What does this mean to me and maybe even for you? The quick answer is that this is all about the great cultural transition from a machine context to a natural or networked one. The quick answer is that I think the time has come for the change to take place in a leading organization that will set the stage for everyone else. The quick answer is that such an organization will need the support of people who have made the change themselves and who embody and live this change.
The Tipping Point needs more weight to "Cross the Chasm". I and others cannot help on our own. I and others like me need the power of our own network to do this work.
The cells have to form a molecule!
So here are 2 stories that have helped me understand that now is the time and this is the work. But first, some context.
The Initial Phase of the Change Process is Done
My regular readers know that I am usually early on issues. For as long as I have been blogging - Since 2002 - I have been saying that our mechanistic way of seeing the world is taking us down a path to failure. I have been saying that a network model for life has a chance of offering us and our kids a future. I have been saying that the transition from the old the new is a step in our development as a species.
These mad ravings are not so mad anymore.
What seemed odd back in 2002 - 2010 is now more mainstream. Many of us, as individuals, have stepped out of the traditional organizations and out of the job world. This group is in the millions now.
The idea of networks is now widely understood. After all, most of us inhabit social networks now as our normal. This group is in the billions.
But most organizations remain bound by the old rules. The power systems all use the old models. Only a handful of organizations have made the move. Many organizations play with the new. They use the buzz words. They hire, at great expense, software vendors that offer collaborative tools. They hire, at great expense, A-list consulting firms to help them speed up their processes. But actually they are stuck. In spite of all the new social tools, in spite of all the change projects, they have not had a commensurate increase in productivity and innovation.
Why is this?
Individuals can change more quickly than institutions. Millions are ready. Billions are aware but institutions are stuck because of where they are in the change cycle.
What is the barrier? To make this kind of change, the old culture in the organization has to die. It is stuck because to make the change they have to give up the way they have always done things. A way that has been successful in the past. A way that those at the top made their careers on. Put yourself in their shoes.
If you are an admiral in the navy that was based on sail, moving quickly to steam means that all who have made it on sail are marginal. If you are a surgeon before anesthetic, your career was made on speed. Why would adopting anesthesia help you? If you are a journalist who made your career in print, why would the web appeal?
We must not judge.
This situation of "stuck" is why have I joined CAWW. I see that the time is right now to reach out to a few brave leaders of traditional organizations.
Why now and why them?
To answer this I will offer two stories about big change. The first one today is about the settling of the American West. This will explain the Change Lifecycle. For all change has such a cycle and when we see it, we can stop judging and be more open to what we can all do to help.
The second is about the story of the shift from sail to steam in the RN. This will explain the cultural final act of the change process. How and why do some at the top of the old system give it all up? The story gives support to the brave few who will do it.
The American West - The Cycle of Change
From 1880 to 1914 about 50 million people left their homes in Europe and came to America. They were inspired by a new story. They had learned that, in America, you could be who you wanted to be. All you had to do was to go there and work hard. This was the opposite of life in the old country where how you were born was your destiny. There was also "free land" in the west. No land was available back home.
But this was also true in 1830. So why did so few go there then? This is our story about the change lifecycle or the Adoption Theory.
After the expedition of Lewis and Clark, a few weird men left all traces of civilization behind and began to explore what had been the Louisiana Purchase. Loosely called "Mountain Men", they loved the wildness of the new and they fitted in naturally to all aspects of the cultureof this land, including the culture of the native Americans that lived there.
Every major cultural change starts here.
I was was one of those weird "mountain men" back in the 1990's. In 1994, I gave up up my traditional "Civilized" life for the life of a freelancer. This was a time when few made that choice willingly. When blogging appeared in the late 1990's early 2000's I jumped in with both feet. It was as if I had found a home. I had now found a new culture to replace the void I had having left the old one.
At the time, most people still in the old culture thought people like me were mad. How could I make a living like this? What was I doing writing in public every day? How could I find friends all over the world? What was all this social thing?
This is what "Mountain Men" and the "Annie Oakley's" do. They find out how the new world works. They explore the trails. They find the best and the worst places. They establish a culture. And they tell stories that annoy many but excite some.
They are the "Innovators" in Adoption Theory. They have no pull with the people who really count but can inspire regular folks.
Innovators are defined by Rogers as "Innovators are daring, rash and risky. They are able to cope with a high level of uncertainty". Rogers says, "While an innovator may not be respected by the other members of a local system, the innovator plays an important role in the diffusion process; that of launching the new idea in the system by importing the innovation from outside of the system's boundaries. Thus the innovator plays a gate-keeping role in the flow of new ideas into a system."
This Innovator stage of the cycle has its time and the next phase begins with the early "Early Adopters".
These are always individuals and families. They tend not to be organizations. In the story of the west, these are the brave souls who go west on the wagon trains. They are the pathfinders. They take a lot of risk for no sure thing.
Some of the ex Mountain Men get jobs guiding wagon trains west. Wagon trains that are made up of the next layer of adopters. These fit into the Early Adopter category.
Their going west is hard for them, but it is also hard for the west. Major things are lost as we see in this tragic painting. This next stage destroys much of the old culture. It also opens a wedge. For the powers back east now see the old culture of the west as a danger to the settlers. The Indians become the problem.
As more Early Adopters go west, the people with power in the East start to see the opportunity for themselves to make money serving this shift. They undertstand this pull that is attracting more and more people. They ask themselves how they can do well out of being party of this.
The Authority Leaders who make up this part of the Early Adopters are defined like this: Opinion leadership is an important aspect of the Early Adopter. They often serve as a role model for other people. They are more integrated into society than the innovators. "The early adopter is respected by his or her peers, and is the embodiment of successful, discrete use of new ideas. The early adopter knows that to continue to earn this esteem of colleagues and to maintain a central position in the communication networks of the system, he or she must make judicious innovation-decisions. The early adopter decreases uncertainty about a new idea by adopting it, and then conveying a subjective evaluation of the innovation to near-peers through interpersonal networks," Rogers said.
They build BIG TOOLS to make it easy for people to go west. They makes changes to policy to help the flow. This is the point where the Authority figures join the Early Adopters and start to build the bridge to enable the Early Majority to "Cross the Chasm".
Without this infrastrutucture, the "Chasm" cannot be crossed at scale. The journey to the West has to be made much easier than the wagon train. Here some of the old Mountain Men are hired as mappers. Many of the wagon train routes are used. But the power is now in the hands of the engineers and then in the marketers. They build more than a railway across the plains.
The "Bridge" goes all the way back to the old world. Immigrants are actively recruited. Steam ships and lines focus on their needs. Ellis Island is built to process their arrival. All of this combines to bring millions to the new world. Much of the work is about engineering and marketing. It is not about the old culture of the west and it is not about why the people come. It is about the supporting infrastructure.
But, why the people come is still the old story. They come to find a better life where they can be what they can be. Underpinning all of this movement of millions of people is culture.
There is coming a moment when the tension between the old and the new will become so great that some organizations will make the real change, and when they do, all those that do not will face oblivion.
The issue will be culture.
This is why I have joined CAWW.
It is itself a network and is not an organization that uses engineering as its model. It is a tribe. It is inhabited by people who are like me. It is a home for ex "Mountain Men" and "Annie Oakleys".
My hope and the hope of my colleagues is that we can act as the cultural guides to those that wish to "Go West" too. Our credential is not that we have read the book, or can spout the dogma, but that we live there in this new place. We are the change.
I have also joined because I think that each of us are weak when we are only on our own. Several dear friends are in CAWW. We have known each other for many years. But now I think it is better that we get together more formally. The work is too large for just a single person.
The really hard work is about to begin. The hard work is about the culture. The new organizational social tools are here. Most people now use social tools as individuals. But society and organizations remain locked in to the machine culture. So the new tools get us nowhere.
But soon, one or two major players are going to have a leader that will know that they have to go for it. And when they do, they will need to have the best advice and support. For they will risk it all.
In my next post, on the RN, we will see what this means. We will see how one man, risked it all and won.
But as a teaser I ask you to look at this picture of HMS Inflexible (Don't you love the name!). This was the pride of the RN in the 1870's. It looks modern. But it isn't. It represents the challenge that traditional organizations have with only using engineering as their way ahead.
Here is HMS Inflexible. It's first Captain was Jackie Fisher - whom we will meet in the next post when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. It is what a large organization is like that uses all the new tools but in the old way.
And here is the revolution, HMS Dreadnought. This is what it like when the new tools and the new culture are aligned.
Part 2 is here.