Martin’s Weblog

Three Horizons, Steve Jobs and Education

“The three horizons model was first published in The Alchemy of Growth by Merhdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White in 1999. The fundamental idea behind the model is that we need to be thinking about innovation across three time frames”  ~ Time Kastelle

Horizon 1 is about current business – gaining efficiencies and quality – involving analysis and intrepreneurship – its about business operators

Horizon 2 is about extending current business into new and related areas – involving
entrepreneurship and exploration – business builders

Horizon 3 is about radically new types of business – involving imagination and vision.

“Strategy” is often on Horizon 1 and 2 – operational and extension activities.  This is probably why the core of education has changed so little. All the narratives around e-learning, MLEs and such like are on Horizon 1 and Horizon 2 – they are about efficiences and extensions within the current paradigm of education – a reinforcement and extension of the current paradigm and reality.

Horizon 3 is about “creative destruction” in a sector to create radical new opportunities – it is where we find the radical narratives of de-institutionalisation and dis-intermediation.

The problem is that Horizon 3 is beyond the vision of so many and if it can be seen or imagined then it can appear more as an hallucination – a psychotic breakdown in reality. Looking forward horizon 3 is indeed a break from current reality but looking backwards the trends can be rationalised historically. Horizon three is full of uncertainity and the unknown – “sanity” can be maintained by the comforting Kodak moment poses in rituals of operational efficiency and business extension Shirkey principles. “There is no Line on the Horizon”  – horizon 3 creeps up exponentially – it is a paradigm change in the ecosystem –  horizon 1 and horizon 2 strategies of efficiency and extension may not apply in a new paradigm and may be counterprodictive and even toxic.

Steve Jobs is a classic example of someone with the vision to see beyond Horizon three – to see radical new business in the signals all around him.  The really distinguishing feature of Steve Jobs was his ability to match vision and imagination with innovation – to work at horizon 1 and horizon 2 in the world of efficiency and extension to actually build the world he could imagine – to combine things to create platforms, business relationships and ecosystems that gave us iTunes, iPods, iPhones and iPads – the new reality that connected cloud and mobile that we take for granted today.

Mediated by Information technology the world in which our formal and traditional education system exists is chaging more significantly than ever before – can education also change significantly – can education imagine what lies beyond horizon 3 aand adjust or will it face a Kodak moment?

How would you create education today if it didn’t already exist?

As Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It”

Related reading
Innovation for Now and for the Future By @Tim Kastelle This was the first article I read that mentioned the three horizon’s idea

How Apple disrupts markets and then goes on to dominate By Greg Satell Extends Tim’s Blog post and uses Steve Jobs and Apple as examples

Exploitation Across Different Innovation Horizons By Paul Hobcraft The 5th in a super series about the three horizon model

“High Anxiety” – Anxiety as a dimension in organisational culture By Martin King  About the comforting rituals performed in organisations

The last Kodak moment? – Economist article about technological change and failing to adapt

The Shirky Principle By Kevin Kelly About how institutions perpetuate the problems to which they are the solution – failure to change radically.

How to Think About the Future  By @Tim Kastelle  On the importance of exploring  the future horizon through experiments.


August 5, 2012 Posted by | education, future | | 2 Comments

2012 – The Genie Escapes the Bottle and Everything Goes Square

With our lives increasingly mediated by technology and with that technology radically evolving this blog outlines the case that in 2012 we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

The Genie Escapes The Bottle

Computers are shaking off their mortal coils – we are letting them out of the fixed, high maintenance boxes we have kept them in all these years and giving the finger to the mouse. Computers need not be WIMPs. There is new creativity and imagination in the development of more natural computer interfaces and forms –  many of these are growing from Apple seeds.

I think that in 2012 we will see the start of quickening radical shift in the way we interact with computers – near past predictions are already looking wildly conservative – e.g. Gartners prediction that 50% of computers bought for those under 15 years of age will be touch , Read Write Web’s predication that gestural interfaces for your living room are five years away.and Augmented Planet’s predication that Augmented reality glasses are 20 years away

The combination of natural interfaces and new computer forms are revolutionising what we think of as computers and their impact – here are some of the major developments


Using a finger to point to something is one of our earliest actions – no wonder there are plenty of examples of babies using iPads and even with other species – Orangutans  take easily to iPads as well. Today’s children are the “touch generation” –  Haptic interfaces are so natural that development is bound to be exponential and they will develop as these children grow up


“A picture paints a thousand words”  and in many cases its just so difficult to describe an action in words. In his TED video Chris Anderson describes how web video powers global innovation by empowering everyone both literate and non literate. I’ve also noticed how many people are using Skype and Facetime and how useful Google video chat and G+ Video hangouts are for meetings – I’m sure that we will see an explosion in the use of video and visual communications and interfaces in 2012 and one of the most exciting maybe video glasses – Lumus are expected to show their glasses at CES in January for OEM production later in the year.


Things get really interesting when our computers start to “understand” what they are “seeing”. Facial recognition is scareably accurate and Google and Apple dveloping  facial recognition for their smartphones. Things get even more interesting when our computers understand our gestures – Microsoft’s Kinect has ushered in a new interface era and the race is on to augment our technology interfaces with gesture – expect to see gesture appearing  everywhere from games (of course) to TVs computers and smartphones.


Voice interfaces have been developed over a very, very long time but failed to go mainstream. As is often the case Apple have seeded a revolution and with Siri Apple has breathed new life into voice. Some consider this to be “The invisible interface of the future” and has of course kick started competition – Google are expected to release their answer to Siri ,“Majel” early in 2012

Computers come to their senses (and our senses)

Traditional desktop computers suffer terrible sensory deprivation compared with mobiles which are bristling with sensors and connectivity. New technology can see us, hear us and understand our gestures. Putting all this together means 2012 may mark a change in our relationship with technology we will really start to be able to interact more naturally with our technology  – much like we interact with people and animals.

In 2010 Google’s Reto Meier predicted The Future of Mobile: Invisible, connected devices with infinite screens but his time frames look conservative now. I won’t attempt to say when but below are some of the what – all this may happen quicker than we think.

Touchscreens with  textures

Touchable holograms


Flexible and wearable displays

Gesture interfaces that read our emotions

Gesture interfaces that read our lips

Google Augmented reality Glasses

Augmented reality glasses

Augmented reality contact lenses

Wearable computing

Electronic cotton for the ultimate wearable computer

Mind reading

Mind Control

Mind control and robotics


Technology and Social Powers

Dion Hinchcliffe lists and describes most of the well known power “laws” in Digital technology and social theory in his post Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy – here are a few of the main ones taken from Dion’s list

Moores law

The processing power of a microchip doubles every 18 months such that computers become faster and the price of a given level of computing power halves every 18 months.

Gilder’s Law

The total bandwidth of communication systems triples every 12 months.

Metcalf’s law

The potential value of a network grows exponentially according to its size so that as a network grows, the value of being connected to it grows exponentially, while the cost per user remains the same or even reduces.

Reeds Law

The network effect of social systems is much higher than would otherwise be expected such that The Utility of a (social) network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network.

Reflexivity (social theory)

Describes how social systems are often self reinforcing, how social actions influence the fundamental behavior of social systems and how social systems can tend towards disequilibrium.

The Pareto Principle

Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – the famous “80:20” rule.

Principle of Least Effort

People basically vote with their feet to the easiest solution in the least exacting way available.

Everything Goes Square

While some believe there will be apocalypse in 2012 I think there are signs of major a transformation in human affairs facilitated and catalysed by technology.

With our lives increasing mediated by technology and with that technology radically changing the signs are set for a period of significant and fast (even exponential) change from self-reinforcing social and technology power laws.

Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle describe this era as Web Squared – an era of exponential technology and real world change from the combination of Web 2.0 technology and philosophies with social, mobile, real-time and sensors.

It’s as if technology has its own irresistible momentum – something which Kevin Kelly describes in “What Technology Wants” – a Technium  with “its own inherent agenda and urges”. Kelly’s Technium describes the intersection of humanity with technology:

The  technium may be described as an integral view of technology and humanity in which technology is a natural and inherent dimension of what it means to be human .. the technium is integral to human existence and evolution”

Ray Kurzweil argues that Accelerating Returns on exponential growth will eventually create a tipping point to what he calls The Singularity – a time when the change graph over time is vertical change and we reach an era of unpredictability, apparent chaos and uncertainty that only our machines will understand. Kurzweil makes a compelling case –  “It took the printing press 400 years to reach a large audience, it took the telephone 50 years, the mobile phone seven years, and social networks only three. The pace of innovation will only continue to accelerate, he says, because exponential evolution is built into the very nature of technology”

While we are a long way from the type of rapid change Kurzweil predicts, O’Reilly and Battelle’s Web Squared is already being felt. Time’s 2011 person of the year (The Protester) is symbolic of the changes in which technology is implicated when web meets world – helping a “generation to find its voice”. David Weinberger doesn’t hold back in “Too Big To Know” and describes how the Internet Is Ruining Everything. If 2011 is anything to go by we should expect more “real world” effects and disruption from our technology as the gravitational force from the not too distant singularity pulls us into a Web Squared Technium.

January 15, 2012 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, predictions, society | 3 Comments

I never make predictions and never will: 2011 – Superstacks beyond the WIMP

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

I feel like I’ve seen it all before – the repetitive cycles as the human condition plays itself out through history and technology. Boom-bust, expansion-contraction, freedom-control – Cambrian like periods of expansion and diversity followed by Darwinian like selection and contraction to new norms.  It seems as if the last 5 years have been an amazing Cambrian technology expansion cycle of new technologies such as Web 2.0, cloud, mobile and social and that we are now entering a period of selection and consolidation towards new norms.

Thomas J. Watson Sr., then-president of IBM allegedly said in 1943 that
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – he may have been wrong – there may be a market for even less.

The IT paradigm is shifting to Cloud computing but like mainframes in 1943 only a few organisations have the ability and resources to build these new “computers”  – gravitational forces are creating a small number of planet like surface to air super-clouds each with their own ecosystem. Life is good within the chosen ecosystem but inter-planetary communication and travel could be a problem.

The major players are attempting to build complete stacks from surface to air to host  their ecosystems – from hardware through a vertical stack to cloud based resources. At least three super-stacks are forming – initially with unique features – it will be interesting if they maintain these features or all become similar.

Google have a powerful cloud base and are are building a mobileground base with mobile technologies – they already have a successful, thriving smartphone ecosystem – we all wait to see if they can repeat this with tablets and laptops (ChromeOS). Google’s ecosystem is relatively loosely coupled and diverse but with an emphasis on pure cloud.

Apple have a tightly integrated stack from ground based iPods, iPhones and iPads through to the iTunes app market. Apple’s ecosystem is relatively controlled and tightly coupled with an emphasis on “ground based” apps. However, Apple have been building large data centres – will their ecosystem offer any pure cloud resources in 2011?

Microsoft have all the pieces yet are struggling to put them together without sacrificing their cash cows – Microsoft’s huge installed base has slowed it down – will it help it float or sink in the new paradigm? Microsoft are having trouble building their stack and haven’t yet developed a viable ecosystem that I can see. Can Microsoft recreate the Windows ecosystem in their stack – the departure of Ray Ozzie in October 2010 suggests they may not be able to and that this could be a long term extinction event for Microsoft – relegating it to a has been legacy supplier – Microsoft Windows and Office forever? ..

Cross stack developments (e.g. using HTML 5.0) will help build bridges and actually help reinforce the stacks but if these super stacks get built there will of course be forces building outside their control that will eventually bring them down or just render them obsolete – this is human nature played out through technology. The interesting “off-stack” ecosystem is of course open source, Peer to Peer and the creative commons. My longer term prediction is that future zeitgeist will shift off-stack back to personal and peer to peer through a natural cycle helped along by some stack based event and amazing technology development.

Beyond the WIMP
The seeds were sown in 2008 when Bill Gates left Microsoft and harvested in October 2010 when Ray Ozzie also left Microsoft and bloged “Dawn of a New Day”  where he imagined a Post PC World.

Over a 25 year period the PC and the WIMP interface could be said to have realised Bill Gates’s  dream of “a computer on every desk and in every home” but now we are talking about a computer with every person and the technology to do this is different to that used to put a computer on your desk. Microsoft could see the changes coming (they have had pocket PCs and Tablets for a decade) and made new mobile devices within the existing mainstream PC WIMP paradigm. Apple design genius helped show what was possible – the iPod, iPhone and iPad were not radical functional departures from what already existed – the innovation was in connecting together new technologies with superb human centric design. Again Microsoft are under pressure to adapt to the new era – they have the technology but can they implement when the weight of installed base weighs them down rather than advantages them.

The new wave of computing is very personal and built from a combination of ultra mobile, highly connected, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality, easy to use and pervasive. It certainly gives Gates’ Information at your fingertips”  a new spin.

This new era starts with smartphones, tablets,  social, real-time and rich sensory interfaces such as multi-touch and context awareness through vision, sound, location, orientation and other sensors. New era devices will become cheaper, smaller, more functional and pervasive – they will augment our reality and become the norm through the advantages they give to the user.

As we move beyond the WIMP we should expect new era devices to become ever more integrated with our context and our senses. Some of the things we should expect in the next decade are voice and gesture interfaces; context interfaces that anticipate and wearable computers and interfaces such as Data Glasses and Data Lenses.

Naturally there will be developments outside this new wave of technology. Change could arise from Ambient/ Internet of Things/ Ubiquitous computing developments so that rather than carry computing around with us our environment and objects within it provide the computing and access – a sort of retro shift (as often happens). Change could arise from the logical progression of personalisation so that eventually implantable computers and interfaces supercede those we wear or carry.


Social equality
Equality of access has in the past been adjusted by public resources such as libraries and schools but how can public resources adjust for the new wave of pervasive personal technology. The web has revolutionised and democratised information and just when equality of access gets within reach new technologies may snatch it away again – those with the new “information at your fingertips” to augment their realities have a distinct advantage compared to those without the resources.. How can we help equality in the new era? Will there be a technology adjustment to close the equality gap again?

As our technology gets increasingly personal, social and pervasive then issues of privacy will increase – we’ve seen plenty of privacy issues in  2010 starting with Facebook’s Zuckerberg Saying “The Age of Privacy is Over” and ending with Wikileaks and the activities surrounding it. The issues of state-state/state; state-citizen and citizen-citizen privacy-transparency will play out in the new communications space. What responses will there be to these privacy issues? Will society become more secretive and transparent? Will cultures of multiple identities, walled environments and off-web P2P type activities develop? Will these issues simply play out in the new medium in the same way they have done in the past?


December 29, 2010 Posted by | future, predictions | Leave a comment

Predictions and the nature of change

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises in the short term in terms of technology developments.  The problem with short term predictions is that we often exaggerate the scale and impacts of predicted developments.

Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

The problem with long term developments are that they are subject to exponential and combinatorial factors – chaotic things that we are not good at understanding at the best of times. To compound things change cycles themselves are becoming faster.

In the short term nothing much appears to happen while longer term changes appear are often beyond our understanding.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | future, ICT, predictions | 1 Comment

I never make predictions and never will: In 2010 Mobile will drive us

In the spirit of “I never make predictions and I never will” here goes.

William Gibson’s quote “The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed” is a powerful and practical idea for working out what is going to happen in the short term – extrapolate from current edge and current trends. Using my crystal ball to throw the light of the recent past into the near future I see network effects creating exponential growth in certain areas and it is on these areas that I will focus.

These days new technology is announced & piloted very early – there are few surprises. I have to agree with Miko Matsumura that in 2010 Nothing is going to happen – Bill Gates summed it up when he said “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”. Like compound interest an exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds – change is occurring around us all the time and like a slow boiling frog we only  jump when we become aware of it – as if it emerged out of nowhere. Another factor in ICT change in particular is the Network effect (the value and effectiveness of a communication technology increases with the number of users) – this acts a sort of natural selection – operating both negative and positive feedback on exponential growth.

I’ve used only mobile since 2000 – at first it radically changed the way I operate but there hasn’t been much change for 10 years – mobile computers are still basically like little desktops. However, mobile developments from Apple and Google are changing computing and culture – 2010 may be the year when all the strands come together and the frog jumps in surprise at what emerges.

Mobile will drive IT

Manufacturers and developers will focus on mobile first – some of this will filter into traditional computing but much of it will be inappropriate in a fixed desktop type environment. All the action will be with mobile now. We already see this with announcements of Google operating systems and rumours of the Apple tablet.

Mobile will drive us anytime, anywhere in real-time.

I’m not referring to smartphones or netbooks but to the ability to access services anytime, anywhere conveniently. The always on, always connected immediacy of mobile has altered our culture and our technology – we expect technology and services to be constantly available anytime, anywhere. Mobile has contributed to the shift to real-time – you don’t need to get back to a desk to access and update – you can access and update in-situ in real-time and we expect to be able to.

Mobile will drive us to new Interfaces

Through necessity new technology will be developed for mobile and this will also filter back into traditional systems. Keyboard-mouse derived interfaces are not appropriate for mobile devices – as mobile really takes off we should expect to see radical yet device appropriate new interfaces. iPhone set the direction with mulitouch – we should expect to see development of this with more gesture and sensory interaction – pressure, speed, acceleration, orientation, audio, video etc could all be used. Data glasses are an inevitability – a necessary way to compensate for small display size – especially when combined with augmented reality.

Mobile will drive us to the clouds.

Mobiles have to delicately balance power, size, weight and battery life. Although there may be a diversity of devices types the overall trend is always to smaller and lighter. If mobiles prioritise communications (network and User Interface) they can off-load power to the cloud and focus on balancing battery life, weight and size. A tiny device can use the cloud to run the core of applications from word processing to media editing even.  Clouds are compatible with the the always on, immediacy of mobile culture – software on demand as a service rather than the traditional local application model of download, install, maintain, update and secure. Cloud and mobile culture will positively reinforce each other.

Mobile will drive us green

The holy grail of mobiles is to offer all day operation from one battery – to achieve this while balancing size and weight  mobiles introduce a new energy economy by reversing Wintel processor power inflation and focusing instead on better energy efficiency. Like better miles per gallon rather than just speed we will be expect our mobiles to go further before having to fill up.

Mobile will drive us social

In-situ mobile access is more natural and discrete than traditional styles of sitting at a desk eyeballing a large screen. On-line personal social interaction through mobiles is already normalised – people expect to txt, tweet, Facebook etc when and where it happens. People also to expect the same level of interaction at work which does after all involve interacting with other people.

Mobile will drive us knowledgeable

If you want to find out about something you no longer need to wait until you get to a book or traditional computerjust Google or Goggle it from your mobile or ask your social network – again from your mobile. We now have instant access to an abundance of information – we can all know anything as long as we have a mobile. Today”it’s not how intelligent you are, but how you are intelligent” – less what you know than how you know it.

Mobile will drive us to a new reality

Using its sensors (location, audio, visual, orientation, tactile etc) a mobile can interact with you and the environment in new ways and a mobile that knows where it is can better contextualise responses With traditional computing people entered new reality inside the computer – places like second life. With mobile the computers enter our world – we bring our computers with us into a new reality – an augmented reality where computers add to our in-situ experience.

Mobile will drive us squared

A new paradigm will emerge from the combination of mobile drivers – a fast changing, real-time, any-time, any-where, green, social, knowledgeable, sensory, cloud, augmented reality. Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle described and named this paradigm as Web Squared – “when web meets world”. O’Reilly and Battelle describe the trend – 1990-2004 was the match being struck (Web 1.0), 2005-2009 was the fuse (Web 2.0) and 2010 will be the explosion(Web Squared).

Mobile will drive us.

Mobile will eventually change the way we work, learn and play – traditional organisation moved people to work, learn and play but with mobile work, learn and play can be moved to people and this may have profound effects on social organisation.

Predictions for 2010

The growth of cloud computing, real-time and social are well predicted and will become even more established. Below are some less predictable predictions….

User interfaces

By the end of 2010 there will be some radically interesting new user interfaces driven by mobile.

The stalled tablet interface will get seriously cool if Apple shock it back to life with an Apple tablet and the usual apple design flair in hardware and software. Others will learn, the bar will be raised and tablets will get interesting. Expectations are high.

The small size of mobiles will necessitate innovation in interfaces – I reckon that data glasses will be on Santa lists next Xmas.

I’m imagining that at sometime we will get IT designer clothing but maybe not until 2011 when we may be able to buy Apple and Google Glasses?

Augmented reality

During 2010 there will be exciting consumer applications for augmented reality (AR) that will lead to explosive growth and great demand from the general public due to the advantages and fun it will bring. Consider the Tesco visual search application for example. AR tech will be on Santa lists next year. Expect to see AR mentioned in adverts.

Some unknown development from combinatorial effects

Something emerging from interfaces, systems and social- Goggle Wave Glasses and waves perhaps?

January 1, 2010 Posted by | future, IT and society, mobile, predictions | | Leave a comment

October 2009: Media Shift Tipping Point?

Music has become one of the important indicators of cultural shift – In the last week I’ve come across several events which, whilst interesting separately, coincidentally suggests a fundamental shift is underway in media.

October 13th Rihanna first tweet announces album release date

October 25th 2009 U2 stream a live concert on Youtube

October 30th Britney Spears announces new video via twitter

October 30th The Foo Fighters stream a live performance on Facebook with chat and twitter

Much music activity is still of the traditional create and consume push model albeit mediated in various ways these days. The Foo fighters stream was particularly interesting as it presented an “intimate” and interactive studio based setting to millions of people who could interact via facebook and twitter with each other and to a limited extend with the band as well.

The next step as I see it is a more dynamic “mash” of media – performing out to a live audience and the Net with increasing opportunities to pull in from the audience and the Net.

I’m imagining how artists could use Augmented reality to overlay new dimensions to their performances – While performing in the studio The Foos could overlay a concert venue or other action scenes – indeed they could augment a performance anywhere. I’m imagining how artists could augment other performers and performances in their shows for example when doing a cover track.

With audience smart camera phones I’m imagining how you could view a performance from various points of view.

I’m wondering whether, like in original Shakespeare plays, members of the audience could say “I can do that part better”, get up on the “stage” and play the part. Consider Youtube performances and their video responses for example Steve Vai Tender Surrender and some of the amazing responses.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, media | 1 Comment

Welcome the 21st Century: Think Softly

Life is becoming increasingly faster and more complex – the scale, scope and inter-connectedness of things in unprecedented Although IT hardware and software provide both causes and solutions the most important factor to life in the 21st century is within ourselves –  “wetware” or the way we think.

I’ve identified 2 “dimensions” of thinking which I think are important, one dimension is Hard Vs Soft thinking while the other dimension is Reductionist Vs Holistic thinking.

Hard thinking

You could almost call this concrete thinking – it’s a bounded, engineering style characterised by the application of existing definable, quantifiable, specific concepts and processes. In a nutshell it is thinking “inside the box” and applying known rules and procedures.

Soft Thinking

You could almost call this abstract thinking – it’s an unbounded, integrative and creative style characterised by insight and judgement. In a nutshell it’s “Wicked” thinking “outside the box”.

Reductionist thinking

This is characterised the use of analysis to simplify, predict and control. It’s a mechanistic approach and application of rules and procedures. In a nutshell it is thinking about the details.

Holistic thinking

This is characterised by the use of intuition and interpretation to see patterns, connections and relationships. In a nutshell in is thinking about the big picture.

People are naturally more comfortable with different styles of thinking and can apply different styles or mix of styles in different contexts. Different contexts and problems are better suited to different styles of thinking – use the right one and things can fit into place – use the wrong one and things seem like hard going and can result in stress, anxiety and dysfunction at both personal and organisational level.

The current UK MPs expenses news could be used to illustrate styles of thinking. Administration of expenses claims should have used hard reductionist thinking – analysis and application of procedures without creativity. The MPs in question seemed to be applying soft reductionist thinking – creative “accounting” and application of procedures to claim they did nothing wrong and it was all within the rules. It’s not easy to find hard holistic thinking but you could argue that those like Ed Milliband who argue parliamentary reform in terms of changing procedures are using hard holistic thinking. Those who argue for more radical political changes from proportional representation through to Government 2.0 ideas in the Us Now film would seem to be thinking in a soft holistic way.

As events, organisations and individuals become ever more interconnected (networked) then hard, reductionist ways of thinking become increasingly out of tune, inappropriate, unable to cope and even dysfunctional and damaging. Most often hard reductionist thinking just doesn’t see the rich bigger picture, opportunities and emergent properties of new systems until they are run over by them or left stranded.

Soft thinking is essential to cope with life in the 21st century with its increasingly Unthinkable , interconnected, fast, complex, chaotic, emergent, and unpredictable behaviour.

Soft thinking is essential to thrive in the 21st century – soft reductionist thinking is essential for innovation (to find the application of existing things in new ways) and soft holistic thinking is essential for invention (to create entirely new things).

Later in this series I hope to explore “soft” in education, technology and business.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | culture, future, society | 1 Comment

Welcome To The 21st Century: The Beginning

The noughties are a new decade, century and millennium – the changes happening with technology and their impact on identity, culture and society really are this momentous.

One way to see these changes is with a straight historical contrast and you can see my rough work on twitter here.

The 20th century can be seen as the peek of traditional ways of doing things that really do stretch back to the dawn of humanity – familiar things extrapolated to the extreme with mechanisation and automation and with extreme consequences to the environment we have now come to understand. I covered much of this in 20th Century Industrial Processes: Culture, Identity and Information

I characterise the past era as one of “concrete” thinking” – thinking and activity that is rooted in and characterised by a predominance of physical objects and events. Thinking that books are literature, newspapers are journalism and CDs are music. Thinking that schools and colleges are education. Thinking that the office is the workplace.

“Concrete” thinking goes deeper though – I also describe the past era as the era of “pyramids” – the design and construction of hierarchical, elitist and stable structures – the standard organisational model often manifest and symbolised by top floor executive offices.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of super large scale manufactured production and personal consumption – the extreme end of the application of tools from the stone axe to the modern production line.

I characterise the 20th century as an era of mediation, privacy, secrecy and obfuscation – a consequence of the elitist pyramid model to maintain stability and equilibrium and a Marxian interpretation of culture.

Technology developments are for the first time I think providing the opportunity to transcend traditional “concrete” ways of thinking and acting – my main focus is on Information technology but radical developments are taking place in all the sciences, leading new applications of technology and “unthinkable” effects and opportunities for humanity, culture identity and society.

I characterise the 21st century as an era of “networks”, indeed the internet symbolises and facilitates “network thinking”. It’s an era of flat, integrated, dynamic, and emergent structures. The 21st century is already and will be increasingly fast, complex, chaotic, uncertain and “organic”.

The 21st century will be increasingly open, public and participatory – it will be an era of personal production where large organisations may consume the output of individuals but there will be increasing disintermediation and scope with individuals transacting directly.

In a nutshell I see the 21st century as an era of software.

This blog is intended as the basis of a series exploring associated ideas, technology, cultural, educational themes etc.

Please add your comments.

May 17, 2009 Posted by | culture, future, IT and society, paradigm 2, society | , , | 2 Comments