learning cities

Is tribalism a reaction to our concerns about the emerging network era, which is putting into question our existing institutions and markets developed in previous eras?  Jalaja Bonheim wrote about this phenomenon in Why We Love Trump and describes a potential counteracting force: “A new consciousness is awakening that recognizes our oneness as a global community.” But David Ronfeldt thinks there are smaller scale efforts that do not require such global engagement.

“In any case, I am struck so far that many readings about tribalism end up recommending ways to improve interpersonal relations, and/or ways to foster global consciousness. Yet there are intermediate levels that, so far, have been neglected by those who discuss malignant tribalisms.

Consider, for example, ideas about our needing a new social compact, or social contract, or national covenant. As I’ve often argued from a TIMN [Tribes + Institutions + Markets + Networks] perspective, getting the tribal form right is essential for a healthy society. The obvious elements are families and communities. Yet the bright side of the tribal form is also found in social compacts, contracts, and covenants that political philosophers and historians like to discuss.” —David Ronfeldt


network learning cities


“According to my review of history and theory, four forms of organization — and evidently only four — lie behind the governance and evolution of all societies across the ages:

  • The tribal form was the first to emerge and mature, beginning thousands of years ago. Its main dynamic is kinship, which gives people a distinct sense of identity and belonging — the basic elements of culture, as manifested still today in matters ranging from nationalism to fan clubs.
  • The institutional form was the second to emerge. Emphasizing hierarchy, it led to the development of the state and the military, as epitomized initially by the Roman Empire, not to mention the Catholic papacy and other corporate enterprises.
  • The market form, the third form of organization to take hold, enables people to excel at openly competitive, free, and fair economic exchanges. Although present in ancient times, it did not gain sway until the 19th century, at first mainly in England.
  • The network form, the fourth to mature, serves to connect dispersed groups and individuals so that they may coordinate and act conjointly. Enabled by the digital information-technology revolution, this form is only now coming into its own, so far strengthening civil society more than other realms.”
    Overview of social evolution (past, present, and future) in TIMN terms, David Ronfeldt

There are strong indicators that society is heading toward a quadriform structuring (T+I+M+N) with network culture dominating in many fields: open source insurgencies, Blockchain financial transactions,  political manipulation through networks, crowdfunding, etc. This is also bringing tensions between the old Tribal, Institutional, and Market forms against the emerging Network form. (more…)

cities as learning platforms

In 2008, CEO’s for Cities recommended a more inclusive way of supporting learning in the community. Basically, the city becomes the learning platform, not just for schooling but for other community support activities, such as policing and heath care.

“The current offer is that education is schooling — a special activity that takes place in special places at special times, in a system where most of the goals and curriculum are set for the student, not by the student. Attainment against those standards leads to a system of grading that has a huge bearing on life chances.

The new learning platform [the city?] would offer learning all over, all the time, in a wide variety of settings, from a wide range of people. Pupils would have more say and more choice over what they could learn, how, where and when, from teachers, other adults and their peers. Learning would be collaborative and experiential, encouraging self-evaluation and self-motivation as the norms.

The principles and ideas developed for the redesign of education and learning city-wide could also apply to policing, crime and safety, health and well being, care for the elderly, carbon usage reduction and sustainability, and culture and creativity.” —Remixing Cities (PDF)

For the past century we have compartmentalized the life of the citizen. At work, the citizen is an ‘employee’. Outside the office he may be a ‘consumer’. Sometimes she is referred to as a ‘taxpayer’. All of these are constraining labels, ignoring the full spectrum of citizenship. As the network era connects people and things, society needs to reconnect with the multifaceted citizen. This is the connecting role the city can play. (more…)

friday’s finds #300

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. My initial post in this series was made in May 2009. The first three years of these posts were weekly. This is the 300th post of my Friday’s Finds.

@SebPaquet: “Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play.”

Warren Buffet: “Honesty is a very expensive gift, don’t expect it from cheap people.” via @dankeldsen

@R0BY0UNG: ‘On the train today, the guard said, “We’re now arriving at the wealthy town of Wokingham. Mind the gap … between rich and poor” Inspired.’ (more…)

beta conversation 2017-06-15

I will be hosting the next Beta Conversation on Thursday, June 15th at 14:00 UTC [07:00 Pacific, 10:00 Eastern, 15:00 BST, 16:00 CET]. The subject will be Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and leadership. The Harvard Business Review article, The Best Leaders are Constant Learners, gives a general idea of the themes to be discussed. Participants can add their own questions in advance.

The session will be 90 minutes long. For participant confidentiality, these sessions will not be recorded.

The format of each session is as follows:

  1. Presentation of the key themes by Harold
  2. Discussion of any questions provided by participants in advance
  3. Open discussion


organizing for the network era

In my last post I noted that many organizations today are nothing more than attractive prisons. The current organizational tyranny was a response to a linear, print-based world. These organizations are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and hard to share, and when connections with others were difficult to make and required command and control. The network era, with digital electric communications, changes this. Organizations today should be designed more like the internet: small pieces, loosely joined.

Last year I described several of my principles and models for the network era and showed how they related to each other. I would like to put these together in a coherent framework to show how we can design organizations for the network era, instead of ones optimized for markets, institutions, or tribes. The network era needs new structures, not modified versions of obsolete models. (more…)

attractive prisons

Today we hear a lot about models like holacracy and teal organizations that are focused on changing how we work together in organizations.

Teal organization: A new kind of organization designed to enable “whole” individuals (not narrow professional selves) to self-organize and self-manage to achieve an organic organizational purpose (determined not through hierarchical planning but incrementally, responsively, and from the bottom up).

Holacracy: The most widely adopted system of self-management, developed in 2007 by Brian Robertson. Authority and decision making are distributed among fluid “circles” (defined below) throughout the organization, and governance is spelled out in a complex constitution.

Podularity: A system of self-management in which each basic unit, or “pod,” is treated as a microcosm of the whole business and acts on its behalf. Podularity has its roots in agile (defined below).

Agile: A theory of management originating in software development. In an agile system of work, cross-functional, self-managed teams solve complex problems iteratively and adaptively—when possible, face-to-face—with rapid and flexible responses to changing customer needs. —Harvard Business Review 2016-07


the world needs knowledge catalysts

“We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.” —Carl Sagan

When people are presented with a problem the first urge is to resolve it. If the computer does not work, they want it fixed. Then they can move on to what they were trying to do in the first place. But quite often the source of the problem did not go away. People also need to understand how the problem was created. This requires time and effort to learn. But when the problem is gone, there is little incentive to learn about the implications and complexities that created the problem. (more…)

understanding work

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

@DonaldHTaylor: ‘In Turkish you never ask “Did you understand me?” It’s rather rude. Instead, you say “Anlatabildim mi?” – Was I able to explain?’

@suitpossum: “The world is not data. The world is soil, sun, water, bodies, communities, sweat & oil. Data is an echo of these. It is not ‘the new oil'”

@Tom_Peters: “Zuckerberg has a “vision”: To know every conceivable thing about me including things I don’t know; then “monetize” every bit and byte of it.” (more…)

life in the jungle

How can you survive in the jungle when you live in a zoo?

“Our silos (I won’t even mention cubicles!), like the cages in the zoo, exist to control behaviour and reduce complexity by creating homogeneity and closed environments. OD & HR professionals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find new and better ways of categorising, a direct result of which is the so-called ‘matrix organisation’. Linked to that are new and better ways of incentivising the ‘animals’ to keep performing because like zoos, many organisations aren’t particularly inspiring places. Besides food and other treats, there’s not much else that can motivate, engage or inspire creativity.” —Sonja Blignaut

In our efforts to tame complexity we constantly look for ways to simplify decision-making. It’s why best practices and case studies are still popular, despite their uselessness. It reminds me of a client who proudly declared that his company was a ‘fast follower’. Followers in the jungle are eaten or survive as scavengers. (more…)