are ‘doings’ that lie at the heart of our capacity to intentionally bring forth worlds that are life-affirming and ethical… Everything changes around what we want to conserve.” Thanks to Amy Lenzo for the link.
js bouchard model

A Brilliant Decision-Making Model for Business: My friend Jean-SÈbastien Bouchard has co-developed the model above to describe what type of approach to decision-making is needed in organizations, depending on whether the issue is simple or complex (vertical axis) and whether future outcomes are predictable or unpredictable.

  1. In simple, predictable situations (area 1) the traditional command-and-control decision-making of most organizations (“do what I say”) works fine. 
  2. In more complicated buy still predictable situations (area 2) education and persuasion are needed (“here’s why we need to do this”) to ensure the decision is understood and properly executed. 
  3. In simple but unpredictable situations (area 3) you need a more collaborative, consultative approach using scenario planning and similar techniques (“this looks like the best choice now but we’ll meet regularly to confirm as things change”). 
  4. Most 21st century decisions are made in situations that are (a)complex, (b) very unpredictable, or (c) both complicated and unpredictable (area 4). In these situations, management and ‘expert’ decisions are inevitably incompetent, and the wisdom of crowds is needed (“let’s collectively understand what’s happening here, and explore our options together”). Jean-SÈbastien calls this approach co-creation, and his partnership Grisvert uses Open Space and similar methods to help organizations achieve it. 
  5. There are, alas, a growing number of situations that are both complex and highly unpredictable (area 5), where effective decision-making is essentially impossible. I would argue that climate change and Peak Oil are beginning to emerge as such issues. My sense is that organizations will soon realize that our entire economy needs to migrate from a growth economy to a steady-state economy, one in which business must migrate from having a primary responsibility to the short-term wealth of its owners to having a primary responsibility to the long-term health and well-being of all-life-on-Earth. But it is impossible to know how or when that will happen, and impossible to decide what to do about it now. It is too complex to fathom and too uncertain to navigate. In such ‘chaotic’ situations, Dave Snowden says we tend to turn to charismatic (or tyrannical) leaders, and let them make decisions for us, on the basis that “anyone’s guess is probably as good as anyone else’s”. Chris Corrigan chimes in on chaos: “There are tools for being in the chaosÖIndividually I think these include presencing practices, discerning and sitting and journaling and making sense of things. Socially I think these are practices of simply being in community in a skillful way, like a jazz ensemble, so collective improvisation and collective presencing. I would [recommend you] flesh that section out a bit, because people want you to be able to offer something in that [area 5] corner.” Brave new world, here we come.

…and What Management Needs to Learn to Use It: As if in response to the above model, Kathy Watt of LearnNB says business leaders “need to experience some personal and professional humility, and admit that we donít really know how to solve some of the complex challenges that we are facing.”  Thanks to Harold Jarche for the link.

A Research Report from Real Climate Scientists: While the well-financed and opportunistic Lomborgians go on denying the reality and need for action to tackle global warming, James Hansen and an international team of climate scientists do real research using real data, and their conclusions are understandable even to the layperson:

The eventual response to doubling pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 likely would be a nearly ice-free planet, preceded by a period of chaotic change with continually changing shorelines. Humanityís task of moderating human-caused global climate change is urgent…Remaining fossil fuel reserves should not be exploited without a plan for retrieval and disposal of resulting atmospheric CO2. Paleoclimate evidence and ongoing global changes imply that todayís CO2, about 385 ppm, is already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the biosphere are adapted… Although a case already could be made that the eventual target may need to be lower, the 350 ppm target is sufficient to qualitatively change the discussion and drive fundamental changes in energy policy. This target must be pursued on a timescale of decades…A practical global strategy almost surely requires a rising global price on CO2 emissions and phase-out of coal use except for cases where the CO2 is captured and sequestered…With simultaneous policies to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases, it appears still feasible to avert catastrophic climate change. Present policies, with continued construction of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture, suggest that decision-makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We must begin to move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects…The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable.

[Our reaction: The Democrats now favour some offshore drilling, and the Republicans are ready to invade the Arctic to stake their claim to fossil fuels under the melting ice, and the Canadian Northwest Passage for shipping. Sigh.]

The Most Secret Place on Earth: “American planes dropped an average of one planeload of bombs on targets in Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for nine years, making it the most heavily bombed country on earth per capita in the history of warfare.”

Michael Pollan Talks About What We Should Eat: A video of Pollan, espousing his Eat [Natural] Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants message, in which he explains that eating well is expensive, because the industrial food system is heavily subsidized and externalizes the environmental, animal welfare and disease costs that result from its operation. A free podcast of the full 74 minute interview is downloadable here. Thanks to Craig De Ruisseau for the link.

…and Here’s a Modest Proposal for Sustainable Eating: A ten-point program (with a few embellishments from me):

  1. Know what youíre eating. Find out where it comes from and whatís in it. Think about what’s in season now. A lot of these foods will turn out to be local.
  2. Get cooking. And try making things from scratch. You’ll save money and rediscover skills you forgot you had.
  3. Plant something. 
  4. Pack a bag lunch.
  5. Drink tap water. It’s healthier for you, and it’s free. And better for the environment.
  6. Learn about and celebrate the food traditions your family and community still possess. 
  7. Invite someone to share a meal. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and community by cooking and eating together.
  8. Learn about endangered local foods and how we can bring them back to our tables.
  9. Conserve, compost and recycle. Build a cold cellar.
  10. Vote with your fork and your wallet. Say no to overpackaged, processed, chemical-ridden foods. Say no to factory farms. Say yes to local, organic foods.

Economic Slide Just Beginning, Says the Guy Who Predicted the Subprime Collapse: Nouriel Roubini has been exactly correct in every prediction he’s made since 2005. Now he says, it’s going to get much worse. “Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the gulf states; these are rivals, not allies.” and in response to those who think the worst is over, he says our problem isn’t a subprime mortgage market, “it’s a subprime financial system”. Thanks to Jerry Michalski for the link.

Biden’s Long History of Anti-Russian Sabre-Rattling: The always-insightful Billmon explains why the Joe Biden-led attempt to expand NATO to include Georgia and Ukraine is no different from China signing a military accord with Mexico and then calling for New Mexico to be returned to Mexico. If this kind of hypocrisy is what Biden will push as VP, we’re all in deep trouble. Really dreadful choice, Obama.

Last Word on the Ivins – Anthrax – Squalene Case: Lots of coverage this week of the hopelessly weak case against Ivins in the indymedia, but it’s not going to make any difference. The mainstream media are allowing the government to sweep it under the rug. Case closed. US servicemen used as guinea pigs for a toxic vaccine as part of the US’ own secret bioweapons program. Bush regime needs Saddam-anthrax connection to justify Iraq war, so they concoct one and mainstream media dutifully report it as fact. Yawn. Move on. Thanks to EMJ in BC for the link, and the one that follows.

Telling a Story Persuasively With Pictures: I wrote last month about Back of the Napkin, which teaches you to use sketches to tell a powerful story. Franke James uses graphics to write “visual essays” on her blog, most recently to tell the story of last week’s Toronto propane plant explosion, and why it should never have happened.

Just for Fun: Communicatrix Colleen will have you rolling on the floor with her Dirty Keywords Search Song. Only 520 views of this YouTube video when I posted this. Wonder how many there will be afterwards. Also hilarious are The Man Rules (thanks to Cheryl for the link).

Thoughts for the Week:

From Robert Koehler, writing about Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia, and the endless violence of the powerful inflicted on the powerless: “Human evolution is at a terrifying juncture, as we face, at last, a nightmare that is 2 million years in the making.”

A poem from ee cummings (thanks to Loren Webster for the link):

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if itís sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may my-self do nothing usefully
and love your-self so more than truly
thereís never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile
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1 Response to Saturday Links for the Week: August 23, 2008

  1. Patry says:

    I want that puppy!

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