27 February 2006

What's Up?

What's Up? is a very cool tool for the global newsjunkie. A moving speech bubble dances around the world from time zone to time zone, relaying the headlines in real time. Oddly, and hypnotically, compelling.
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"Er" or "Ward": On Orientation

Language, of course, conveys subtleties and nuances that express specific and particular meaning - as McLuhan says, "The “right” word is not the one that names the thing but the word that gives the effect of the thing." So I mediatated a while on whether the orientation dimension of organizational effectiveness should be expressed as "inward-outward" or "inner-outer"; the latter won.

According to Google searches on the combinations of "inward/outward orientation" versus "inner/outer orientation," the "wards" have it by two orders of magnitude. That in itself would tend to favour the "ers" in my judgment. But there is a more nuanced consideration.

"Orientation" can refer to an adjustment or adaptation to a new environment, a direction followed, a tendency of thought, or the act or state of alignment in a particular direction. Rather than asking the question of "in which way" is an organization adjusting, or "in which direction" is an organization aligning, I would choose to ask, "where is the location" of the adjustment or alignment? Where are their people's (management and non-management) heads at? Has the organization created an anti-environment that allows them to conceive of themselves (and the effects they create) "in relation" to their total environment - an act that necessitates their people coming out of their own concerns and cognitively locating elsewhere, so that they can reperceive themselves?

I would hazard a guess that, while there may be many organizations with an outward orientation, there are likely precious few, if any, with a predominantly outer orientation. And those are the ones in which I'm interested.
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Deeper Thoughts on Competing Values and Organizational Effectiveness

Thinking out loud about organizational effectiveness, part 2. Warning: this is a long post.

The idea of organizational effectiveness is a deceptively tricky one. Many people have a tendency to confuse effectiveness with efficiency, and that tends to lead directly to a discussion of productivity, with an inevitable primacy given to financial measures. A somewhat more enlightened consideration regards effectiveness in terms of overall goals, objectives and (heaven save us) mission statements. Aside from the motherhood-and-apple-pie-ness of functional, elitist, traditional and charismatic values [Note: Access to JSTOR req’d.] that comprise the bulk of mission statements, organizational effectiveness can be usefully thought of as a construct of those people who provide guidance to organizations so that they may accomplish their objectives, constrained by a wide variety of real-world contingencies. It was (and, truth be told, continues to be) popular to search for a statistical model that would deterministically predict those factors that contributed to organizational effectiveness. Theorist after theorist [JSTOR again; also Campbell (1977) is quite good] would make the empirical attempts to find the magic combination of factors that would be the key to unlock effectiveness in organizations. Others [ditto] examined the role of typologies in modelling just how effective certain organizations were under certain circumstances.

Robert Quinn and John Rohrbaugh (1983) decided to take a different approach. They observed that researchers who hypothesized certain variables that might comprise effectiveness, and then statistically tested them, often introduced their own biases concerning the preconditions for effectiveness, effectively tainting the results. Quinn and Rohrbaugh reasoned that, since organizational effectiveness is indeed a construct and not a strictly empirical phenomenon that can “objectively” be measured, they should survey those who were doing the constructing. They assembled two panels of experts and presented them with thirty possible criteria of organizational effectiveness, and asked the panels to sort through them, eliminate those that were clearly redundant, and see what was left.
The findings suggest that organizational researchers share an implicit theoretical framework and, consequently, that the criteria of organizational effectiveness can be sorted according to three axes or value dimensions. The first value dimension is related to organizational focus, from an internal, micro emphasis on the well-being and development of people in the organization to an external, macro emphasis on the well-being and development of the organization itself. The second value dimension is related to organizational structure, from an emphasis on stability to an emphasis on flexibility. The third value dimension is related to organizational means and ends, from an emphasis on important processes (e.g., planning and goal setting) to an emphasis on final outcomes (e.g., productivity)
The result was a Competing Values Model of organizational effectiveness, the axes of which represent fundamental dilemmas in organization design. They argued convincingly that balancing the tensions among each of these competing values creates an effective organization. In a later book, Quinn (1988) articulates the value of acknowledging and addressing the inherent complexity of existing organizations that must deal in real-world paradoxes, apparent contradictions and inconsistencies; the most effective organizations are those who do not adhere to “blind moral statements” that tend to polarize opinions, worldviews, and management approaches. Here is what Quinn & Rohrbaugh’s framework looks like in terms of values and organizational tendencies:
Click for larger image

This proved to be a very effective framework (at least until the “quants” returned, and managers became overly focused on performance rather than effectiveness). The experts helped reveal the polarities that exist and must be negotiated in real-life organizations across three dimensions: organizational structure (control vs. flexibility), organizational focus (external vs. internal), and means vs. ends. The idea was to understand whether, for a given organization, there was alignment among the polar tensions as they were being managed, and the values the organization nominally held (which, of course, ties this conversation with that conversation). Additionally, organizations could be compared for certain typological attributes and behaviours among the four main identified models (Human Relations, Open Systems, Internal Process, and Rational Goal) to determine relative effectiveness in responding to various contingencies.

However, in all cases, the Quinn and Rohrbaugh dimensions are unanimously oriented inwardly, towards the organization itself. Even within the focus dimension, the dichotomy considers the balance between internal processes and external stakeholders (for example). There is no context provided that would account for the degree to which a given organization concerns itself with other social entities that may not be “stakeholders” (or even competitors) in the conventional sense of that (those) word(s).

I am proposing an additional dimension called “orientation” that spans from inner to outer. I would suggest that almost every existing organization would tend to have an orientation that tends more towards “inner” in its actual behaviours and operations; these would be the conventional organizations that would likely be organized along a traditional “industrial age” model. An “outer” orientation would be present to a greater or lesser degree among many contemporary organizations, reflecting the degree to which they share characteristics with Castells’s (1996) “network enterprise,” and have adopted and adapted to conditions of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity.
Click for larger image

Flipping the orientation from inner to outer enables me to provide a tentative proposal for correspondences between the four Quinn and Rohrbaugh-identified models with (primarily) inner orientations and models with (primarily) outer orientations:
  • Human Relations => Social Justice
  • Internal Process => Social Accounting
  • Open Systems => Open Knowledge
  • Rational Goal => Activist

Click for larger image

In keeping with Sashkin’s (1981) notion of socio-technical systems design, that “the technical system must mesh with the social system if the organization is to operate effectively,” (p. 218) I would propose that the effects of an organization must mesh with the effects of the environment in which it exists and interacts if both are to be effective. The challenge is to articulate the characteristic aspects or “variables” so that the organization can align itself with its emergent Effective Theory and thereby become truly effective.

  • Campbell, J. P. (1977). On the nature of organizational effectiveness. In Goodman, P.S. & Pennings, J.M. (Eds.), New perspectives on organizational effectiveness (pp. 13-55). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Doty, D. H., Glick, W. H., & Huber, G. P. (1993). Fit, equifinality, and organizational effectiveness: A test of two configurational theories. Academy of Management Journal, 36(6), 1196-1250.
  • Hitt, M. A., & Middlemist, R. D. (1979). A methodology to develop the criteria and criteria weightings for assessing subunit effectiveness in organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 22(2), 356-374.
  • Lewin, A. Y., & Minton, J. W. (1986). Determining organizational effectiveness: Another look, and an agenda for research. Management Science, 32(5), 514-538.
  • Quinn, R. (1988). The Competing Values Model: redefining organizational effectiveness and change. In Beyond Rational Management: Mastering the paradoxes and competing demands of high performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Quinn, R., & Rohrbaugh, J. (1983). A spatial model of effectiveness criteria: towards a competing values approach to organizational analysis. Management Science, 29(3), 363-373.
  • Sashkin, M. (1981). An overview of ten management and organizational theorists. In Jones, J. & Pfeiffer, J. (Eds.), The 1981 annual handbook for group facilitators (pp. 206-21). San Diego, CA: University Associates.
  • Wiener, Y. (1988). Forms of Value Systems: Focus on Organizational Effectiveness and Cultural Change and Maintenance. Academy of Management Review, 13(4), 534-545.
Update (13 July 2010): The fully worked out version of Effective Theory, plus my entire Valence Theory of Organization, are available via the links.

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26 February 2006

On Espoused Theory, Theory-in-Use, and "Effective Theory"

Thinking out loud on some of the grounding concepts for my research. This is the first of three parts. Thoughtful comments are, of course, welcome.

Argyris & Schön (1974) describe the now classic “theory of action” perspective on what we say, as compared to what we do – espoused theory vs. theory-in-use. A person’s, or an organization’s, theories of action are subject to a variety of dilemmas that relate to the gap between espoused and in-use theories. First, there is the potential for incongruities between espoused and in-use theories. Next, there is the potential for inconsistencies among the actions that comprise one’s theory-in-use. As well, the requisite actions may become difficult to achieve, or may provide less value to the person, organization, or the world in general. Finally, something that Argyris writes about relatively more recently, are the defensive measures that people and organizations take to mitigate or avoid the embarrassment that may be associated with these dilemmas, especially if one feels a need to continually justify past decisions.

To deal with these dilemmas requires corrective action, not only to correct specific behaviours associated with theory-in-use, but to adjust one’s theory-in-use, perhaps to bring it more in line with the corresponding espoused theory. Argyris calls such reflective action “double loop learning,” involving a reflection not only on whether the theory-in-use is effective (as in accomplishing goals, for instance), but also whether: theory-in-use is compartmentalized from espoused theory when there are inconsistencies; there is willing deception of salient data that would expose incongruities; “bad news” is suppressed through intimidation or other power/control mechanisms (including coercive control and punishment); espoused theory is being inappropriately changed to correspond to theories-in-use and actual behaviours; marginal changes to theories-in-use are being introduced so that they are technically consistent with espoused theories.

Despite this, the question that remains is whether the espoused theory actually accomplishes the organization’s intent relative to its total environment, the aspect that I refer to as organizational effectiveness. This aspect requires the type of anti-environment – either via external perceivers or through the construction of a cognitive anti-environment – that is effected via McLuhan for Managers-style thinking constructs, or through a role*-like process of guided narrative for the organization itself (through people’s individual narratives, and the narrative of the organization as an entity via its documentary history). This additional consideration – essentially adding a “third loop” – begins to impose a consideration of environmental responsibility on the organization. Of course I’m referring to the total environment in which the organization exists that necessitates a change in focus for the traditional organization, from inner to outer; from considering only its relationship with its nominal stakeholders to considering itself “in relation” to its place in the world.

Click for larger image

Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1974). Theory in practice: increasing professional effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Update (13 July 2010): The fully worked out version of Effective Theory, plus my entire Valence Theory of Organization, are available via the links.
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25 February 2006

TTC - The Bitter Way

Another humourless corporation that pretends to care about its community sics its lawyers on someone whose affection is twisted in a misguided bid to "protect" its so-called intellectual property. This time, it is the grim folks at the Toronto Transit Commission who issued a cease-and-desist letter to RobotJohnny for his anagram map of the TTC subway system, about which I blogged a couple days ago. Johnny received a "TTC has not granted, and expressly denies, permission to you or the Website to reproduce or otherwise use TTC intellectual property in whole or in part" letter. I went to the TTC complaint page, and sent the following complaint:
This is a complaint about your lawyers, who recently sent a cease and desist letter to RobotJohnny (http://www.robotjohnny.com) concerning an anagram map of the TTC subway system. You may not be aware that this is part of a worldwide phenomenon that has occurred over the last week of creating similar maps of transit systems in major cities throughout the world. In fact, Toronto was the second to be created, now among dozens.

The creation of such a map, and its dissemination, demonstrates tremendous affection for the service, and provides the type of goodwill that has been lacking of late, especially in the wake of the impending fare hike. The cease and desist letter not only demonstrates the lack of a sense of humour, but the lack of a sense of community as well. It has also been demonstrated time and again that such actions, once publicized, significantly damage the reputation of the company, and only lead to the wider dissemination of the so-called offending material.

I urge you to reconsider your stance on this before it hits the wider Toronto media, Monday morning.
In a UCaPP* world, a heavy-handed attempt to "protect" one's so-called intellectual property against a parody like this (which, by the way, would likely be considered fair dealing under Canada's copyright law) only serves to damage reputation and goodwill. In essence, this is a reversal effect that is to be expected under today's conditions of instantaneous communication. On the other hand, playing along with the gag would go a long way towards fostering the type of public image the TTC attempts to portray.

*UCaPP = Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate

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23 February 2006

Shall We Meet at Greg's Toe or Butt Rash?

RobotJohnny has created this incredible remix of the Toronto Transit Commission's subway map, on which all the stations are anagrams of their real names. Inspired!
(via BoingBoing)
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22 February 2006

Anne is Brilliant

There's a saying of which I like to remind myself: If you're the smartest one in the room, you're in the wrong room. The 'net is a mighty big room, and I exalt in the knowledge that there are so many in this room of whom I am in intellectual awe. I haven't had the opportunity to create the space to read Anne Galloway's blog for a while now, because I know that I can't merely do a quick skim of the RSS feed and be done. Anne's writing is to be savoured, I think, because it is so rich and filled with a multiplicity of flavour and perception.

So enough with the waxing eloquent over her blog. It was this that really got me going:
How many people read their own blog?

I read mine damn near every day - which I'm pretty sure can't be all good. Of course, blogging has been a central part of my research methodology for the past three years, and in my dissertation I describe that I've actually written it through my blog. (The recursivity of this isn't irrelevant: blogging as one of my primary research methods has been a place to think out loud, a form of catharsis, and a way to practice. As such, its history reads not unlike a romantic novella with all its pitfalls.)

Latour and Woolgar describe how, in any inscription, "all the intermediary steps which made its production possible are forgotten" - resulting in black boxing and the like. Definitely, but my blog has, to varying extents, remembered the production of my dissertation as well. ... But here's the most important thing I think I've learned: blogging as a research methodology works best (i.e. is most critical and creative) when there is conversation, or more specifically when there is a convergence of difference along shared matters-of-concern.
"Convergence of difference along shared matters-of-concern." Brilliant! Thanks, Anne!
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19 February 2006

"No Argument" at the Salon at Café L'Espresso

The Salon at Cafe L'Espresso continues the last Thursday of every month, meaning this coming Thursday, February 23, beginning at 19:00. Last month's was called Mythdemeanour, and looked at the relationship between myths, the social construction of our world, and love. The topic for this month is "argument" and the video presentation that precedes the conversation is called "No Argument":
It offers 33 ways to lose an argument, provides useful information on skin composition, and rules on how to behave while dancing in a mosh pit. A public service so to speak.
According to one of the producers, Len Choptiany, it "looks at the ways we used to know things, and what the electronic future may hold for us. I call it tactile reasoning by choreography," apparently drawing from McLuhan's notion of "wearing all of mankind as our skin" under electric conditions. There will be plenty to argue about for those who like to argue, and plenty to smile about for those who don't. Great conversation, good food and good wine, all for $20. Can't beat that with a stick!

Thursday Feb 23 - 7 pm at L'Espresso, 321 Bloor West.
Hope to see you there.

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Drassinower on User Rights

I was at an interesting talk on Friday, sponsored by the Centre for Media and Culture Education at OISE. Abraham Drassinower of U of T’s Faculty of Law spoke about his chapter, entitled Taking User Rights Seriously that appears in Michael Geist’s edited collection, In the Public Interest. My notes are incomplete, as the conversation got too darn interesting, but the chapter (as are all the chapters) is available for free download under a Creative Commons license (see? Together we are all smarter).

In Canada, there is a doctrine under copyright law known as “Fair Dealing,” that is different than the “Fair Use” doctrine in the U.S. Fair dealing has been considered a defence against a charge of copyright infringement, essentially laying out five uses (hence intentions) that are considered exculpatory, were one to be charged with infringement. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada found fair dealing to be a user right, which gives it a different hue under the law. Drassinower begins to examine what this means in terms of the relationship between users, authors and the public in general.

He is philosophically interested in restoring what he calls the “dignity” of the public domain. As it is currently constituted under the law, public domain comprises the “leftovers” – all that is not protected by copyright. He wants to begin to replace this notion with one that is positively conceived, beginning by asking the question, in what sense is the exception of fair dealing not an exception to the author’s exclusive right of reproduction of a work? The answer he proposes is drawn from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who wrote in 1918 that “the noblest of human productions – knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas – become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use” – namely, if the general rule of expressed knowledge is indeed common use. But in this case, the copyright pendulum swings the other way: authors’ rights, instead of users’ rights, become the exception. How then can we resolve the dichotomy of exclusive claims?

The approach that Drassinower suggests is comprised of three constructs (that are explained and developed in great detail in the chapter:
  • Consider authors as users;
  • Consider users as authors;
  • Use the doctrine of copyright to negotiate the tension between the two
Simply put, one of the tests of whether a work is copyrightable is its originality, but not necessarily its novelty. For this test, one considers the source: did the actual work – as differentiated from the ideas of the work – come from the nominal author. This doctrine recognizes that very little of human cultural and creative production comes from the proverbial whole cloth. Authors as users take others’ ideas to create new, original works. On the other hand, fair dealing recognizes that uses can become authors when they use the work of authors where that use is incidental to their own creation; according to Drassinower, irrespective of the quantity of the use. An interesting way to understand this is to consider browsing online. Since browsing necessitates making a complete copy of a work, it could be considered an infringement. However, since the copy is incidental to the “creation,” that is, the reading of the page (which, after all, is what was intended when the page was put online), the infringement is “incidental” and hence is a fair use.

This concept raises an interesting question (actually raised by Roger Simon) concerning education. Currently, the dissemination of copyright materials in class is considered to be covered by copyright protection; as teachers. Under such consideration, we cannot (legitimately) put a scan of the work online for students to download, or make copies of an article for the students, and so forth. However, one might argue that the “creation” is the educational environment in which new knowledge is being constructed, and the use of the copyright work is “incidental” to that creation, and hence should be considered fair dealing. Although Drassinower cautions against attempting to fight this in court, he does consider this an interesting, and potentially useful line of reasoning. Also, when copyright is invoked to stifle free speech, he points out that there must be a clear distinction in the conflation of the (copy)rights of an author, and the (charter)rights of a citizen.
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15 February 2006

Menippean Moment Courtesy of Cheney and Corddry

In my paper called, The Fifth Law of Media, I have a section that describes the function and purpose of menippean satire:
Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian literary theorist and critic, identified fourteen distinct characteristics that are typical of Menippean satire throughout the ages. These include a comic or “carnival” element; freedom from accuracy with inventive plots and philosophical approaches; absurd situations used to seek, reveal, and test the truth of ideas rather than the human character; altered observational standpoints or states of consciousness that enable new perspectives on situations and life; deliberate violations of social conventions to create new awareness of old forms; mixed media forms and genres in which the medium itself assumes a significance beyond its content; and a heightened concern for contemporary issues and salient topics of the day (Bakhtin, 1984).

Menippean satiric style has been adopted by many writers, including Rabelais, Erasmus, Pope, Voltaire, Swift, Cervantes, Carroll, and Joyce. Today, comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart demonstrates both the form and intent of Menippean satire. All of these writers share a common purpose. “Menippean satire mirrors a world that is in ceaseless motion and where nothing is certain… [I]ts authors’ intentions seem, in nearly every case, to demonstrate the disabling and limiting conditions under which the human intellect operates” (Blanchard, 1995, p. 11). Eric McLuhan is more specific about the role Menippean satire plays in creating awareness among an otherwise oblivious public.
As an active form, a Menippean satire goes to any extreme necessary in order to frustrate objectivity or detachment on the part of the reader. … Cynics, and Diogenes in particular … were often referred to as ‘laughing philosophers,’ for they refused to take seriously any political, private, social, intellectual, or other kind of pretentiousness. (McLuhan, 1997, p. 5)
Instead they create what Eric McLuhan calls the “cynic effect” – a satirical response that creates new awareness by awakening the dulled perception of the reader. Thus, Menippean satire is not merely humour or irony, but humour or irony with a specific intentionality.
Bearing this theory in mind, watch a masterful revelation of truth when The Daily Show's Rob Corddry plays the laughing philosopher on U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney's hunting mishap: "According to Vice Presidential Firearms Mishap Analyst Rob Corddry, Cheney stands by his decision."

Bakhtin, M. M., & Emerson, C. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky's poetics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Blanchard, W. S. (1995). Scholars' Bedlam: Menippean Satire in the Renaissance. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses.
McLuhan, E. (1997). The Role of Thunder in Finnegan's Wake. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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13 February 2006

Project Psiphon and the Great Firewall of China

Today's Globe has a report on the next project to come out of Ron Deibert's Citizen Lab. Psiphon is a software tool that will allow Internet users in countries that practice not only 'net censorship and filtering, but jailing of 'net dissidents as well.
Psiphon is designed to eliminate a drawback of anti-filter programs: incriminating the users behind the firewall. If found by authorities, that anti-filter software can lead to coercive interrogation, a bid to uncover the suspect's Internet travel secrets using a tactic known to insiders as "rubber-hose cryptoanalysis."

Mr. Villeneuve built a system that won't leave dangerous footprints on computers. In simple terms, it works by giving monitored computer users a way to send an encrypted request for information to a computer located in a secure country. That computer finds the information and sends it back, also encrypted.
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12 February 2006

Transparency, Not Disclosure

I'll admit, I was too distracted last week to properly blog the latest tempest in a blogs-pot concerning the so-called A-list bloggers jumping on the bandwagon over FON's financing coup. You can read about the controversy over at David Weinberger's blog, as he was one of the A-listers implicated by the Wall Street Journal article:
When Spanish Internet start-up FON Technology SL tried to generate some buzz this past weekend about new funding it had snared from Google Inc. and eBay Inc.'s Skype Technologies, it pitched stories to traditional media outlets.

But the tiny company also got publicity from another source: influential commentators on the Internet who write blogs — including some who may be compensated in the future for advising FON about its business...

That can be a murky issue in today's clubby blogosphere, where many people including venture capitalists, lawyers and journalists write about Web issues and companies — and often, each other — with little editing. The rebound in Silicon Valley's economy, coupled with the popularity of cheap, easy-to-use blogging tools, means there are more aspiring commentators than ever opining about start-ups and tech trends on the Web. And increasingly, it is difficult to discern their allegiances.
The innuendo is that these enthusiastic bloggers stood to financially gain from their recommendations of FON. The fact of this particular case is that, without exception, all the "influential" A-listers did disclose their affiliations with FON so that their interests would be transparent. The other fact is that none of the bloggers were unanimous in their praise - each offered critique and pointed out the doubt, uncertainty and limitations of the current service.

I offered a comment to David that I want to highlight to my readers, since I perceive this incident is an exemplar not of old-media vs. new-media, but of old (read, Industrial Age) business vs. new (read, Ubiquitously Connected and Pervasively Proximate) business. Here's what I wrote:
I think this ... reveals an interesting shift in the business ground under UCaPP conditions. Under the old paradigm and governing rules, there *must* be a fairly direct tangible, motivation (ie, close-to-direct compensation) for contributing to a business's success where the the contributor has a nominal arms-length relationship with the business. The WSJ - not as a member of old-media but as a member of old-business - understands the world according to this paradigm. Hence, the so-called influential bloggers (an accusation with which I wouldn't disagree) must have a pecuniary interest somewhere - it's just a matter for the mud-diggers to find.

As I perceive the changes occurring under UCaPP conditions, the nature of compensation becomes far more subtle and nuanced, and far more indirect. Much of it has to do with reputation as convertible currency. In this case, for example, if David is seen as being an advisor to a company that creates a surfeit of beneficial effects throughout its total environment (eg. creates a greater good in society, is respectful of its people, becomes fiscally sound and profitable, enables other companies to create equally beneficial effects) then David's reputation increases, as does his ultimate economic value in the things he does to pay his own bills - irrespective of whether or not he actually receives direct, or once-removed, compensation from his advising that company. David's own success as a network enterprise (in Manual Castells's terms) is dependent on that greater reputation.

The WSJ has not yet adapted and adopted to the changes in the business environment so created by UCaPP - they're still in the instrumentality and functionality phase, as are almost every other business, institution and organization.
For those who are interested in my research, this is the crux of (one of my) arguments. The vast majority of extant businesses do not understand the Internet. They consider it instrumentally and functionally - what can it be used for as if it was a machine? What are its functional capabilities? How can it make us more efficient, more productive, more profitable? Indeed, this is what is being taught in every single business school around the world (and if you are a professor at a business school that is teaching something else, I'd love to hear from you)! Very few of the pre-Internet businesses, if any at all, and most of the Internet-era businesses, are considering how UCaPP effects fundamentally change the existential premises upon which contemporary businesses are based.

Here's a quick pseudo-test to tell if your business is IA-bound, or UCaPP-ready:
1) Is leadership an important concern for your business?
2) Does your business plan rely on being directly compensated for what you nominally do?
3) Does your strategy consider your stakeholders that would include your employees, your investors, your customers, and your suppliers?
4) Do you consider your intellectual property a vital asset that should be monetized? (Okay, that one's a gimme.)

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions, you are IA-bound; the more yeses, the tighter the binding, and the more you need to read How to Determine the Business You're REALLY In. This paper (which, I'm told, is being taught at several name-brand management schools in North America) was written before I started to seriously think about the problem of the corporation of the future. But it's a good starting point, I think.

Answers to the test:
1) Leadership is an artefact of hierarchy and bureaucracy that is inconsistent with UCaPP conditions.
2) Under UCaPP conditions, indirect compensation is far more effective, and increases not only the company's opportunities, but employee's willing and enthusiastic participation in the company as well.
3) What about your competitors? What about the biological environment? What about the cultural/social (and socially-networked) environment?
4) Come on guys. Together we're all smarter! Aren't you following the discourse on how tightening IP laws is strangling innovation?
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McLuhanian Slip on Emerson

While the traditional mass-media outlets are reminding we ordinary Canadians about Stephen Harper's impersonation of Marie Antoinette in the Emerson and Fortier affairs, this CTV site provides a great McLuhanian slip in its discussion about the pressure on David Emerson, the minister who didn't wait to get to the floor of the House to cross it. The last lines in the article:
Emerson, who backed out of an earlier commitment to appear on Question Period, was branded a traitor at a noisy protest organized by the New Democratic Party.

He has repeatedly refused calls for him to resign and run again in a bye-election.
(emphasis added)
I'm sure it would indeed be a "bye"-election.
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06 February 2006

Plus ça change...

Wow! Harper is not even (officially) in the job one day, when he apparently goes back on what seemed to be a big deal in the major platform plank of "accountability." Somehow I seem to recall the noise that erupted when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, nominally on a policy difference with her soon-to-be-former party, to sit with the Paul Martin Liberals in the Paul Martin cabinet. Something about having to return to the voters? But today, we hear news of elected Liberal MP, David Emerson, not even waiting to get to the floor to cross it, being sworn in as a Conservative cabinet minister.
Anne McLellan, the former Liberal deputy prime minister who lost her seat in the election, said Emerson's defection shocked her and others in the party... McLellan added, however, that Emerson was not looking forward to the prospect of being an opposition MP. "I talked to David after the election and I know there was no question he was not looking forward to sitting as an opposition member. He told me that he'd ... come to Ottawa to be in government."
The Conservative Party spokesman offers this very weak response to the obvious "pot, meet kettle" moment: "I think a lot of people in the Conservative party came from other parties. There wouldn't be a Conservative party today if people hadn't come from other parties," [Conservative strategist, Tim] Powers said."

Mr. Harper: there seems to be a defect in your cabinet.
P.S. The blogosphere is watching you.
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04 February 2006

Thoughts on Organizational Effectiveness

If the common greeting among people in general is “how are you?” the equally common greeting when you meet a friend doing a Ph.D. is, “so how’s the research going?” Of course, I’m still at the stage where I’m doing literature, but it’s literature with a very specific focus: I’m attempting to both understand the construct of “organizational effectiveness,” and reconstruct it as a reversal to use as instrumentation when I get to the point of conducting my real empirical research.

So far, I’ve been reading stuff from the 1960s and 1970s, around the time when management thinkers were realizing that there was more to a successful organization than production and efficiency. Turns out that there is a key question that I raise in my reconception of organizational effectiveness that my supervisor, Marilyn Laiken, found particularly insightful. Chris Argyris talks about espoused theory vs. theory-in-use, or the gap between how people say they will act and how they really act. Marilyn responds that the practice of Organization Development intervenes to make people critically aware of that gap, and to bridge the gap so that people (to use a trite cliché) “walk the talk.” Argyris has other articles and books in which he talks about the challenge of doing this, and how complex defensive mechanisms are created by people and organizations to minimize the embarrassment created by the existence of that gap. (A good article from Harvard Business Review on this subject is his “Good Communication that Blocks Learning,” July-August, 1994.)

I ask an additional question: How do we know that an organization’s (or person’s for that matter) espoused theory is consistent with the intent of that theory in the context of the larger societal environment? In other words, if a company were to “walk the talk” – actually achieve a near-perfect alignment between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use – how does anyone know that the actions and behaviours undertaken in their theory-in-use will actually create (or even simply enable if we don’t want to be overly deterministic about it) the intended effects?

The extreme illustration that Marilyn came up with might be a dictator bent on ethnic genocide (think Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Darfur – there are just too many of them). The dictator’s espoused theory was that the ethnic minority had to be eliminated as they were the cause of society’s problems. His theory-in-use encompassed practices that involved stripping the ethnic minority of their citizenship, their rights, their property and material possessions, and finally their freedom and humanity. They were shipped off to be exterminated, or simply murdered in place. There was near-perfect alignment between the dictator’s espoused theory and his theory-in-use. However, the intended effect was to create a better society. It is not clear at all – in fact the argument is quite the contrary – that the espoused theory would enable a societal environment in which the intent could be fulfilled.

My concept of effect-ive theory takes into account the nature of the espoused theory’s effects in enabling an intended environment, with that intention being clearly articulated. In doing so, it goes beyond the inward focus (or to be generous, the organization-centric focus) of almost all strategic examinations of an organization’s vision or mission. Organizations that consider their effectiveness strictly in terms of their own operations, and their own direct stakeholders, do not consider indirect effects on other organizations, society at large, the biological environment, and so on. The traditional view of business most often views competitors as “the enemy” (and often considers its customers in practical terms as “the enemy”), and therefore any consideration of effects on those constituencies are viewed in terms of aggression, violence and predation.

In a UCaPP world, such a view is not only untenable and unsustainable, but (I argue) irresponsible and ultimately self-destructive. One example that comes easily to mind is the telcos’ call for the likes of Google, Yahoo and MSN to pay protection money to the carriers to prevent latency degradation. In the traditional Industrial Age model and worldview, these companies are leeches, “using” carriers’ long haul backbones without providing benefit to the carriers. In the UCaPP worldview, the carriers would realize that their long haul backbones become less valuable without customers’ access to Google, etc. It would be a PR and marketing disaster, exacerbated by the emergent transparency effects of the ‘net, particularly among the people who would be the target customers for the service.

The difference between the UCaPP construction of organizational effectiveness, and an Industrial Age view of organizational effectiveness is the difference between successful adoption and adaptation to becoming (in Manual Castells’s words) a network enterprise, and becoming obsolesced.

A friend with whom I had this conversation comments: “My thought at the end of your musings is, you're assuming that a corporation actually has a conscious thought about the effect they desire. I'm not so sure that's the case.” This is an interesting observation that highlights the crux of the issue. In a linear (literate) world, corporations don’t have conscious thoughts about the effects they desire. That’s the way businesses have been organized, and that’s the effect that occurs – no thought outside of the corporation itself and its immediate “stakeholders.” In a UCaPP world, there is a recognition that corporations create specific effects beyond their direct cause-and-effect connections, and that these effects can be conceived and anticipated, and therefore can be thought about beforehand. This realization takes the corporation beyond the sociopathic behaviours that were highlighted in the movie, The Corporation, and begins to impart a sense of existing in a social context, in much the same way that children are (ideally)socialized into “caring and sharing”, or grow up instead with various degrees of sociopathy.
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Found Interview: Me on McLuhan for Managers

Amazing what you find when you Google yourself. Apparently some time in the past few years, I did an interview about my book, McLuhan for Managers: New tools for new thinking (now more-or-less out of print), that was picked up on the Engaging the Word archive. The archive is a cornucopia of interviews with the famous and the not-so-famous (I'm in the latter group). So here I am, talking about McLuhan, clichés, tetrads and how they all work to help increase business awareness and management effectiveness.
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03 February 2006

The Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy

Free-speech vs. hate-speech. Freedom of the press vs. freedom from being oppressed. Reducing the issue of offensive political cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that were originally published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, to television-sized sound/sight-bites does an injustice to the complexities and nuances of this incident; an incident grows more unfortunate by the hour.

I won't rehash the figure-level debate that is being waged around the world - a debate that (once again) polarizes the West and the non-West; yet again demonstrates that neither side has any interest in truly understanding and appreciating the cultural context of the other (and, "the other," in Habermasian terms). What is far more interesting to me is the back story that has been lost in the noise, the rhetoric, Muslim demonstrations, and Western remonstrations.

If you have yet to see the offensive cartoons, and are so-interested, you can find them here (about 2/3 of the way down the page), along with various depictions of Mohammed throughout history, and in contemporary times. Most are not in any way offensive (aside from the Islamic admonition not to depict humans at all); some are satirical, but not particularly defamatory. However, what struck me as tremendously offensive were the three cartoons that were not among the original twelve printed in the Danish newspaper, but were included in a booklet that a Danish Muslim delegation presented in the Middle East, apparently claiming that they were among the published cartoons.
One issue that puzzles many Danes is the timing of this outburst. The cartoons were published in September: Why have the protests erupted from Muslims worldwide only now? The person who knows the answer to this question is Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, a man that the Washington Post has recently profiled as “one of Denmark's most prominent imams.”

Last November, Abu Laban, a 60-year-old Palestinian who ... has been connected by Danish intelligence to other Islamists operating in the country, put together a delegation that traveled to the Middle East to discuss the issue of the cartoons with senior officials and prominent Islamic scholars. The delegation met with Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi. ...

On its face, it would appear as if nothing were wrong. However, the Danish Muslim delegation showed much more than the 12 cartoons published by Jyllands Posten. In the booklet it presented during its tour of the Middle East, the delegation included other cartoons of Mohammed that were highly offensive, including one where the Prophet has a pig face. But these additional pictures were NOT published by the newspaper, but were completely fabricated by the delegation and inserted in the booklet (which has been obtained and made available to me by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet [in Danish, but with slides of each page of the alleged booklet]). The delegation has claimed that the differentiation was made to their interlocutors, even though the claim has not been independently verified. In any case, the action was a deliberate malicious and irresponsible deed carried out by a notorious Islamist who in another situation had said that “mockery against Mohamed deserves death penalty.” And in a quintessential exercise in taqiya, Abu Laban has praised the boycott of Danish goods on al Jazeera, while condemning it on Danish TV.
Why would a Danish Muslim cleric choose to literally inflame the Islamic world on this months-old issue? Why would he knowingly contribute to the global distribution of offensive images of the Prophet Mohammed? While the figure-level debate centres on free-speech vs. hate-speech, the ground issue seems clear to me, (assuming the booklet story is accurate): The controversy is entirely about the manipulative promotion of hate speech - first by so-called leaders against their own, to encourage hate against others.

Cartoon or no cartoon, I cannot believe this is what Mohammed had in mind.

Update (6 Feb 2006): What would prophet Mohammed have done?
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If you like the approach I take to this issue, come see what I say about other things on the main blog page.

Online Learning Environment: History and Theory of Organization Development

Many of you know that I'm currently doing a Ph.D. at OISE/UT in the Adult Education Department, researching the future form of corporation that is consistent with our UCaPP environment. As part of my (master's) course work, I took a fabulous course taught by my supervisor, Marilyn Laiken: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on Organization Development.

For a long time, Marilyn had wanted to adapt this course for distance learning, making it available as an online course. The problem was, that she had neither taught, nor even participated in, an online course. So with my background in understanding the effects of UCaPP environments, our collaboration on this project seemed to be a match made in distance learning heaven. Except for one small matter. Like the Honda engineer who hated diesel engines, who was given the task of designing a new diesel engine (the ad is great, by the way), I absolutely hate most online, distance learning environments.

Most online courses are implemented using a form of threaded forums, harkening back to the old Usenet. Great for its time (1970s), but as antiquated today as one-room schoolhouses and students with their own slates and chalk. What's worse (and this is my main objection) is that their primary effect is to intensify didactic, content-focused instruction. Because of their linearity and threaded nature, they tend to narrow the scope of conversation, thinking and discourse. Additionally, they multiply the amount of reading time because of their strict, "drill-down" style of navigation. Yech!

But I was up for the challenge, and decided that the best way to implement a collaborative learning environment was to use a collaborative online environment, particularly suited for group authorship, namely a wiki. With no funding (the story of my life), I turned to a great hosted service, PBwiki, whose slogan is, "make a wiki as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich," hence the "PB." (Disclaimer: The good folks at PBwiki will double my free storage space in exchange for this mention.) I've used a number of free, hosted services over the years, and tend to stick with, and recommend, the ones that work for me, like Blogger.com and Bloglines, for instance. So far, PBwiki ranks right up there for ease-of-use right from the get-go, responsiveness, and continual investment in development and feature-expansion.

Although the actual course itself is available only to registered students at OISE/UT (for the time being, at least), I have created a public sample that can give you a taste of the style of the environment, the nature of the weekly collaborations in the class, an outline of the course content, and samples of the entry class, and the first "block." For more information on the course and/or the project, you can contact me, or Professor Marilyn Laiken.

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01 February 2006

Test-driving a (Techno-cultural) Puppy

There's an old adage: You can't "test-drive" a puppy. Or a kitten, for that matter. Especially if you have a little one at home. Once changed by the cuteness of the little creature, you've bought it.

Technology isn't quite the same, of course, but certainly exposure to the actual, visceral experience of the ways in which technology transforms one's notion of cultural production does wonders for the policy-maker. That's why this is a brilliant idea
Senator Stevens, the 82-year old Committee [on Commerce, Science, and Transportation] chairman from Alaska, surprised the audience by announcing that his daughter had bought him an iPod, and suddenly Stevens had a much greater understanding of the many ways innovative technology can create choice for consumers. Content industry representatives at the hearing found themselves answering much tougher questions than they typically receive.

That's why we think all Senators ought to join Stevens' esteemed company as iPod owners. Rather than wait for every Senator's daughter, we're taking matters into our own hands and buying a video iPod for the campaigns of Senators who work on legislation affecting technology. Plus, we're going to pre-load each one with examples of the cultural richness made possible by sharing and collaboration - public domain content, Creative Commons content, and audio messages about the importance of balanced copyright policy.
Because most policy- and law-makers seem to have little time to play with the sorts of things that more geeky types play with, like Creative Commons produced works, blogs as conversations and amplification of voice, fundamental reversals of the basic institutions of society in a UCaPP environment - stuff like that - giving them the toys that create new awareness of these changes goes an awfully long way in undoing the types of gifts that some (former) parliamentarians receive.
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Reality TV: State of the State of the Union

Usually I'm not one for so-called reality TV, but I couldn't resist the temptation to watch Smilin' George and the Republican Jacks/Janes-in-the-box (the ones who kept springing up to applaud at the most inane cheerleaderish boosterisms) last night. The pre-game show was interesting in and of itself: great satire of Joan Rivers's pre-Oscar red carpet party ("Oooh! There's the Joint Chiefs! And the Supremes! Oh! Oh! Justice Alito? Can we talk? Can we talk? Whadaya mean you've already wiretapped what I was saying?...) But the thing that really got to me was the mention on CNN that one of the especially invited guests was a dog - that's right, man's proverbial best friend - who apparently served in Iraq as a bomb-sniffer and is considered a veteran, and hence was considered worthy of one of the exclusive tickets. (So what now? Does he go to obedience school under the GI Bill?)

Too bad Fido couldn't sniff out all the prevarications, fantasies and deliberate "misleading the House" (although that's really a Canadian and British term) that went on in the nearly one-hour talk. I could tell when George was stretching the truth - his nose didn't grow, but he put on that "I've just pulled a fast one and no one noticed" smirk of his.

I got news for you George: people noticed - especially these good folks over at Think Progress, who have supplied an issue-by-issue fact check guide to the State of the Union Address. So for all those out there in U.S. TV-land, who actually believe Survivor is about surviving on a deserted island, and forming collaborative teams, and that there's really no script, yeah, the state of George-the-younger's union is strong, I guess. For the rest of us, there's some 'splainin' to do.
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